If you are in search of an exterior retreat but have limited outside space, consider converting an existing garage. Provided there is a drive (or you can park on the street), the benefits of an extra room will be worth exposing your car to the elements. Many modern houses are built with internal access to the garage - useful on inclement days - and already have plumbing and lighting. If walls are exposed brick and the floor concrete, think about continuing this theme, rather than trying to disguise it, and create a robust, industrial-style work space, with a trestle-table desk, open steel shelving and white-washed walls and floor.
Whatever the style of outdoor retreat, it's important that it looks good on approach. Careful, imaginative planting goes a long way to integrating the structure into the garden around it. For a traditional timber shed, train a scented creeper or roses up the walls, set it beneath the natural overhang of a bushy tree or fit window boxes beneath the windows. A larger, modern structure may be flanked with rustling bamboo or tall grasses and more architectural-looking shrubs in giant galvanized pots.
Many period properties have dark, dank rooms, small living spaces and long thin gardens. A perfect solution to modern living is to consider developing the rear of the house, subject to planning regulations. The original open plan idea is still popular, despite the kitchen smells and general noise which pervades these designs. Instead of extending to complement the existing house, how about building to contrast with it?
Developers are encouraged to make a new extension look new and take advantage of modern materials and technology to create a contrasting look with the older aspects of the building. Adding a modern extension to the back of a traditional house creates an eye-catching feature and a unique selling point. It allows the owner to incorporate their fresh designs without compromising the original features.
Some can be built under permitted development rights but building regulation compliance must still be met. If planning permission is required, most councils will consider it within 12 weeks from application. Practically, if there is no side access to the rear garden, the foundations will need to be tackled by hand and the materials brought through the house. If the work involves the wall between your house and a neighbor, it is a requirement that you get a party-wall agreement and permission for any scaffolding that is on the boundary.
With building regulations, thermal performance and ventilation are essential to get right. Having enough wall, ceiling and floor insulation is paramount and you may consider trickle vents, opening glazed units, under floor heating or heat reflective blinds. Some building companies who use BBA approved SIPS building systems can accommodate all these requirements, such as the garden room companies which use BBA approved panels.