Tag Archives: garden room

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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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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Happiness Is … My Garden Room!

Rooms in Your GardenThis month, our office for national statistics will spend a considerable amount of time, money and effort assessing the happiness of 200,000 UK families.  However, Professor Martin Seligman, inspiration for a new commodity – gross domestic happiness, has changed his mind.

Searching for a better, more meaningful index the psychologist believes his original ideas have been watered down, devalued, and left bereft of the intended integrity by polititians. “Flourishing”, his new buzz word, consists of five components: positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

Not alone, many scientists are now showing genuine interest in the training of the mind, becoming more sensible people, putting value in the utilization of human intelligence to transform emotion.  They emphasize the achievement of inner peace for a better world and recognise its dependence upon giving happiness to get happiness. Following the banking crisis and subsequent fall-out, it is perhaps the time to challenge the major proportion of humanity that follows material values only.

In all our efforts, our charitable giving, our work time and family time, perhaps the easiest thing is to listen to each other, give loved ones our time and attention.  Helping them along the road to a healthy inner mental state; human happiness and genuine satisfaction cannot be bought with money or taken by force.  No wonder polititians are attempting to package it in these austere times.

I genuinely believe by providing a responsive service and high quality product to our clients, we are inducing positive emotion, encouraging engagement, space for positive relationships and well-being, a sense of meaning and accomplishment. How many other product based businesses out there have refined the balance between customer satisfaction / high quality products with the bottom line profit margin?    By and large, the effect reflects a happier and more satisfactory experience all round.

Tomorrow, His Holiness the 14th Dalia Lama (by invitation from Children in Crossfire, Afri and SpunOut.ie) will attract thousands of people together in Dublin for the POSSIBILITIES 2011 civic summit. It aims to inspire people, young and old, to become vocal and active in transforming our country and our planet for the better.

Honoured guest, His Holiness, said,“One can be very rich, materially, but deep inside: stressed, worried, insecure, lonely.  Not in a religious way, just share with your friends the value of an inner healthy mental state. Scientists emphasize achievement of inner peace and a better world is dependant upon giving happiness.  Everyone has the right to achieve a happy life.” Learn more about the NI charity, patroned by the Dalai Lama.

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How to Find the Best Garden Office Designs for Your Budget.

Garden StudioThere exists a comprehensive range of garden office designs on the UK market today.  From the lower price range bursts a variety of sheds with plastic window panes and pitched and flat roofed log cabins.  For under £8000 it is possible to achieve a space to work in reasonable summer comfort.  I like the colourfully painted sheds which sit very well into a cottage garden, highly planted with tall wallflowers, foxgloves, dalias and rambling roses.  In this way, landscaping around your shed with appropriate plants allows it to really fit in.

Middle price range garden offices tend to be constructed with polystyrene insulation sheets and clad with horizontal shiplap board, stained to your colour preference.  Windows may be PVC and double glazed for a little extra warmth in the autumn chill.  Traditional pitched roofs are common with this design, as is the popular feather-edged cladding for under £15,000.  This style holds its own in a rural setting and can be expanded into larger structures, suitable as farm shops or showrooms.

Best quality garden studioUpper range garden office designs are usually very contemporary.  Cedar cladding with aluminium or chrome trims and sharp boxy lines emanating from almost-flat roofs send this set of designs into the £22,000 – £40,000 bracket.  Some variation can be achieved with thermally broken aluminium glazing options and integral decks.  Best structure for this money has got to be BBA approved SIPs panels with professionally pressed polyurethane insulation:  rigorously tested for all year round comfort, cool summer working, warm winter comfort and the longest verifiable durability.

Glasshouses and oak framed buildings meet in this upper price range too and can easily exceed £40,000.  The building technology for oak frames tend to be traditional with a lower thermal performance than the SIPs structure mentioned.  The glasshouses need to be displaying very low u-values to be suitable as a working office.

garden office music roomIn conclusion, one can achieve a garden office from £8,000 to £40,000 and the price increase usually reflects an increase in quality.  Using this guide, you are justified in expecting certain quality standards for your money.  A wary word on SIPs panels – many companies claim to use the latest but make them in a poor back-yard fashion using polystyrene and various glues.  The result is an over priced product with shortened life and poorer insulation qualities.  Ask for a garden studio independent thermal value calculation or certificate number.

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How Just Working from a Garden Office can Make Money.

Home working in your garden room

Studioni garden rooms for home working

The benefit system is being burned, thousands of public sector jobs axed and the fall out into the private sector is yet to be realised.  No wonder that more and more UK firms are searching for cost cuts, ditching their expensive offices and promoting working from home.  Garden offices support many home-workers by providing professional, dedicated office space – rent free, tax allowable and suitable for flexible working hours.

Having already reported this shift by IBM and BT, we now see that Vodafone, Microsoft, the AA and Unilever have joined in.  Current home-workers constitute 4.3 million of us in the UK and that figure is expected to increase to 6.2 million of us, working from home, in 2012.  After BT’s report on their own working practises, stating that their home-workers were 20% more productive and had 60% less absenteeism than their central office based staff, it is no surprise that other corporations are implementing this change.

The concept brings with it an additional glow of personal savings; the annual commute can cost £2000 for many employees, some incurring more costs in lost wages by failing to reach the office due to winter storms, train strikes and other travel disruptions.  As an employee, working from home makes sense on many level: time saved, money saved and the increased option of flexible hours.  As an employer, BT has shown that productivity definitely increases and absenteeism dramatically reduces, keeping your business well ahead of your competitors and improving profit margins.
This remote-control earning will not suit every job description, clearly the likes of bakers, carpenters and factory operatives still need to travel to a specialised place of work.  Although it is not only suited to the reclusive painter or author as was once thought.  One is just as likely to find accountants, architects, doctors and solicitors working from their gardens these days.

What about the extra home heating bill incurred by home workers through winter months? As allowable expenses, the costs of running a home office can be negotiated with employers and the cost of installing a garden office can be shared, loaned or offset against tax, depending on your employment status.  Using a garden office reduces winter bills because only one small, easy to heat, room is used – not the whole house.
In summary, garden offices represent the bright recession-busting solution for many UK businesses today.  Unaffected by travel disruption and severe weather, productivity can continue to rise. Saving on rent and rates and slashing travel costs and the time taken to commute allows businesses to survive the downturn.  With a government endorsement for remote working now in place, perhaps more tax incentives will follow.

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Seven Deadly Signs.

The family home is often the largest asset.  Increasing the value of the investment is paramount when considering home improvements.  Here’s a quick list of my seven deadly signs to consider.

1. Faded Kerb Attraction.  The first impression for buyers cannot be underestimated.  If the outside of your home is well kept, clean and tidy, then it feeds buyer interest and lures them inside.  It can be a basic maintenance budget job.  Painting or cleaning window frames; fixing any broken fittings, roof tiles or guttering; cleaning the glazing; powerhosing the drive; adding some seasonal garden colour.  If the fence/gate/front door need repainting then rool up your sleeves and sand them back, undercoat and apply a careful topcoat for a proud and long-lasting finish.  Once satisfied, then have your photographic shots taken for advertising your home.

2. Crumbling Kitchen.  Research shows that kitchens are where we spend most time but they can also blow the biggest budget if fixtures and fittings need replacing.  Take a critical look at your units – how would they appear with new doors and maybe a new worktop?  Many home-owners are favouring an airy open-plan kitchen/dining area – would that design suit your home?  Bear in mind that a well designed kitchen can sell a home and will definitely add value.

3. Dank Bathroom.  A clean, practical bathroom is crucial but need not cost the earth.  Simple white suites and colour accessories sell the space better than bold tiles and damp carpet.  It is often the best choice to hire a well-vetted tiler and have a neutral tile professionally placed.

4. Feral Garden.  Without doubt, keeping the garden in shape adds to the value of your home.  A well designed patio or deck especially when combined with an opening glazed wall will increase your living space and make the house feel bigger.  Adding a professional, high quality garden room is an investment which will show its value when it comes to sell the property.  The best models have an insurance-backed 10 year guarantee and can be designed specifically for you.  That way, it appears to complement your outdoor space and the design of your home.

5. Dingy Corners.  Bright and airy homes are both easier to live in and easier to sell.  When renovating, think about lightening the darkest rooms with carefully placed windows, sun-tubes or roof lights.  The amount and the quality of light is important in both heating and opening up the space.  Natural light can be a deciding factor for buyers so if the budget is tight, consider a well-placed large mirror and fresh white / light neutral paint, highlighted by extra lamp stands.

6. DIY Disasters.  Before embarking on major projects, ask estate agents to value your home and see if the proposed work will add value.  In some cases, it may be better to sell on the potential and allow the new owners to fulfill their vision.  Chat to an architect about the hidden potential in your home and benefit from their professional experience.

7. Out-dated systems.  The more energy efficient your home is, the more value it will have, long-term.  There are still grants available for improving your home’s insulation, heating system, windows and doors in the UK and Ireland; making your home appealing to every potential buyer.

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Top 10 Garden Rooms for Girls.

flowergirls flikrcc

Got some space in your garden and a bit of cash for something a little different?

Here are ten tempting ideas you could use a garden building for…

1. Pamper yourself in your own personal garden retreat.  A spa bath, massage chair, fabulous skin care products.  Book a mobile nail artist for an evening and get the girls around.  Absolutely perfect for a girl’s night in.

2. Indulge in a home cinema room.  Selection of chic flicks, chocolate fountain, minifridge for drinks.

3. Make a relaxation room at the bottom of your garden.  Customise with a music system, easy chairs, bean bag sofa, turn the heat up and sounds down low then lie back and chill.

4. Personalise your home office.  It is so much more productive to work in a detached room than from a noisy, cluttered dining table.  Plug in the laptop and pick up your wireless connection.  Perfect peace for expending on those creative ideas.

5. Home gym.  No need to feel self-conscious about your tracksuit, post-Christmas bulge or who’s watching you work out.  Your own rowing machine, weights and yoga space will allow a fresh thorough fitness regime behind the blinds.

6. Creative expression.  Everyone needs some time to themselves and so many of us would like to take up a creative hobby like sketching or painting, pottery or other craft.  Expand on that evening class you promised yourself and use the inspiration of your family photos or garden view to reveal artistic talents.

7. If your house is crammed with children’s toys then put together a purpose built garden playroom, complete with intercom, cushioned floor and walls and loads of easy access storage space. Special space for them means less toy tidying indoors for you.

8. Teenage grump and grunge hormones can kick in well before the teens.  If your otherwise adorable child induces desperation, allow them free use of the garden studio to ‘study’ for end of term exams or listen to music with their friends.  That will let you savour a rare moment of silence at home.

9. You’ve heard the saying that every man needs a shed?  Impress your devotion on your partner by indulging his inherent primal instinct to have a sheltered male space.  A garden room gentleman’s club could repay many times over in brownie points.

10. Family time is a precious commodity for busy working parents.  Weekend dinners and get-togethers make memories to treasure.  Allow your garden room to entertain your family, barbeque whatever the weather, in an appropriately serviced studio suite.  No need to run for the bathroom or kitchen as kitchenettes and shower rooms can be included in your family’s garden studio.

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