Finding the perfect summer house for your small garden can be tricky so I’d like to talk through a few points that might help you on your quest. When searching for garden summer houses you need to first understand the limitations imposed by your property and your local authority. But before I get into this there is also another key element to consider, the design. This is going to be something, that above all, will be the most difficult decision. You’ll want your summer house to reflect your personality, mirror your home decor and fit in with your garden design and styling.
In this comprehensive guide I’ll detail a number of fantastic designs and styles, along with information on building materials and restrictions to help you find the perfect building for your small garden.
You might be reading this post because you’ve already made the decision to build a summer house in your garden, but you’re limited on space and don’t know how to make the most of the available space. A good starting point for this project is to understand your goal. What will the summer house be used for?
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Purpose of your summer house
Many people have visions of beautiful outdoor summer houses. They rush ahead, build them and before long they turn into storage units, or derelict spider infested rooms with no use in everyday life. Hopefully you’ve started this journey because you have a vision, an idea that will add value in additional space for your home.
With an increased number of us now able (or encouraged) to work from home, many set out to create a quiet garden office, a dedicated workspace where they can switch off from the day to day distractions of the home.
Others set out to create extra living space, an escape from their spouses or children, a space to call their own where they can quietly read a book or enjoy their favourite TV program. Maybe you have a hobby that requires concentration, some separation and space. Whatever your purpose or need for a summer house, try and visualise this carefully and stick to a plan.
Many summer house designs are also available as dual purpose buildings. You can even find companies that sell add-on units that allow you to expand your building with storage. This can be so important when working with limited space. Somewhere to put your bikes and garden tools out of sight whilst having an idilic living space to enjoy.
Some other uses for a garden summer house might include:
- Hot tub room
- Games room
- A simple gazebo
- A car port
- Wood store
- Hobby room
- Relaxation space
- Yoga studio
- Workplace / office
- Pet room
- Guest house (planning required)
- Outdoor kitchen
Before you get all excited and spend thousands on a new garden summer house be aware that your local authority, or council will have a set of regulations that restrict certain building types in your back garden. The height is normally one of the most important of these but you also need to understand the overall size can be limited, especially in smaller gardens. The good news is, most garden offices or summer houses can be built without the need for planning permission, as long as they stay within these parameters:
- No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation. This basically means you can’t build anything in your front garden without permission.
- Outbuildings and garages to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof. This doesn’t apply to small gardens so take note of the next point.
- Maximum height of 2.5 metres in the case of a building, enclosure or container within two metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the dwelling house. This is the important one. If you’re with 2m of a neighbours boundary the overall height must be under 2.5m
- No verandas, balconies or raised platforms (a platform must not exceed 0.3 metres in height)
- No more than half the area of land around the “original house”* would be covered by additions or other buildings. Another important point. If you have a small garden then you can’t take up more than 50% with a building.
There are a couple more points mentioned which are less likely to be an issue with small gardens. You can read them and more advice on the UK Planning Portal.
Your summer house won’t be restricted by the materials you use to construct it. In fact, there are a number of different materials you could build your summer house from but this will depend largely on your budget and design style preferences. Most garden summer houses are constructed from wood as it is cheap and is easy to work with. Wooden summer houses are available in a number of different styles and there is plenty of choice on the market. You could also consider constructing your own from scratch if you have the correct skillset and a reasonable tool collection.
An important factor to get right. The sun plays a big part in this decision. First you’ll need to work our where the sun rises and sets. This will then help determine which way the summer house should face. In direct sunlight the room is likely to get very warm and if heavily shaded could be cold. Finding the perfect spot will ensure it gets proper use all year round.
Also consider your privacy. If you want to be out of sight from the house or from neighbours then consider line of sight from these things. You might consider putting up a dividing wall or planting bushes to aid in the privacy.
Don’t build too close to walls or neighbouring fences as you will require access to the walls of the building for maintenance and off course to build the structure. I recommend leaving at least 50cm around the perimeter for this purpose.
Your ideal location should also be level. You can’t build on a slope easily so bear this in mind when selecting the right spot. If your ideal location is on a slope be prepared to construct a complex base and plenty of ground works.
Odd shaped gardens
If you have a nice square garden with 90 degree angles, finding the perfect garden summer house shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. If however you have irregular corners and curved boundaries then this does complicate the matter. Ideally you want to make the most of the space you have and this can be difficult when you can’t find a building to fit a specific corner or curved wall. In this case it’s best to speak to the professionals to either have a custom design drawn up or a completely bespoke building designed for your garden.
A small shed can be a great addition to an odd shaped garden as they can be tucked into a corner or fit neatly along a curved wall. Take a look at this list of the best small sheds I created.
Read on below to see a couple of recommendations for custom buildings.
Garden building shapes, designs and styles
When you’re limited on space, the shape of your summer house is going to be an important factor. The most common shape is a rectangle but you will also find square, triangle, hexagon and even curved pod shaped buildings.
To get the most out of a small space you’ll likely want to tuck your building into the corner or at the end of the garden. This will help you maximise the space around your building. Then, carefully located plants, boarders and water features can help your garden integrate perfectly with your new building. Try and think of your garden as an extension to your house, somewhere to sit and enjoy or pass through whilst admiring nature.
We all have our own preferences when it comes to design styles. Some may prefer a traditional looking buildings made from wood, with an apex roof and Georgian style windows. Others may prefer a contemporary style with a flat roof, spot lighting and tall, slim windows.
You may also like the idea of creating a completely bespoke summer house, something thats not been done before. Programs like ‘Cabins in the Wild’ with Dick Strawbridge or ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces‘ will give you loads of inspiration to let you imaginations run wild.
Decor and finishings
Finishing your garden summer house will play a vital role in the overall look and feel of your garden. Try and think about the colours you’ll use and how the garden will integrate with the building. How will wildlife fit comfortably alongside your new structure, what plants will surround you and grow in unison with the house. A small space can quickly become overcrowded so think carefully about where plants might grow and how big they will become over time.
Maybe you are a bold colourful person and want to express this in your finishes or maybe your more of a traditional person and like wood colours and slate roofs. The possibilities are endless but can make a huge difference on you garden aesthetic.
Think about how your summer house is going to be built. Are you looking for someone to complete the whole job for you or are you going to get hands on with the construction? Many companies provide flat pack products that can quite easily be constructed yourself. You can order from a catalog and construct it using the provided instructions. Other companies will provide an end to end service. Meaning they will help you design the building and then come and build it for you. Just be sure to do your homework and understand cost differences.
Companies like Lugarde offer an extensive range of products which are customisable through their website. You can pick your design, fully customise it and have it delivered to your door. This kind of service is ideal for those with small or complex spaces to deal with.
You garden summer house can range vastly in price depending on what you are looking to achieve. Costs can start from as little as £800 and go all the way up into the tens of thousands. Only you will know what you can afford and what you want to spend on your project.
Just be aware there can be many hidden costs to consider before you get started. Here are a few to think about:
- The building itself
- Fixtures and fittings
- Electricity – do you want power running to your summer house?
- Construction – DIY or hired professional
- Ground works – levelling, removal of soil and earth
- Finishing paint, stain, roofing, plants
- Delivery – does your building come with free delivery? Ours didn’t!
- Custom or bespoke designs tend to cost more
Try and remember, your garden building is going to add value to your property. So whilst it might seem like a large expense, if well maintained it will reward you should you ever decide to sell your property.
There are an endless number of different design styles and structure types you can choose from to find your perfect garden summer house. Hopefully this post has given you a few things to think about and some ideas to help you find the perfect garden building. Try and do plenty of research and look for inspiration as to how your building will work best for you. If you still can’t find the right supplier then consider a bespoke build either designed by yourself or speak to an architect if you have the budget.
I love creating outdoor buildings and have made a number of different types over the last few years. Here are some link to some of my projects. Hopefully they will inspire you on your journey.
- How to build a garden office from scratch – on a budget
- BillyOh Kent Log Cabin review and step by step build guide
- How to build your own veranda for under £500 – DIY veranda
- How to build your own shed from scratch – on a budget
- How to build your own decking area on a budget
Thanks for reading