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Sunday, 6 December 2015

Garden Ofice and Studio Building trends for 2016

Garden Building Trends 2016

Written by Richard Grace – Project Director - specialist Garden Structures designer and builder. (we are now entering our 14th year)

 – not much new but all remains the same! Here is a picture of my best mate Ian who has just bought this "Brand New Morgan - I cut off his head to make sure none of the other guys can recognize him! The car has to live in a garage, not many cars do these days. We convert garages to living space now.

HIGHLIGHTS and some low-lights of the year 2015 

We have been in the Garden Buildings business now for (I think about 14 years). In recent years I have been writing a year-end review. This one nearly gone was an interesting year so – here goes - my review for 2015! Featuring 12 of our most interesting and demanding projects. (with my candid comments!)

The year held some great successes and some difficulties - like no other – both good and bad!!! This blog post is (a sort of notepad straight out of my head) unlike some of my other stuff, some of this is “risk A” but so what!. I do hope people accept it but as usual I am me.

Plus of course the Internet and the ability to do this and change it quickly has modified the planet forever. Here's a word for non-futurists. Watch out as the pace of change is increasing.
This review is based on what is happening in the Garden Building business now. A lot is still good and demand remains higher than ever.

Orchard Studio - Granny Annex / accommodation extraordinaire was my most favorite project of the year.

SO HERE IT IS - At the turn of the year (last year) we were a bit behind schedule (5 weeks) Oh shit! But still pushing the boundaries of design. Creating new stuff, using new techniques, employing Romanians, Bulgarians and Poles. Javi – Our Spanish project manager had left for all the right reasons in the middle of last year (but rumor has it he might be back soon) life here had to go on without him.

1.Orchard Lodge Granny Annexes / sleepover building  – Here are a few more shots of my chosen project of the year.

The client brief was simple - “mum and dad want to stay over, it needs to fit in with what we have and who knows what it will end up being used for" (keep this quiet Richard but our daughter wants her boyfriend to stay over as well). We need shower room with toilet + kitchenette.

On site survey I could see the land was damp-ish but the outlook, access and space was ripe for a new creation, maybe traditional in design. Everything possible within permitted development planning rules and current building legislation was packed in. We were commissioned to handle the WHOLE JOB. from dig to handing over the keys and a few paint brushes.

2. Home Studio with a difference – Kingston on Thames (round the corner from our beautiful Richmond Park.

A treatment studio for a Pillates specialist who had built and grown her business in Kingston but needed her house back. There was good space needing developing at the bottom of the garden.

it has almost everything !

Pathway lights, plumbing,waiting room, underfloor heating car parking at rear etc,etc.

3. A Garden Office with a big / big difference

A MASSIVE Garden Office for “one guy” renting a space on the fabulous estate of one of the UK’s richest individuals. His job is to buy the best “horse blood” to fulfill the Lord's 3rd wife’s dream. The spec was for a  40m sq  DE-mountable building i.e. possible to move easily - fully insulated- underfloor heating etc etc etc - build in 10 mins -no mess allowed and so on and so on.


The project took longer than plan,  but - look it's fine - to me!

Even more interesting was that this horse was born here the day after we arrived! 

4. A good looking building for admiring and sitting in.

The whole thing is on here
It is so beautiful I just stood looking at it myself the lights have a flipflop switch at the house so client can see it anytime!

A Beautiful Summerhouse for a lovely person, in a lovely garden.


5. Outdoor activity centre caretakers office - We were called in to replace this!


 with this ---------- starting like this:

A replacement building to organise better and better kids activity holidays. An office for the caretaker of a fantastic outdoor activity centre. I must admit - here I was influenced by the location, a sort of “busman’s holiday” At the foot of Snowdon in one of the most beautiful places available to work. And with people doing great and good stuff with inner city children from all over uk.

6. A therapy studio built for a chiropractor fairly close to home – gave us a bit of a travel break.


All normal stuff, complete project except painting, toilet, waiting room, therapy room, underfloor heating, landscape / pathway / wheelchair access etc etc.

7. An outdoor kitchen beyond all comprehension. Maybe the client was a lottery winner?


I simply don't know where to start explaining the specification. This building is an outdoor kitchen the whole of the front opens onto an indian stone paved area and provides walk through at the same height with appropriate drainage. The side you can see opens as a bar with a massive oak slab serving area. Cooking facilities are at the rear of the building beneath the skylights. Client is very keen on entertaining his family and mates of course. And a really great guy.


 8. A Garden Studio in North London for the most demanding client one could imagine. 

Brief was basic “I want exactly what I want and the complete job and it MUST BE PERFECT IN EVERY WAY". HERE ARE PHOTOS FOR YOU TO EXAMINE.


Basically this is a cedar clad box like all my competitors build but maybe of higher spec - I am not sure!

9. JUST A SEATING AREA – BUT WHO KNOWS? “ what will be talked about here?”

Glade seating area

A seating area for a longstanding existing client in their beautiful 4 acre landscaped garden (my 4th project here - but just a dream)

I have tried and tried to photograph this project but the trees get in the way. So here I am going to describe it. This is called "Glade seating area" It is in the same garden mentioned earlier in this blog. An oak frame L shaped valley roof open structure with cedar shingle roof, oak benches and corner table. It has smartphone controlled lighting, internet access and phone chargers built in. The owners are leading cancer specialists. When I was briefed on the project all I could think was that if these two people sit here and think together the world could be a better place. Everything about this project was a dream come true.

It contains cooperation, creativity and ultimately a sort of purpose - at least in my head.

I loved doing this.


10. An art Studio for the head of design and creator of Liberty prints. 

Where the most beautiful fabrics could be designed. A traditional but inspirational design environment, a space at home but away from home.  - At the bottom of the garden.


Very traditional but well insulated and functional building has plumbing for washing brushes etc which exits to the front. The trench was a long dig but project was a joy to design and construct.


11. A building in the garden where two ladies could develop and grow their childcare business.


The project was just round the corner from Stoke Newington  railway station in the most orthodox Jewish area one can imagine. Impossible I thought early on due to parking and logistical difficulty (everything had to be taken in and out through the small terraced house. But I did it. Has small toilet sink, outdoor covered play area, underfloor heating etc. Good project for worthwhile cause, but a logistical nightmare!

The Jewish guys mostly agreed with me that wearing tesco bags on their hats when it rains is a bit “silly”.


12. Last but not least – A multipurpose accommodation building for a young American engineering project manager. 

A “MAN CAVE”- More gizmos, knobs and whistles than you could dream of.

 Review and trends for 2015 ends

 As usual I am pushing the boundaries of what can be done with small buildings in peoples gardens. You don’t need to spend long "googling" all the basic stuff - keywords “garden office” “garden studio”, “granny annexe” I remain passionate about what I do!


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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Garden Room trends 2015


Garden Room Trends UK  (my review of 2014 and predictions for 2015)

By Richard Grace – Project Director – Garden Structures Ltd


Another interesting year is about to start (as soon as I have finished this post!!)

It will be my 12th year in this business and there have been a few changes. When we started out there were a few "early adopters" wanted an office at home and a few  deciding that it was possible to have garden space insulated and use it as an extension of home / work life. Now I am sure most people know about this and are aware that a large number of suppliers claim to be the best.

Most suppliers use websites to attract new customers. A few weeks ago I found a new local competitor using all the normal blurb (long established / family company / years of experience etc. etc.). The photos looked good and interestingly they had used a few of my designs. – Curiosity got the better of me and I spent quite a few minutes tracking the source of the photo.

Guess what I found???

One of my own buildings??

Curved PD compliant roof

My message here is check and re-check that your supplier really has the experience because there are a few things about building “habitable buildings” for work / play or accommodation in your garden that remain important:

Accesss to site:

Photo   there wasn't much room here!

This is never ever the same. Even I can get this wrong.  It might seem easy to take 5 metre by 3 metre fully functional garden studio off a vehicle and park it in your garden for £13 grand. But this is not true. In this garden the site Warden would not allow us near the site and wanted us off site at 4.30pm

Yes of course everyone wants a comfortable environment but this is not only provided by insulation. Nothing has changed spend more on roof than walls as heat rises (remains common sense).

The base


Most companies specify their own kind of base or ask you to get it done yourself. Take it from me every situation is different. Don’t make a concrete base over size etc etc.


Some will do some will not – some will do but not connect and some will do all or nothing. We remain committed to all or nothing. The way to design the installation is with our client after the structure is up if possible. No changes here for anyone except LED light bulbs are becoming popular as they cost less to run.


 Photo  Photo

I have never ever seen a job that doesn’t require any at all and I have seen jobs where the necessary landscaping costs 30% of the total project.

So now we know a lot – about the various offerings and about the cost about the roof about the insulation about the planning law and about installing in just about any situation.


What are the big questions you need answered:

Is it  -----?
How much does it cost
Is underfloor heating included
Can I have

Answer is always – almost always – sometimes – never

You can’t have plumbing with a conventional drain that runs uphill

You can't install an accommodation building and rent it out to illegal immigrants

You can't build 4m high on your boundary without planning permission

You can't build over 30 square metres of space without having building control approval

Anything else seems possible.


You can buy a kit of the shelf or have a company supply and fit one of their designs or you can use a company that designs for the site and installs or you can simply “do it yourself”

Our market has matured:


Do the research – you will need time – there are 400 + companies available via web who recommend their offering for the search term “Garden Office”. Google cannot place them on the screen in an order that suits your requirement. So Write down your requirement, review it and think it over then type all of it in.

What google is best at is relevance – do this and you will find the information you need. Take time and look at quite a few sites.


Ask for references and go to see a site of your likely supplier on your own. Ask all the questions you want. This is plain common sense.

Here are my predictions for 2015 regarding garden buildings

  1.  Construction method 

Timber frame will dominate – why? Well single skin wood walls are no longer efficient enough to meet energy conservation trends. SIPS are “simply too heavy to be the right materials” Brick is a non starter in the economic scenario.
  1. Cladding – “Wooden wallpaper”

Cedar is still an option but many are thinking it is dated and are not sure about the way it ages – however it still doesn’t rot. Ordinary softwood cladding – cheaper and can be protected with regular treatment (the walls tell you by flaking off) when they need re-painting. Waney edge larch is simply "cool & trendy" it tells you when to soak it in linseed oil again.

  1. Floorcover

Vinyl or better is the choice. Beware there are many qualities of vinyl and a massive difference in value depending on where you shop. B&Q are best value – only certain stores have a good choice but beware rumours have it that B&Q are pulling out of vinyl sales probably because of the margin – in my opinion they sell it too cheap in the stores where they have the paternosters (large roll handling systems)

4. Heating

Having tried the various methods over the years I have now become a MASSIVE fan of ecoflex underfloor heating. It represents good value and offers a luxurious + invisible + controllable + economical (when coupled with good insulation)

5. Roof covering

 Photo Cedar Shingle at 28 degrees
Not much to say here – simply this:

Flat roofs simply must be epdm DO NOT CONTEMPLATE ANYTHING ELSE
Pitch roofs – Bitumen Shingle remains a good choice
Steel roofing products – we use colourcote urban which remains far and away the best
Conventional tile / slate will be around forever and do a great job

Electrical systems

No changes here – connection must be by armour – and needs to comply so must be done by an electrician

6. Plumbing

 Here the system takes the waste and top water - pumps it 50 metres to disposal in small bore pipe saving £alot:


It was 8 years ago I designed our first low cost pumped sewer system for garden buildings. As yet I know of no other supplier of this but: Now my systems have in excess of 30 years continuous useage and reduce installation cost + make it possible to have toilet / shower and kitchen in almost any garden building at acceptable cost.

Windows and Doors


I think there is little doubt that in the domestic market UPVC windows dominate as the best value. Most houses are brick and for me UPVC has never seemed right in wooden buildings. Somehow they seem to demand wooden windows. The demand for quality and good seals seems to be important and this is an area where we continue to find clients will pay the extra for quality.


Don’t forget this – to use your building and to be sure it fits in you will need an entry and some re-vamping of surrounding area. There never has been a change here

For us the future – more and more Accommodation Buildings and Granny Annexes – demand is huge and our knowledge increases.

Richard Grace 

Project Director - Garden Structures Ltd CH4 8LB tel 01244 679502