Category Archives: Leisure

Garden Room Ideas


Returned from travelling, my mind is full of new ways to make timber framed buildings; rigid, durable forms; from my experiences in New Zealand and Efate, a little coral island in the south pacific ocean.  My good friend, also a master carpenter, lives on the island and was keen to show me around and explain those timber framed methods of building which withstand cyclone seasons and earthquakes.
Our UK garden rooms market is a little stagnant at the moment.  I watch companies down grading their studio build quality in order to keep their profit margin high.  Against rising manufacturing and transport costs, it is one option that many have chosen.  I’ve decided not to do this.  I want to offer really solid, durable buildings.  Investments for a lifetime.  If I was creating a garden studio for my own family, I would steer away from the EPS or polystyrene and OSB structurally insulated panel; if it’s not what I would choose then how could I expect clients to be happy with it?  No, clearly those seeking quality like myself want either the tested and approved panel system or something just as strong with added value. My journey has shown me new possibilities in building and allowed time for reflection on how to bring this to the UK garden rooms market at an appropriate price.  
Listening to clients, like I do every working day, I need to tailor products so they are relevant to my customers.  Consumers need innovation to inspire and develop their own plans.  With our company strengths in design and construction knowledge and the opportunity we have of a constant flow of enquiries, I am excited to have developed a robust alternative to our top line, all singing – all dancing approved range of buildings but at a more competitive price.
I’ve added a few personal pictures of various timber constructions from my travels.  Our new range will be online in the following few weeks.


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Studioni Loves May Hay Fever in Northern Ireland and Wales!

hay festival literary garden funThe 23 year-old Hay Festival is coming around again, set to kick off on 26th May in the small Welsh village. As a celebration of writing, it has attracted workshops and lectures by Alans (Bennett and Aldberg) and Stephens (Poliakoff and Fry) of fortune and fame.  This year, the celebration is expected to stretch its streamers and organic tendrils all the way to Belfast, quite the hub for poet laureates, novelists and illustrators, young and old. Attracting, “The most inquisitive, exacting and free-thinking”, crowds, according to the Sunday Times, how could one resist!

A writer’s working life tends to be a rather solitary existence. Researching, developing and forming the complexities of character, setting and plot takes as long as it takes – months, years, decades or a lifetime. I think of the many busy intelligences tapping away in their garden studios (no longer the crumbly wooden shed at the bottom of the garden); coming together for a wonderful week of sharing and general fun.

This year’s Hay heralds the sounds of Sir Bob Geldof and the Afro Celt Sound System; lectures by Philip Pullman, Iain M Banks and the Royal Society (From Here to Infinity).

For details:

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Chelsea Flower Show 2010.

James Wong

25-29 May 2010 · Royal Hospital, Chelsea Flower Show, London.

On the final count down to Chelsea Flower Show frenzied huddles of horticulturalists, lanscapers and designers can be found on site striving for perfection and kicking contingency plans when disasters prevent the smooth transition from computer generated design to real garden showcase.

Of all the show gardens this year, I am most looking forward to James Wong’s.  ‘Grow Your Own Drugs’ – BBC2 presenter and ethno-botanist James has been keeping a running blog on the RHS website of his plans for a tropical jungle.  I wonder if there are medicinal plants incorporated into this garden?

After months of careful consideration and trekking through the Malaysian rainforest to film those elusive plants, common only in ancient illustrated explorer’s notebooks, James and team promise an exciting collection of large rainforest trees and rare plants. Strangler figs and enormous Cyathea ferns dominate the space but we are assured that there have been a few nominations for the RHS’s new Best New Plant Award.

The black boxes and path will be clad with local limestone, imitating Malaysian ivory limestone.  The soft, mossy living walls create a lush feature and are set to focus in many gardens this year.  The structure in the garden represents a traditional Malaysian area used as a meeting place, with a 21st Century twist.

Sound like an inspiring space.  Whether you are planning to attend the show or watch the highlights with Alan on BBC2, enjoy it!

Chelsea Garden Under Construction.

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Wealth Management for Women and How Garden Rooms Work as Investments.


Understanding the aspirations of professional and entrepreneurial clients takes experience.  Some clients are cash rich and time poor, requiring an empathic grasp of their needs to ensure that their property assets are correctly enhanced and secured.  Other clients prefer active involvement in all decisions and expect a complete range of service options tailored to suit their needs.  Such diversity is difficult to find at present as there are a glut of small garden rooms companies trading with a narrow variety of products and a small select few business owners with the necessary skills and experience in this sector. Helping professional clients, of all ages, achieve lifetime goals is a relevant aim.

The active professional female must be an expert at delegation with many hats to wear through her working week. Her wealth management team may have advised shifts in investment in order to safe-guard after her interests after the unprecedented falls in stock over the past 18 months. Property is not such a concern in this bracket as values have held fast but sales have slowed throughout 2008 and 2009 as interested parties look for something exceptional for their money. The addition of a detached garden studio suite to a property in this upper valuation bracket will clearly awaken curiosity in potential buyers.

Adding an appealing, sympathetic garden building which also enhances lifestyle is a valuable way in which to secure a return on property investment. These additional assets are tax allowable if used for business entertaining or as creative thinking spaces. However, I would recommend requesting open access to the garden room designer or architect for peace of mind that you will get the quality of work that you envisaged, with a long-term service guarantee. Garden suites are versatile spaces but are best designed with a purpose in mind: lakeside retreat, pool and spa area, games room, beach house, painting studio, entertainment suite or quiet working office.

Professional clients choosing to purchase garden buildings benefit from intelligibly adding value and interest to their property investments. The immediate payback enjoyed is lifestyle-enhancing, dedicated personal space for elevating clarity of mind in preparation for the next level in business or altruistic pursuits. Sustainably sourced, thermally efficient garden buildings will attract the discerning customer who seeks to reduce her impact on the environment and enhance her own credentials. Suites start from around £25,000 and by encompassing high -tech upgrades can be quoted up to £100,000. The client can expect to improve her property’s value proportionally.

Jewel Gallagher

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Who Works from a Garden Studio?

In the UK, it is an increasing trend to work from home. Home working has environmental, cost and health benefits as well as improving quality of life and quality of work done. We have been dealing directly with consumer needs and aspirations for more than seven years and have a wealth of experience. So, what exactly is a garden studio, how does it differ from a lodge, shed or office and who typically uses it?

The term Studio derives from the Italian Studium, meaning study. Historically, a studio was an arts-focused space reserved for painting, dancing or recording. Today, in the developing garden buildings industry, a Garden Studio is a contemporary and high specification detached room which is worth more than a regular garden office. It comprises of at least one fully glazed wall, perhaps with fully opening folding/sliding doors, and external high quality FSC timber cladding. An office represents a small, bespoke flat-roofed workspace for one or two people but a lodge is usually a larger space with a pitched roof. The Garden Studio is the most contemporary, most up-market design available as a garden room. They may all be sheds, in the eyes of some, but the studio must be the most opulent shed of all.

Garden Studio customers care about the aesthetics of their home and garden. They see it as a value-adding design statement and a versatile living space for their property. Studios are regularly used by journalists, designers and senior management staff from all industries as work spaces. In this way, they release their dining room or spare bedroom from their paperwork and computer clutter and gain a separation from the home. This distance from the house is crucial – customers find that their work/life balance naturally settles into a new healthy equilibrium. I won’t go into details of the environmental and cost benefits of working from home again – they can be found in my earlier articles. Suffice to say that home-working from a garden studio is a no-brainer. The only thing you have to lose is stress.

Many studios are custom designed to suit the site, either with an unusual window/door orientation or with specialised decking to encorporate an existing tree or water feature. Leisure activities are perfect pursuits and it has been fun to see our studios used as snooker rooms, spa/sauna suites, gyms, cinema rooms and sound-proofed music rooms as well as chill-out space. Leisure studios are employed as the latest home improvement purchase for families with disposable income. With external uplighting and hidden step lumination the garden studio is simply stunning, an awesome addition to a modern home with clean lines and a well balanced quantity of glazing for natural daylight. Among all the garden buildings on offer, I think the studio stands proud as the most adaptable and elegant living space.

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Your New Garden Room – How to Make it Look Like It Belongs in Your Garden.

Once delivered, your garden room can appear a bit raw – brand new smooth sanded cedar, sparkling glass and fresh decking.  This brief list is a guide to settling in your new best purchase so it looks like it belongs.

Landscaping the ground around your new garden room helps make it fit in.  Think about the contrast you want against the cedar, keeping in mind that its colour will fade to silvery grey over the first months.

  • Grass.  Seed needs damp, well tilled soil for the best chance of complete coverage.  You may decide to lay turf for an instant green but it will also need watering regularly.  Dry turf shrinks, leaving unseeded gaps between the strips of grass and yellow edges.
  • Slate.  Bangor blue slate shards cast a complementary texture between your cedar and your lawn and look beautiful whether wet or dry.  Lay them thickly onto a weed-free area, using an organic weed prevention sheet to reduce maintenance.  If you can plan a curved edge to the slate area it contrasts aesthetically with the clean lines of the garden room.  Let it finish, in height, just below the lawn level for easy grass cutting.
  • Pebbles.  Stones or pebbles can work equally well if you prefer a softer line and more tactile medium.  Best set thickly, tumbling over each other, on top of an organic weed retainer.
  • Fragrant Planting.  Leisure spaces benefit from fresh floral planting.  Lavender and rosemary are hardy perennials offering good value for money as they grow larger each year.  Rosemary and Thyme retain their small green leaves year-round and Thyme will spread as ground cover.  These three herbs create a perfect backdrop for annual planting of californian poppy and calendula.  They also create a fantastic, relaxing aroma – especially after rain.  If the building will be used during evenings, plant a handful of evening primrose flowers and night-scented stock throughout the beds or pots.  The heady night-only scent is amazingly strong and very sensuous.
  • Colour Planting.  Keeping in mind that red draws the eye, it may be useful to plant a series of red roses or small tree with red flowers or berries towards the rear of the building.  Orange flowering plants will always work well against the bluish tones of the maturing cedar.
  • Architectural Planting.  Bamboos – the clump forming variety only.  A hedge of bamboo is a luxurious screen which whispers and dances in the wind.  This kind of bamboo grows to 2 – 4m high and can be found in many different stem colours and patters and leaf colours, from pale yellow, through greens to black.  A clump of three together, strategically planted in front of the room can break the horizontal lines and will form a constantly moving feature.  Hostas are also sourced from East Asia and, used together, these two plants will soften your new feature.  Hostas like damp earth but are very happy in pots where their leaves broaden and dip to form a perfectly balanced display.
  • Specimen Tree.  Adding one (or a group of three if you have the space) silver birch or weeping birch as a specimen in front of the room will serve to soften its impact and encourage wildlife.  A strong established tree may take the weight of a hammock in summer.
  • Furniture.  Garden furniture such as wood burners, barbeques, tables, love-seats, hammocks, dining sets, sand pits, sofa swings, chalk boards – populate the area around your garden building and use it like an outdoor room.  Or enjoy the minimalist cleanliness of an empty deck.

We want you to enjoy your new space.  Find your optimum work/life balance.  The more it fits in, the more value and interest it will generate for your property and the more pure pleasure you will feel from using it.

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