PLANNING ADVICE How innovative balcony windows could transform a garden room cut off from the great outdoors
A garden room that’s cut off from the great outdoors can be transformed with the use of innovative balcony windows, says architect Greg Toon
Kevin and Eileen Doyles’ listed home has a lovely country garden, which was perfect for family life while their two sons were growing up. The couple, both in their early sixties, have lived in the property in the village of Tewin, Hertfordshire, for 34 years and have bought an adjoining piece of land, giving the garden a parkland feel. Kevin, a retired company director, and health and safety manager Eileen would like better views of the landscape from their garden room.
Two decades ago, the couple built a separate double garage behind the main house, which included a garden room at the side. Loft space above runs along the length of the building and is used as a lounge and overspill accommodation for guests. Although the outdoor space is beautiful, the garden room doesn’t make the most of it – a stable door and high windows severely restrict views. Likewise, the upstairs lounge and bedroom area has only a couple of small roof windows and no meaningful views.
There’s little point having a garden room if you can’t actually see your grounds from it, especially if it’s an outbuilding. And if you have loft space, as Kevin and Eileen do, there’s no need to restrict the views to ground level as you can open up the roof to take in the greenery from above. The Doyles’ upper level could really capitalise on elevated vistas
over the garden, and with new furniture it could become a real sanctuary. Swapping the bed for well-disguised sofabeds would help the space look less like an afterthought too.
A giant box dormer along the rear roof slope would provide fabulous views and add more floor area, but I don’t think it would be suitable for a listed house. The garden building should remain simple and barn-like, with a pitched roof.
I’ve plumped for another solution to achieve the views and a greater sense of space – Velux Cabrio balcony windows. They’re a relatively new innovation that look like large roof windows when closed, and follow the traditional line of the pitched roof, but form a mini balcony once open. They transform spaces, making them bright and airy, and give a real sense of space, allowing you to stand almost fully outside. As the roof is large, I’d recommend installing four of these window/ balcony units.
At the gable end of the building, I’m using a lot of glass – ideally structural glazing without frames – to maximise the garden views. Because of this, the space will get hot in summer. I may not take this approach for the main part of a house, and if I did, I’d work in some shading. But this is an extra space, so it’s a less critical issue.
On the upper level, the roof windows can vent the space, and on the ground floor, I’ve put in a giant sliding timber barn door. This partly screens the ground-floor sitting area from glare – the door can be pulled across to suit the angle of the sun. It also gives enough security to leave windows open behind it.
Even though the room on the ground floor is small, I’ve resisted the urge to extend, as doing so would mean reducing the garden connection from the main house.
On the ground floor, I’ve added a kitchenette under the stairs and a double-height void above them, again to reduce heat build-up and add drama and a sense of the upper lounge. Upstairs, a shower room is concealed behind the library shelving, making this genuinely self-contained accommodation.
At the gable end of the revised layout, the new design allows much better interaction with the garden
Greg Toon Architect and founder of architectural practicePotential etc…
The upper level of the proposed design has balcony windows offering generous garden views