In the first week of lockdown alone, Richard John Andrews, a small architectural practice in east London, received 16 enquiries for garden rooms.
Surprising though this was at the time, these calls were indicative of a far larger trend.
Research by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) last October showed that 20 per cent of homeowners are looking to create additional living space, while the tradesperson recommendation site Checkatrade reported a staggering 306 per cent increase in searches for garden rooms between January 2020 and January 2021.
It makes perfect sense. If many of us already found our homes a little on the bijoux side, the demands of the last 15 months – when they also had to serve as offices, schools, gyms and more – have had us increasingly eyeing the back garden and wondering whether the space could not be better used.
‘A garden room can be a lot more cost-effective and quicker to build than an extension,’ says Jo van Riemsdijk of new eco-workspace brand Modulr Space. It is also a much more straightforward proposition.
Provided it is in the back garden, under 2.5m high, doesn’t take up more than 50 per cent of the land around your house, and you’re not in a conservation area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it is unlikely to need planning permission.
The options are endless, from simple flatpack cabins to highly specified, bespoke structures via a new generation of hybrids: architect-designed off-the-peg spaces, many spawned by the demand that lockdown unleashed.
For somewhere usable year-round, expect to pay around £6,000 for the most basic self-assembly models, but be sure to check what’s included. Foundations, if needed, can adda considerable amount to the cost, as can insulation, electrics, heating, network connections and, of course, decor.
Many companies offer options for all these things – to a point. ‘If you have a budget of £20-30k to invest in a garden room, have a look at your local creative practices,’ says Richard Andrews. ‘You might find that they can offer something much more bespoke for you and your site for the same money as some of the pre-packaged options.’
Done well, garden rooms will add value to your home. But even if you don’t have plans to sell, you need to make sure the space works for you. As van Riemsdijk says: ‘If you’re going to sacrifice part of your garden, it needs to be amazing.’
4 OF THE BEST GARDEN ROOM BRANDS
Ready to start planning? Try one of these UK garden room makers who have bespoke and off-the-peg options to cater to a variety of plots and purposes
An offshoot of FD Architecture, this brand offers highly sustainable, environmentally conscious turnkey (fully finished) garden rooms, all designed to be repurposed. Some structures can even be taken with you when you move. From £21,000, modulr.space
Inshriach Bothy, an artist residency space in the Cairngorms National Park, was the inspiration for these cabins, which are clad in corrugated steel and Scottish larch. Available as prefab or flatpack. From £27,000, bothystores.com
The London architectural practice is branching out into prefabricated garden rooms with ‘Heid’, an attractive studio designed to maximise our connection to nature via
a large, pivoting window, sedum roof and concealed nesting boxes for birds. From £19,500 + VAT, surmanweston.com
Tile specialist Bert & May has collaborated with Box 9 Design architects on this range of rustic-yet-refined modules, which come installed with Crittal-style glazing and high quality, design-led finishes. From £27,000 + VAT, bertsbox.co.uk
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration June 2021
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