Home Front: How to create the perfect garden room
Cate Burren of Cambridge’s Angel + Blume interior design considers the advantages of a well thought through garden gazebo
There seems to have been much talk during lockdown, and in fairness prior to it too, about carving out additional interior space in the garden – call it what you will: home office, garden studio, man-den, she-shed (there must be a better term) or summerhouse – but the outside space that I personally covet most is the open fronted gazebo.
I am not referring to the highly useful plastic pop-up variety that has been seen outside many drinking venues as lockdown eased in the bitter winter weather of May, but to the enviable garden structure that is highly inviting, provides views, fresh air, shelter from all sorts of weathers and that, if done well, very well, is a place to inspire conversation, contemplation and tranquillity away from everyday life.
In countries with sunnier and more consistent climates, this sort of open yet undercover space is much more common and may come in the form of a veranda, pergola or simply an awning over a seating area which is useable for much of the year. Our British weather used to mean that we considered a place in the garden as a fully enclosed affair but I think that the indoor smoking ban in bar and restaurants helped to develop our thinking on this. As a non-smoker, I felt very much the injured party when friends left the dinner table to go to the smoking hut where the party really seemed to be at. Indeed Hotel du Vin jumped stylishly on the bandwagon with their cigar shacks that feature underfloor heating, comfortable seating, antique furniture and WiFi access – really it’s a wonder that anyone ever returned to the dinner table.
In order to get the design of your gazebo right, the first thoughts should be what you actually want to use it for. Is it for smoking, is it for eating outdoors or barbequing when the weather isn’t quite up to it, do you want to avoid the intense summer sun in favour of a quiet snooze or an hour with a book, or do you want to get some fresh air during the rest of the year without perishing in your own garden? Once you have an idea of the use, you will know better what the structure needs to achieve and whether you require something quite simple, or whether electricity, drainage, a water supply or a flue for a fireplace or barbeque are required.
Which way your structure faces is also important. The direction of the sun (are you capturing the sun or providing shelter?) and whether you face into the wind will make a difference. Also, do you have a view to incorporate, or do you want (or not want) to be seen from the main house.
There are also some practical things to think about, like how much storage do you want - what will you bring from the main house and what could be on hand; will you need lighting (surely some fairy lights at the very least); and will any or all furnishings in it stay there all year round?
Once you know what you are aiming to create, the joyous process of working out what it will look like both inside and out can begin. I don’t wish to be negative, but I would advocate that the word plastic should be outlawed from the start. Whatever your structure is going to do for you, the one thing it needs to do is embrace the exterior space that it is in – otherwise it might be best just to go inside again. Here, the elements are not to be braved but to be enjoyed, and indeed relished.
If you are lucky enough to have something in your garden that could be turned into a gazebo, this is a perfect place to start. Do you have a wall, or indeed corner area that could be used to build the structure against? Do you have an outbuilding or garage that could be converted or opened up? If not, do you want to create something with reclaimed building materials that looks like it has been there for ages, or do you want something pristine and new?
Neither are right or wrong, it is a question of what really appeals to you and the wonderful thing is unlike areas within your home, you are not restricted by what is already there – you can create something from scratch which means you can decide on the building materials, the roof you prefer, whether you want windows or not, or whether you want to avoid or work around plants or trees that are there already, or indeed incorporate new planting.
The trick with the interior is to get the balance of inside and outside right. Some feeling of an interior space will make it inviting and comfortable but you also want it to be robust enough to not feel you have to take off muddy shoes to enjoy the space. I would advocate that whatever interior style you go for, keep it relaxed, for yourself and everyone who uses your garden gazebo. It doesn’t have to be the same look as your home, but I would suggest that a completely different look will require work, whereas something that evolves in the style of your home, could absorb any additional furnishings or accessories that you have in your home.
The level of protection from the elements that your gazebo offers will dictate to a certain extent what furnishing you opt for but I would try to avoid using only products designed for outside use. Cushions and comfy seating, artwork, accessories such as books, lamps and ornaments make an indoor space attractive and it is no different outside. You may want to bring some of these things inside (or cover them) during the winter but you are much more likely to use the space when there is some early spring or late autumn sunshine to be enjoyed if your outside space is ready and waiting for you.
Whatever it looks like, I think that the more love and attention you give your new indoor/outdoor space, the more you will use it and appreciate it.
Monterey Gazebo at gardenaffairs.co.uk
Hip Hangout at shackadelic.co.uk
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More by this authorCate Burren