Room Tour: A New Garden Room Provides Space for Work and Play
When Laura and James needed space to work from home, they turned to their garden – and got more than they’d expected
The couple’s first thought was to go up, but a loft conversion would have blown their budget. “I reluctantly turned to the garden,” Laura recalls, “but I was worried that putting a building in it would make it feel smaller. In fact, it’s had the opposite effect.”
Not only that, the new garden room they decided to build has given the family better and more flexible space than they could have imagined. “It’s the best renovation decision I’ve ever made,” Laura says.
Who lives here? Laura Simpson, co-founder of My Bespoke Room, husband James Simpson, and their three daughters aged nine, eight and two
Location Southbourne, Dorset
Property A Victorian semi with four bedrooms and three bathrooms
Garden room dimensions 3m x 4m
Designer Lucy Henderson and the team at My Bespoke Room
Project year 2021
Photos by Leanne Spencer
The new garden building has not only added a valuable extra room, its position has made it a truly multifunctional space.
It’s a double home office, but, unlike the loft conversion they might have gone for, the garden room gives the family a generous new entertaining space and an outdoor kitchen. It’s also a guest room, a gym, a family cinema space and a place simply to relax, indoors or out.
Laura and Lucy established it had the potential to be a multifunctional room, but that the internal planning had to come first to ensure everything fitted. “We wanted to maximise natural light,” Laura says, “but we knew we also needed enough wall space to fit in a TV and a double desk. Cabins like this typically have a lot of glass, so we designed the space – and glazing – around what we needed to put in it.”
They also wanted to ensure the garden didn’t feel swamped by the new building and that it would connect well.
Side table, Ikea. Rug, Maisons du Monde.
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The location of the desk is key. Laura toyed with the conventional idea of having it face the garden and Lucy created a layout featuring this idea for her, with a window above the desk. But Laura felt it wouldn’t be practical, as the sun would be in her eyes. She also didn’t want to be able to see the desk from the house, as she felt this would make it hard to switch off from work.
Another consideration was the sofa-bed, which wouldn’t have fitted in with the window-facing arrangement. “We use the sofa-bed for occasional guests to sleep on and unfold it for film nights with the girls,” Laura says. It’s also a good spot for a break from the sun when they’re entertaining outside.
Storage and kitchen worktop, Ikea. Wall painted in Cromarty, Farrow & Ball.
This last point is not insignificant; since the structure is close to the boundary wall, repainting the exterior would be difficult. There was enough room to fit a water butt to the building on the fence side, though.
The canopy has illumination on its underside, meaning extra garden lights weren’t needed.
There was also a shed, seen here on the right. “Between the two was some bamboo,” Laura explains. “It was great for screening, but it was causing us problems because it had spread so much and would have been in the way of the garden room. We had to use a digger to take it out.”
She adds that they already had some decking on the right-hand side of the garden and decided to make use of that and connect it to the new outdoor kitchen.
She opted for sliding rather than bifolding doors, which would have eaten into the garden too much when open. “When you don’t have a huge amount of space, it’s really important to be very smart with what you’re doing,” she says.
“Using a professional designer means you end up saving the money you spend on the pro by making smart decisions,” she adds. “It also gives you longevity for the space, as they can help you to look at how you’ll use it in the future.”
Although the room comes into its own in the summer months, it’s also a well-used and cosy space all year round. “It’s very well insulated,” Laura says. “In fact, it’s the toastiest room in the house and it’s made me realise just how important insulation is in a home. We save money and energy by working out here for that reason and also because we’re not using the heating in the house, a bigger space.
“What you can’t see from here is that we have an outdoor eating space, a trampoline and a lounge seating area, too – and it’s not a huge garden,” Laura adds. “It’s all about clever space planning.”
Faux fiddle-leaf fig, West Elm.
It also made for a more resourceful choice, with minimal waste; as it’s made from battens rather than fixed-size panels, she could buy exactly the amount needed.
“It’s a balance – we wanted enough surface space to cook, but also an area where you can sit with a glass of wine and chat,” Laura says of the bench, which is between the garden room and the kitchen. “It’s also nice to just pop out from the office and sit outside on it.”
The bench is practical, too: the top lifts up to reveal storage for the children’s outdoor toys.
Egg kamado grill, Boss Grill.
More: 17 Outdoor Kitchen Setups to Fire Your Imagination
Decking painted in Silver Birch, Cuprinol.
“I didn’t want to get rid of the trees, though,” Laura says. “They make me feel as if I’m on holiday.” So instead, Lucy designed an L-shaped kitchen/dining space that fitted around them perfectly.
Here you get a good sense of how the different zones connect and work together.
She goes so far as to say the renovation has been beneficial to her mental health. “Being able to step out of the house to go work has had a positive effect on my wellbeing,” she says. “I’m surrounded by plants and the green colours inside; I can have the doors open and hear seagulls and sounds from the garden. James and I both say now that, if we ever move, an outside space is a must.”
Inspired? If so, what kind of garden room would you have? Let us know in the Comments.