By definition, a garden room is a windowed space with a fully shingled roof. Most often, a garden room is a freestanding backyard idea, like a shed or a greenhouse. But, they can also be attached to an existing building, similar to a sunroom, conservatory or orangery. Fed up with our existing four walls, we are all looking to our outdoor spaces for the answer to how we expand our property’s footprint. With the high costs of moving, the obvious step is to make better use of what we own – adapting our garden ideas to the functional and fun needs of modern life. 

Garden room ideas

Extending your home into the backyard, building a freestanding room with a view of the garden, or refurbishing an existing shed or outbuilding can all offer an opportunity for a light-filled, functional space at home. Here are our favorite ideas for both attached and detached garden rooms.

1. Mimic the architecture of your home

The buildings on you property should share a sense of style, so look to your home for ideas about how to design your garden room. For this pool house idea, designers at The Fox Group (opens in new tab) chose the same siding, roofing, and tile that’s on the main house. 

2. Build a garden annex for multiple uses

If you have a garage mudroom that’s separate from your home, consider connecting the two spaces via an annex-style garden room. This type of room makes an excellent contender for a home gym or an office space since it’s set away from the main part of the home.

3. Consider local zoning laws

Before you get your heart set on a certain style of design or type of building, check with your local building department to see what’s allowed for your property, and whether you’ll need permits or planning permissions to complete the structure.  Depending on where you live, you may be subject to regulations around the size of your structure, how far away it must be from your property line, or whether or not it can function as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). Additionally, you’ll want to be considerate of your neighborhood and how your plans will impact those around you.  ‘Be prepared to be flexible and amend your design to suit the parameters; a boundary wall is not a problem in itself, but you have to be mindful of neighbor’s privacy and their right to light, therefore you may have to compromise on the height,’ says architect Max de Rosee of De Rosee Sa (opens in new tab). 

4. Convert an existing outbuilding 

If you already have a shed or barn on your property, consider converting it into a space you can use year round. Detached living spaces can work well as in-law apartments, au-pair suites, or home offices.  A home office is now a key selling point for home buyers, but whether or not they add true value to a house differs depending on where you are, says Lindsay Cuthill of Savills (opens in new tab).  ‘In the country, there’s usually ample space to build one but in a city it’s much more of a challenge – I’d expect houses that already have a good home office space in the yard to therefore attract a premium,’ she says.

5. Create a space to entertain

Architects say there’s been an increased appetite to build spaces in backyards that are used for entertaining, linked back to a heightened awareness of the benefits of being outside for wellbeing.  Converting outbuildings into party barns with at-home bars, exercise areas, pool houses and spas, is a big trend says Ben Holland of HollandGreen Architecture (opens in new tab).  ‘We’re also being asked to create different zones in outdoor spaces, each with their own ambiance and purpose, for instance, a rewilding area is ideal for quiet and reflection, and great for wildlife too,’ he says.

6. Build a garage with living space

Another garden building idea is to look at extending the garage, or building one from scratch. Oak-frame structures are popular in the countryside and many designs come with a room above that can be used as a home office, den room, games station or guest quarters. 

7. Choose a beautifully blended garden room

Looking for sunroom or conservatory ideas that make space for both dining and lounging? A concrete-topped table and rattan chairs offer a relaxed contemporary feel for lazy weekend brunches, while window seating, softened with a collection of graphic-print cushions in blues and greens, uses every inch of space without detracting from the bright feel. We love the green exterior of this space – which blends beautifully with the greenery surrounding it.

8. Invest in a glass room extension

One of the most exciting ways to enhance our homes and introduce more natural light is by adding a glass addition. Here, a suspended ceiling surrounded by a glass border helps to insulate the room while providing tantalizing glimpses of sky, one to consider for porch ceiling ideas also.

9. Go big with windows

If you’re all about increasing the natural light in your home or want to create a space that captures a view, a la a conservatory or sunroom, design your garden room with walls of windows.  When choosing windows, however, it’s important to take into consideration the affect all of that light will have on your furnishings and decor inside. Primarily, the high levels of glazing can result in UV damage. Using low emissivity glass will reduce the UV and IR light getting through, while installing blinds to both the roof and sides will also help to combat effects of the sun.

10. Light up with a flat glass roof

Flat glass roofs have proven extremely popular of late. These have several advantages: they offer an uninterrupted view of the sky and can slide open on summer evenings. In the U.K., they can be a good solution for listed buildings (AKA historic homes) when conservation officers deem a traditional roof lantern to be too dominant.

11. Make the decor as bright as the room itself

A palette of soft green and greys, natural textures and an artful use of flowers and foliage combine beautifully for a summery scheme that blends indoors and out. A neat slipper-style chair makes a comfortable yet unobtrusive addition to a sunny corner, with relaxed Swedish blinds lending a modern country air.

12. Make it practical for your lifestyle

Before you choose a design, it is important to note that it can be hard to create a full-use living space with a completely windowed extension. Even with advances in glass technology, this style of building can struggle to stay cool in direct sunlight. If you plan to use your garden room as part of your main living space, consider making it more of a sunroom, with a wall of windows leading to the outdoors and a few skylights, instead of a space that’s entirely made of glass. ‘More people now choose a garden room or orangery rather than a conservatory, since their solid roof construction makes them highly suitable for year-round living,’ says David Salisbury of David Salisbury Joinery (opens in new tab).

13. Bring the outside in

Before designing the décor, consider the look of your garden, and also the surrounding landscape. Is it cottage style or formal? Incorporating the strongest themes and shapes in your garden through color, pattern or line can be a good departure point for planning a garden room scheme.  For a more relaxed look, use metal or wrought iron garden furniture and natural stone flooring, like limestone flagstones or slate. Conventional, upholstered furniture and wooden floorboards will create a more formal feel. As a general rule of thumb, use lighter or medium-toned colors.  For maximum access, install folding or sliding doors that open out all the way and lead straight into the garden; these are perfect for sunny days, allowing for uninterrupted movement between the garden and the house.

14. Embrace a garden room with a view

This house was rebuilt from a shell to include a new, light-filled addition, designed to make the most of views of surrounding greenery. A timeless and long-lasting choice, black steel frames are growing in popularity. Modern steel designs are double glazed and thermally efficient to meet the latest building standards.

15. Decorate in a harmonious color palette

Botanical prints in fresh greens create a tranquil spring-time feel that brings the outside in. Don’t be afraid to mix and match fabric in a country style garden room. It’s easier to mix patterns when they are drawn from the same color palette. Try experimenting with scale, combining florals, stripes and geometrics.

16. Introduce plenty of houseplants in a garden room

Garden rooms are the perfect opportunity for plant enthusiasts to show off larger specimens of plants that might not fit in around other areas of the house.   ‘One of the great advantages of garden rooms is that they are usually so well lit,’ says foli8’s (opens in new tab) Plant Scientist, Kenneth Freeman. ‘This means that your plants will seldom be wanting for light. They are often warm – almost hot – in the summer, despite all efforts to shade them. Conversely, they can be a little chilly in the winter. These conditions are ideal for a wide range of plants which can be displayed with great imagination and style.’

How to you design a garden room?

When planning a garden room, think carefully about how you’d like to use the space. A garden room can be an extra sitting room, a peaceful sanctuary for enjoying your garden all year round, or a home office or ‘quiet zone.’ Alternatively, it can be your main family room, like many a contemporary orangery-style kitchen or a large convivial space for parties and entertaining. ‘With its full-length windows, an orangery will always create a more formal feel than a fully-glazed conservatory, and is now the most popular choice for kitchen and dining room extensions,’ says David. A wide choice of building materials is available to suit all tastes. Painted hardwood is popular (look for companies using FSC certified sustainably-forested timber), while green oak-framed construction creates a more rustic look. Consider employing an architect, especially if your property is listed. To avoid delays at the planning stage, the scheme must blend sympathetically with the rest of the building, and have similar windows. Planning authorities will look closely at the roofline and positioning of any gables, and their visual impact on neighbouring properties. Solar control glass panels will optimize heat retention, and help keep heating costs down. Our selection of garden room ideas offers plenty of inspiration for all property types and lifestyle needs.

What can I put in my garden room?

The beauty of a garden room is that it can be anything, really. You can use it as a relaxing retreat for reading and meditation, or as a space for a home gym or home office. Or, use it as a craft room, a space for guests to sleep, or even a potting shed.  Consider the function of your garden room before you build it, since its size, features, and furnishings will depend on how you plan to use it. If you want your garden room to serve as a home office or guest quarters, for example, it’ll need electricity, proper insulation, and a heating source. If you plan to use it as more of a three-seasons room or potting shed, you may be able to do without those things.