By Jill Morgan
Fancy adding stunning garden room ideas to your outdoor space to help stretch your living space or use as a peaceful retreat? Well, the good news is there are garden buildings of practically every shape and size out there, so there’s definitely one to suit your plot.
Options range from nifty garden pods, futuristic domes and spheres to classic timber summerhouses and lodges, so you can find a design that makes the best use of your outdoor space and your budget. Choose from ready-to-assemble products, made-to-order designs (where you can select your fittings and finishes from the manufacturers shortlist), and fully bespoke, unique buildings. Of course, you can always have a go at creating, building or adapting your own too, whether it’s starting from scratch or upcycling salvaged and architectural finds.
In terms of style, you'll need to think about whether you want a build that’s sympathetic to your home and garden or one that is a real standout feature. Just as with shed ideas, dark clad or painted structures tend to recede and blend into their setting, while those in paler tones catch the eye. Whatever your plans or needs, there are plenty of way to create the garden room you deserve.
Garden room ideas: add an extra room outdoors
Make the most of your outdoor space with a stunning garden building that you can use all year round, whatever the weather. Whether it's for work, play or entertaining, our favorite garden room ideas are the perfect way to create a space you'll love.
1. Go for a versatile indoor-outdoor design
Given the fickle climate many of us live in, it pays to opt for garden room ideas that are super adaptable and provide both indoor and outdoor space. Many products – from garden shelters to multi-room studios – are cleverly designed to have fully retractable glazed walls and bi-fold doors, allowing you to throw them open when the weather allows and close them tightly to create a snug and warm retreat. Often designed with large overhanging roofs that double up as useful patio cover ideas, they offer a neat solution that effortlessly blends the inside and out.
Some of the latest garden buildings have taken this approach one step further, providing an open but still covered area alongside a fully insulated room. Perfect for housing your hot tub ideas, swing seat or chill-out lounge all under one roof, it will increase your outdoor living options and allow you to entertain with ease whatever the weather.
2. Choose a shepherd’s hut for guests
Perfect for a rural location, shepherd huts have captured many homeowners’ imagination in recent years. Borrowing from the UK’s rich agricultural heritage, these charming wheel-based huts typically have curved roofs, timber or corrugated steel clad sides enclosing a single open plan space all heated by a tiny stove. Today they make handy and characterful garden retreats that can be used for everything from garden office ideas to quiet reading and study spaces and even cosy guest accommodation.
Designs and sizes vary considerably for these garden building ideas, ranging from neat single space huts with either a single door on the end or double doors along the longer side or two interconnected units – known as a brace. Nestle them into a wild area of your garden for maximum romantic appeal and team with an informal seating area and one of the best fire pits for a true getaway right on your doorstep.
3. Create an outdoor playroom for kids
Even a small, narrow plot can provide enough space for garden room ideas. At just 2.5x2.5m, this contemporary garden building can add a valuable extra room, helping to ease pressure on a busy household.
Great for single-use spaces – such as playrooms, a music space or study – you can easily contain all the necessary equipment and paraphernalia in one place and leave it in a state ready to be picked up again on your next visit.
Simple and pared back in looks and layout, the purpose of this garden building can easily change over time to meet the needs of your family garden ideas, making it a great future-proofing option.
4. Choose sympathetic materials for elegance and charm
Materials are all important for giving garden room ideas a sense of place and belonging. When it comes to planning and building a garden room this definitely comes into play. While a sharp, contemporary design in synthetic materials will always make a striking statement, it may not appeal to you personally, be sympathetic to the site or the best option for the garden of a period property.
There’s also the issue of how a building weathers and ages too. Traditional ingredients such as oak frames and clay roof tiles are time honored building materials and silver and wear gracefully in a changeable climate.
5. Entertain with a view
Glazed garden pods are real head turners in any space. Their curved shapes – choose from sphere or lozenge – and highly reflective surfaces give them a true space-age vibe that stands out against any style of landscaping ideas.
This cosy enclosed room makes a great entertaining space for your outdoor dining ideas, with 360 degree views of the immediate surroundings. Built-in seating follows the contours of the interior and is arranged around a central circular or oval table.
Depending on the size, spec and dimensions of the model additional features can include wine fridges, heaters and LED lighting. Each pod has a single opening sealed either with a canvas clip on cover or a sliding curved glazed door.
6. Integrate the design into the garden
Small landscaping details can really help to harmonize a garden building with its new setting. Echoing the color of cladding or architraves in your choice of paving ideas, stone chippings or gravel is a simple but very effective way to create a cohesive look.
The graphite trim of this design is picked up beautifully by the grey slate chippings used for the surrounding garden path ideas, creating a cool, contemporary feel. Natural timber cladding, with its knots and prominent grain, also suits the leafy position perfectly, snuggled cosily amongst the mature trees.
Opting for a structure in a stronger shade? Then make sure you repeat the same color elsewhere around the garden – painted garden fence ideas, planters and rendered walls are all great options and will help to visually link the elements together.
7. Go for an outdoor kitchen hideaway
Cooking outside has become hugely popular in recent years. Gone are the days when a portable BBQ will do, today’s outdoor kitchen ideas involve alfresco prep surfaces, hobs, grills, and the best pizza oven, not to mention wine fridges and ice makers too.
Modular garden room ideas – bespoke or pre-assembled – can be used to create efficient open air work areas similar to indoor kitchens. Position them in the open air, next to a sunken seating area or under an open-sided shelter for convenience,
Our dream scenario is this neat hideaway kitchen. Cedar clad, with a neat fold-up door that doubles as a roof, it conceals an exquisitely designed bank of units, with granite worktops, sink, tap and five-burner BBQ. With a small, slender footprint it can sit neatly next to the patio or poolside fully protected from the elements.
Our guide on how to design an outdoor kitchen has tons more tips to help you create your dream alfresco cooking space.
8. Choose an elegant all-rounder
Summer house ideas are quintessentially British, oozing timeless elegance. They provide somewhere to shelter from the whims of the weather while still admiring the garden. Add to this sense of refinement and period style by choosing a multi-sided design.
Octagonal and hexagonal designs sit beautifully either in the centre or corner of a garden, making them suited to any garden layout ideas. Their angled profile and mass of glazing enable them to merge effortlessly into their surroundings, without dominating the view. Some can even be fitted on a rotating base allowing you to change the angle according to the sun.
Inside they can offer a single, light-filled space perfect for a couple of chairs, a neat sofa and table, a yoga studio or home office. Doors can be thrown open in fine weather or casement side windows offer extra ventilation. Roofing materials vary from slate or lead glass fibre, cedar shingles or bitumen roofing tiles. Look for decorative touches such as finials and ridge tiles for extra charm.
9. Enjoy some indoor-outdoor entertaining
Treat yourself to an outdoor entertaining spot with a real sense of occasion. With a distinctive conical roof – either thatched or clad with cedar shingles – these substantial garden shelters feature open sides, dining, snug and bar areas split over two levels.
Perfect for creating enclosed patio ideas suitable for cosy dining or a quiet chillout zone, you can choose from circular or oval footprints designed to fit into awkward corners.
Configurations range from sumptuous dining areas to those with a cosy snug and outdoor bar ideas, all with beautifully upholstered seating and extras such as decking, canvas sides, lighting and heaters.
10. Opt for long, low lines
Need a large garden studio and worried that it may dominate your space? Opt for a linear, overhanging roof line to visually stretch your building and anchor it into its setting. A deep facing deck board in graphite or black will accentuate the building’s proportions and create a clean, contemporary look that oozes calm and tranquility. Team it with matching window and door surrounds and, where possible, toning planters and paving for a co-ordinated look.
One great design trick is to position your garden pond ideas in front of the building. Framed by the straight-sided water feature, the reflected building instantly becomes part of the garden setting. A parallel rill or line of water feature ideas, such as large water bowls, will also work beautifully.
11. Make the garden an extension of your home
If your home is bursting at the seams or you just want to make the most of your outside space, then look for garden building ideas that blend in effortlessly. Visually and practically, it's often better to go for a larger structure which takes up the full width of a smaller plot rather than a smaller building that results in an awkward sliver of outside space that will attract junk and clutter.
Unite the exterior of the new building with the rest of the garden, and ideally the ground floor of the house to create a sense of flow. Repeat the same materials, color and finishes where possible for continuity. Here, a timeless monochrome palette – even carried through into the pergola ideas, planting and containers – looks truly stunning and accentuates the building's contemporary lines.
Love the idea of having a matching pergola alongside your garden room ideas? Our guide on how to build a pergola is a great place to start.
12. Go for a quick and easy modular design
If you want to create a useful space that fits in with your site and budget, look out for modular garden room ideas. A few garden building specialists manufacture timber structures that can link together, quickly and easily, to create a single, enclosed area.
Choose from ‘L’ or ‘P’ footprints or long and narrow layouts and incorporate exterior garden storage ideas – such as open shelving or tool hanging space – to maximize your design's potential. Roofs can be pitched or pent style (with a single slope) and openings for windows and doors scaled and positioned where needed.
13. Build your own home gym...
Want to keep fit but struggle to find time to go to the gym? Use your garden room ideas to create your own workout space at the bottom of the garden and your workout schedule will suddenly become a whole lot more manageable.
If you're planning to use your new space as a home gym, you may need to factor in added extras to the design. These could include reinforced roof or floor joists to take the weight of the gym equipment, punchbags, weights and kettlebells.
A garden room can also be a brilliant yoga, pilates or meditation space. A glazed sliding wall could transform the space into a light and airy wellbeing studio. After all, what could be better than completing your sun salutations while enjoying beautiful views of your garden design ideas?
14. ...or complete your swimming pool set-up
Want to take your backyard pool ideas to the next level? Adding a stunning garden room alongside your pool can give you a practical space that can be used for a number of different purposes.
A simple changing area with a WC/shower room means swimmers won't have to traipse back to the main house wearing wet swimwear to get changed or pay a visit to the bathroom.
Alternatively, you could use your pool house ideas to maximize your entertaining potential by the pool. Add a kitchen area and bar to your set-up and you've got the perfect spot for fun pool parties on hot summer days.
15. Consider the fittings and finish
The look and feel of any garden room ideas plays a huge part in how well it is used. If it’s a space that you want to use regularly, don’t skimp on the essentials. Insulation, good lighting, ample power points and ventilation all need to be factored in along with any specific requirements.
If you are opting for a larger structure, consider whether you want to divide up the interior. A smaller area for storage or a specific use, such as photography darkroom, changing area or gaming den could all help optimize the new room's use.
Generally, it pays to keep the interior light and bright to make the most of a smaller space and this works well in a contemporary build, but you can, of course, bend the rules, if your heart is set on a cozy snug or homely log cabin that's more in keeping with traditional she shed ideas. Small multi-paned windows, wood panelling and rich painted internal walls will all conjure up comfort in an instant. Add in a small wood burning stove and leather armchair or two and you’ve a dream retreat right in the garden.
16. Indulge your childhood fantasies with a treehouse
Fancy something a little more adventurous for your garden room ideas? Then let your imagination run wild with wonderful treehouse ideas. Far from impromptu homemade structures, the latest designs are substantial rooms that can be used for everything from entertaining to a study space or even a yoga studio.
Shape, construction materials, roof lines and decks can be tailored to your needs and site and either as fanciful or utilitarian as you desire. ‘Treehouses are not just for children,' say the team at treehouse specialists Blue Forest. 'We believe in bringing people, no matter what their age, closer to the natural world, creating amazing sustainable timber structures. Our designs are predominantly made from cedar, which not only looks good, but smells great too.'
17. Steal the show with a garden igloo
Does your garden need a structure that’s slightly different? A garden igloo could be just the ticket for your garden building ideas. An adaptable, single span space that offers 360 degree views of your surroundings, these standout structures make versatile, light-filled, all-weather rooms that are perfect for garden party ideas, kids' play, growing plants or simply lounging around.
Construction methods do vary, with options including complex but beautiful triangular and hexagonal poly vinyl frameworks to simple stainless-steel ribs. With no need for any foundations, these pop-up designs can be put together in hours and are light enough to move when erected.
You will need to tether these shelters down using the provided anchor system, and it's best to remove the PVC cover in high winds to prevent tearing. Windows and vents are integral to most designs and will help control heat and any condensation.
What can I use my garden room for?
Pretty much anything is the answer to this question! We spoke to the team at Malvern Garden Buildings to find out the most popular uses for their garden room ideas. These include:
- Home bar/Gin bar
- Entertainment/overspill space
- Outdoor kitchen
- Gym/pilates/yoga studio
- Kids' playroom
- Potting/tool shed
- Storage shed
- Garden office/study
- Side hustle space
- Sewing room/jewellery making studio
- Art or design studio
- Music rehearsal room
- Therapy room (hairdresser, massage room, beauty therapy)
- Dog grooming studio
Where is the best location for a garden room?
A clear, level area with direct and easy access is the dream, but not always the reality. But don’t stress, there are generally ways around this. If you are using a specialist company they will be able to help you choose the best possible spot for your garden room.
The key issue is to think carefully about how you want to use and enjoy the new space. Would an unused spot, tucked away at the end of the garden add to the sense of escapism and tranquility or do you need it to be in sight from the house to keep an eye on kids studying or playing? Maybe the build needs to be flooded with natural light if it is to be used for yoga, painting or writing or angled to make the most of a stunning view or focal point.
Do garden rooms need planning permission?
In the UK, garden buildings do not require planning permission if they fall within permitted development guidelines. Exceptions to this are if your property is listed or falls within a conservation area.
To classify as an 'outbuilding' under permitted development rules, it must not contain sleeping accommodation or be located at the front of your property. It must also be single storey with a maximum eave height of 2.5m. Your building supplier will be able to advice you further, but more detailed information can be found in our garden office planning permission guide.
How should I furnish a garden room?
Finding the right furniture and decorative touches can be tricky for a garden room. Comfort and practicality tend to be the most important factors.
If you're furnishing a space that also benefits from generous decking ideas or outdoor access, look for all-weather pieces that can be enjoyed inside or out to maximize their use. Faux rattan has all the charm of the real thing but can cope with the elements, as can outdoor rugs, weather-resistant cushions, recycled plastic and polypropylene rope pieces. The best wooden garden furniture is also a great option for a more timeless style. Oak, acacia and teak furniture will age and silver gracefully when left outside, but also works inside too and will last for years.
Jill puts her love of plants and all things garden related down to the hours spent pottering around with her Nan and Grandad when she was little. There was never a moment at their house when they weren’t weeding, pruning, planting or harvesting cucumbers or dahlias from the lean-to greenhouse. Her Grandad’s shed was a place of wonder, and she can still recall the musky smell. Today she is lucky enough to have a garden of her own in Surrey and spends much of her time writing about them too. A typical long-thin town garden it features favourite flowers along with the odd veg plant and the usual assortment of toys, bikes and… oh a couple of guinea pigs too.
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