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How to add a garden building without spoiling the garden

You’ve run out of space in your house and want to add a summerhouse for hobbies and enjoying the garden, or a garden office for running a business. But if you love your garden and have spent years tending it, how do you add a building without undermining years of hard work and investment?

Step one: Garden office or summerhouse as a focal point?

If you intend to use your building as a garden office you may prefer to tuck it away behind the garage. Or, if you garden is big enough you could put an office behind a group of trees or bushes.  For work purposes northern light is best.

If you want a summerhouse or garden studio specifically for leisure and to add to the enjoyment of your garden then it is more likely that you want it to be a focal point and ideally it would be south or west facing to get the best daylight.

In a long narrow garden the only real option is at the bottom, unless you intentionally want to cut the garden in two and create and ‘industrial zone’ for vegetables and storage beyond the building.

In a square garden you can either break the formality of your garden by positioning a garden office or studio to one side or create symmetry by putting it right in the middle of the bottom boundary of the garden.

Step two: The right approach to your garden building

Adding a garden office or studio inevitably means adding a pathway or new route down the garden. Are you going to take the direct route, using informal stepping stones across the lawn, or would you prefer a formal path that helps you divide the garden into zones or geometric ‘rooms’?

In a formal garden you may want to add lighting to the path, in a cottage garden this may not be appropriate, or you could use carefully positioned solar powered garden lights.

Step three: Make your building work for you

The primary function of your new building maybe a garden office, an extra guest bedroom or a studio but it could have other functions too:

  • Add a w.c. so that you have facilities on hand whist you work in the garden.
  • Include an integral shed so that you only have one, beautiful building in the garden that is office/guest rooms/garden storage.
  • Add a conservatory or greenhouse section for plant propagation.
  • Extend the roof to the rear or to the side to act as a log store or bike shelter.

Step four: Planting around your garden office or summerhouse

Once your new garden office or studio is in place it opens up new opportunities for planting and growing in the garden.

Add a cedar or Douglas fir pergola over the front door of your garden office for extra shading in summer and the chance to grow your favourite climbing rose or clematis.

Add willow or chestnut fencing along the path to your office to provide growing space for espaliered fruit trees. An archway over the path gives you summer growing space for sweet peas, runner beans and so on.

Step five: Growing plants on your garden building

In an informal or cottage garden you may wish to soften the impact of an office or studio by planting hard against it. Plants such as trailing hydrangea or wisteria will add atmosphere and character to your building and soften the appearance.

Your garden office or studio can also be your vegetable plot.

If you attach strong wire mesh to the south or west side of the building you can then hook plant pots, troughs and trays onto the building. This gives you a vertical growing space for tumbling tomatoes, courgettes, herbs etc.

And, if you’re not careful you might find yourself growing tomatoes inside your garden office too!

Lynn Fotheringham is the owner of InsideOut Buildings. InsideOut design and build garden offices  and garden rooms. Contact her for advice about working from home in a garden office
Tel 01524 737999 email



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