Room to breathe: how a garden room can add space to your home
Whether you use it as a potting shed, party pad, or office, a garden room can add space without moving.
Seen as a cost-effective solution for work and play, garden rooms are a popular antidote to open plan living. The option of getting a garden studio installed on-site by specialist providers, usually without planning permission, appeals to many.
Interior designer Roisin Lafferty is a fan. "Garden rooms can be an extension of the home. They're almost like adult playhouses. It's really exciting to have a space in the garden to which you can escape," she says.
"Some are quite sculptural and can be quite striking features. With various colour and cladding options, you can have so much fun in creating a garden room," she says.
Also sold is Gordon Lennox, director of Sherry FitzGerald. These separate spaces help impose a sense of discipline for those working from home, adding to billable hours, allowing time out of the commuting grind, and saving on renting office pods or serviced offices, he says.
One client who achieved all that also benefited when he put his house up for sale, Lennox recalls. "He had put in a very attractive garden room with decked area recessed slightly under the leading edge of the cantilevered roof, where he had put a fire pit and arranged loungers. People who viewed it didn't just see it as a work station, they also saw it as a party space - a lifestyle statement."
Says Lennox: "Generally there will be a return of approaching half and that's on top of the various uses people will already have got out of the space."
Garden rooms of 25 sqm or under are exempt from planning permission once the structure doesn't reduce the open space in the garden to less than 25 sqm and is used for "any purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the house" but not for habitation. The exemption is, the Department of the Environment says, subject to compliance with other conditions and limitations.
One of the more unusual offerings on the Irish market is the shepherd's hut from Robbie Young of Shepherds' Huts Ireland (shepherdshutsireland.com). It evolved from his other business, Table Lighting Chair, which sells vintage and bespoke furniture. Modelled on the concept of Victorian shepherds' huts used during the lambing season, they're built to order, with the average size 4.8m, and prices ranging from €10,000 to €20,000.
"They use the same technology as modern timber-frame houses. They're timber clad inside and out, with 100mm insulation throughout, and double glazed windows," says Young. "They will last over 100 years if maintained properly."
They're ideal for those with a peripatetic lifestyle as they're on wheels and a trailer can be put under them. Recent clients include a Skerries family whose patio was shaded. The shepherd's hut was installed in a section of the garden that captures the afternoon and evening sun, with a barbeque area created around it.
Also offering the possibility of bringing it with you should you move house is the garden pod from Podology (podology.ie) which trades from Glen of the Downs. It's pitched as an alternative to a conventional sunroom or conservatory and requires no more space that a patio furniture set - you just need a solid flat base of 1.4m in diameter.
There are five designs of garden pod - a wheelbench; a rotating seater; a rotating lounger; a summerhouse and a deluxe summer house. The pods are crafted from treated and laminated Norwegian spruce, stained steel and tinted polycarbonate. They can be fitted on any part of the garden and have a 10-year guarantee. Current prices range from €5,000 to €26,000.
At Garden Rooms (gardenrooms.ie), its architecturally designed exterior spaces range in price from €18,000 up to €33,000, with the average spend €27,000. MD John Sherry says their most popular design is the contemporary 20 sqm cube, one completely open-plan room that can be used as a multipurpose space such as an office cum teen den. "We tend not to divide the rooms unless we're putting in a toilet and washhand basin, which can be easily done by connecting to the main house services," he says.
"We heat the garden rooms with a 2kw heater or we also offer a heat recovery system that acts as a heater and air conditioning unit," says Sherry. "They're super cosy with the double layer of insulation we put in the walls - even in winter they're warmer than a standard house," he contends.
Canadian red wood cedar that is 250 to 300 years old is used in the garden rooms which come with a 10-year weather security guarantee as standard and are designed to last two to three generations. Home cinemas and gyms are among the popular uses. A vast garden isn't required, Sherry says. "What's important is that the garden room looks right and as if it has always been there. They can work really well in terraced houses, creating a courtyard feeling." The timeframe at Garden Rooms is six weeks from the signing of the contract, with another two weeks on-site, Sherry says.
In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to move one of Garden Rooms' structures using a crane. However, this needs to be flagged before construction starts to ensure a steel base is installed under the building, incurring an additional cost. There are also concerns about 'craning out' the garden room as the new site must be free of overhead wires.
Shomera (shomera.ie) has 17 years' experience of manufacturing and installing garden rooms and has supplied over 1,000 studios in Ireland and the UK. The offering includes 'Me Pad' off-the-shelf designs as well as bespoke creations. The timber-framed rooms with up to eight layers in the make-up, come with a structural warranty of 10 years. If the exterior is minimally maintained, the rooms can be enjoyed for many decades, according to the company.
A more traditional garden room is manufactured by Norman Pratt (normanpratt.ie) at The Timber Mill, near Trim, Co Meath. The 'potting shed', with Georgian-style windows and lead roof, can be used as a studio, home office or garden hideaway. It's made from hardwood and is factory finish painted and you can choose from standard or order a bespoke designs. Prices, which include installation, are from €6,800.
Traditional or modern, a garden room makes a low cost alternative to moving house.