Category Archives: Environment

Garden Room Plans and Plants

garden room planning for herbs

garden rooms for gardeners and cooks

May is the perfect time to plant a herb pot or corner in the garden room.  Growing your own, rather than finding the culinary kind in the supermarkets, can cut your carbon footprint and discourage the crazy air-freighting of plants.  Try planting what you know will be useful to you.  As you experience them through the seasons, they’ll teach you where they do best just as the garden in general will show you what works in it and what doesn’t.

Basil tends to do better on a windowsill inside for me but you might have the benefit of a sheltered sunny spot for it outside.  I’ve watched it thrive in southern England, although potted, outside. Parsley is easier to grow as the curly variety and will do well in a shaded area.  My flat leaved one is preferable for cooking and for salads but would rather sit inside with the basil in my house.  Both these specimens can be germinated from seed in Feb/March or plug planted at this time of year.

Tarragon, dill and fennel – the aniseeds – are hardier and can tolerate sun and shade.  Fennel will need a bit of space all to itself to develop and reach its full height – taller than me!  The bronze variety adds colour contrast to an otherwise green garden bed and will regenerate every spring.

Chives are a delightful confined, short and compact plant– keep them watered and they will always be ready for use.  They will die down overwinter but return every year.

Thyme and Rosemary like it hot, sunny and well drained and will accept being clipped regularly for the kitchen as long as you keep the scissors back from the woody stems!  Just take the new green growth and the plant will keep producing it.

garden room plans and planting

garden room plans and planting

Sage is a constant showman and easy to grow from seed.  Great with onion and chicken and the fresh leaf tea makes an excellent gargle for sore throats – an instant anaesthetic to the tonsills with antimicrobial action.  Also a magnet for pollinators.

Then there’s mint – fragrant, fresh, rampant and in many varieties.  Suitable for adding to drinks, deserts, salads, meat dishes, soups.  If you want to introduce more than one variety of mint, keep them well apart.  Folklore has it that planting them within reach of each other causes a revertion or merging of the varieties.  I keep mine in large pots to prevent the vesuvial rambling.   The one pictured below is part of my grandfather’s old mint plant which must be at least 100 years old now.  He used it in a remedy for his neighbours, friends and family.

garden room planting and planning

garden rooms planting and planning

Herbs are a most wonderful collection of plants, for not only do they look good, smell good and do you good, but they can transform a meal into a tasty feast. Anyone, with just the smallest space, can grow them.  Care, generally, is easy – well drained soil with enough nutrients to sustain growth and water after the sun has left the plant!  Watering in direct sun can burn the leaves – so an evening watering can trip with soft water gives them all the best chance.

May has turned with the rain into a blooming time for herbs: my lemon geranium is not only scenting the way to the studio as the leaves are brushed past but has produced award-worthy numbers of flowers.  It’s fresh, comforting smell soothes the nerves and encourages a relaxed, clear state of mind. 

It’s got to be Lily of the Valley for the prize this year.  Mine has naturalized beneath Japanese Acers and spread magnificently to cover the shady area.  An ancient indiginous remedy for slow heart rate and a tonic for the circulatory system, it also heralds a really heady scent which can perfume the house for weeks.


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George Clarke writes on Choosing a Garden Studio, for The English Garden.

With the current fashion for garden studios reflecting lifestyle aspirations, garden studio rooms can transform the way you use your home by providing extra, detached living space.

Needing a contemporary design company to contrast the extensive traditional options for their readers, The English Garden magazine contacted Studioni about inclusion in a feature written by the architect George Clarke, from ‘Restoration Man’ on Channel 4 and author of ‘Home Bible’, published by The Orion.

George advises clients to consider with care the detailing, proportions, scale and integrity of their proposed garden studio as it reflects their personal taste and views on traditional or modern design.  When dealing with garden studio specialists, he writes, ‘The design consultation will often be part of the service, and it gives you some peace of mind that the company has a record of delivery and build, so it will come in on time and on budget.”

Ecologically, few companies have really embraced the concepts of sustainable buildings but there are more eco elements coming through in terms of options for clients and public details on how environmentally the companies operations actually are.  PU SIPs structures provide strong, durable FSC timber studios but some companies compromise on glazing and frame quality to compensate for the expense of the SIPs panel.  Depending on your ground conditions, tiny concrete pads are usually a sufficient foundation, but have it properly assessed by an experienced groundworker on behalf of the company.  Damp-prone sites may require a raft foundation.  Some pre-formed concrete feet foundations have to protrude beyond the edges of the room and remain a permanent visible sore all around your studio, difficult to disguise.  Other systems allow your studio to be neatly and directly finished to the ground with cedar plinths.

Enhancing the surroundings must be a consideration when choosing a design or having a design made up just for you.  The appeal for working closely with a design from scratch is that it will be the only one in the land, with your own ideas incorporated.  An exceptionally well designed and made garden studio can be life enhancing and are worth the investment when uncompromised, ready for return when you come to sell.

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Which garden studio is most cost effective?

Comparing the quality of garden studio buildings is a tricky process, especially when companies withhold their u-values or only publish some of their better ratings. Studios that are cost effective to run have lowest u-values. In other words, they keep warm with ease in winter and stay cool in summer, costing you less money and energy to heat and cool the space. If you want a garden room without the need for planning permission, it needs to be less than 30m2 and under 2.5m high. (There are other parameters but for the sake of argument, let’s keep it reasonably simple to reflect the bulk of our clientelle).
The height limit is where the panel size becomes important. Many other companies expand their roof and floor panels to offer a reasonable U-value but then encounter a height problem because their panels are too bulky to comply with the 2.5m maximum height rule. This problem is regularly tackled by imposing extra ground works on clients: digging the building into the ground at extra expense, effort and mess or removing the design finesse of recessed ceiling lights and recessed window blind systems.

Needless to say, we never have those problems as our panels are slim and extremely thermally efficient. As you can see from the comparison table, we can out-perform building regulation standards, between our excellent glazing and high performance structures, even though we do not have to comply with most detached garden studio projects. In the circumstance where the standards must be met, we easily exceed them.  All projects have the option of upgrading their insulation to the maximum.  So your Studioni garden studio actually is better than a new build home after all. For comparison with other companies, check out the independent survey by the garden room guide.

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New Lodge Design Launched

January 2011, is proving to be an exciting and happily hectic month in the industry.  As far from a seasonal slump as possible, we welcome the launch of  the first of our new designs for 2011.

Our contemporary pitched roof garden rooms have been very well received.  Throughout the past six months, we have surveyed our customers about their preferences between our old and preliminary new designs.  The new lodge design has generated 100% preference amongst professional clients, looking for a building for commercial, educational or personal use.

Although we have limited the web pages to a discreet array of sizes, any size is available to order, including buildings which require planning permission / building regulations. The added value of this design is its easy adaptability to serve as a sunroom or reception area addition to existing properties.

Having continually developed a range of pitched roof lodges since 2001, raising the thermal properties and lowering the carbon footprint of the lodge was a priority for the design team.

Our old design originally used timber joinery which required regular maintenance and was inefficient, requiring more energy to heat and cool the room.  Our trial with pvcu had its own problems, being a high carbon product.  The high quality, thermally broken, more eco-friendly aluminium frames we have chosen, together with superior glazing, elevate the calibre of this range.

We have developed a more thermally sound building and chosen more environmentally conscious materials.  In part, this has contributed to the clean lines of the design.  All in all, a much-needed upgrade, we think, which reflects the contemporary style of Studioni.

Future news: Studioni will be launching its new Studio design in the Spring 2011.

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Studioni Rooms – Construction Images.

Images speak louder than words, so what better way to answer all those technical questions than with a stream of, ‘How do they do that’, construction pictures. The highest quality garden rooms are made from deeply insulated polyurethane sips panels, in a special sips press.  A few companies out there now have full BBA (British Board of Agrement) accreditation for their panels, ensuring they will not warp, twist or de-laminate over time.  This accreditation is a result of rigorous testing and significant investment on the part of the manufacturer.

Studioni studios are either delivered in a kit flat-pack form and assembled on site or provided ready-made on a steel frame.  The flat pack is assembled by a team of seasoned carpenters who have valuable experience in timber-frame house and garden room construction. The biggest benefit of these panels is their life-time environmental credentials.  A large chunk of carbon emissions comes from heating, cooling and lighting our homes and offices (accounts for 40.5% of all carbon emissions).  Directly addressing this, this particular type of construction, insulation and glazing provides a very high level of thermal efficiency – significantly reducing the carbon print of the building’s entire lifetime.  It also means that customers save money and energy on electricity.

Insulated Floor on Foundation Pads

Fixing First Wall Panels

Taking Shape

Shell Complete

Cedar Cladding and Sedum Roof Planting in place.

We have been called perfectionists but then we want our products to be excellent.  Any questions asked about technical specifications, we give straight answers and detailed explanations because customer empathy drives our service standards.

Our eco-options can be added to the garden room so that your new studio remains carbon neutral or negative.  You can ask us about the latest, locally engineered technology in solar panels and wind turbines or consider our other eco options like roof planting, alternative heating, rainwater harvesting and composting services for bath/shower rooms.

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May Gardens for Living.

Cherry Blossom

If you survived the traditional DIY accident peak of May Day you may have ventured into medieval celebrations of Morris dancing, May Poles and folk arts.  May Day is a new year marker for a special friend of mine who denies cutting his hair and shaving until this point in every spring season when he rejuvenates himself in the garden, by his natural spring, and welcomes in his gardening season with a fresh face.

May welcomes us all into our gardens.  This week, our enquiries have come from families busy clearing frost bitten foliage and servicing the mower, digging over beds and planting out annuals, scrubbing decks and play equipment and washing down the garden table and chairs.  Getting the best use of garden space is clearly important to us and we need this careful preparation to best enjoy our family time, entertaining friends and have a safe outside space for our children to exercise and play.

With growing children craving privacy and space, this scene is echoed through the enquiries we are receiving from parents requiring a teenage garden den, music room for drums and electric guitars and guest suites for peaceful sleep overs where the rest of the family can actually sleep!  As a lifestyle purchase a professional garden studio has that crucial added benefit of adding value to the property.

Our own garden is misty with a carpet of bluebells below and a cloud of white cherry blossom above the hammock, magical when the wind blows!  The rate of growth is tremendous and the plants are definitely responding to the good feed I supplied.  The pea canes are in place and the shoots are beginning to bind, the tomatoes have germinated and the salad is ready to use.  As a grounding therapy, gardening allows immediate and long-term rewards.  Enjoy your garden this spring.

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Garden Room Energy Efficiency Ratings – What they don’t tell you.

energy efficiency rating

Yesterday I came across two energy efficiency rating barcharts for two different garden room designs.  Great idea, I thought, what progressive thinking.  These ratings charts are the same as given to new electrical goods and to houses, as part of the HIP pack when for sale.  So, they are a familiar system of gauging energy efficiency.

I contacted a qualified energy assessor to discuss having our designs assessed on their specification.  He related the difficulties and legalities in using these charts to sell garden rooms.  Although he was happy to rate our buildings, the rating would NOT be indicative of the building when delivered to site and he advised against using it as an indicator of energy efficiency, with reference to trading standards.

Rating a garden room on energy efficiency depends on a variety of factors:  insulation type and construction type, insulation placement, frame and glass types and the location of the building.  The latter factor is the crucial one:

“Each individual garden room will have a different energy rating because of where it is to be located”.

I now know that wind, average local temperature and rainfall play a significant part in such calculations.  A particular garden room placed on Shetland will have an entirely different energy rating from the same building, placed in Wimbledon.  Don’t be fooled into accepting an energy efficiency rating as an indicator of the standard of performance of a garden room.

Jewel Gallagher.

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