What will you find down at the bot­tom of the gar­den?

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

The “don’t move, im­prove” mantra has al­ready seen peo­ple ex­tend up, down, and side­ways. But when con­ven­tional op­tions are ex­hausted, the in­evitable next step is to build in the gar­den, el­e­vat­ing the hum­ble shed or out­build­ing into a func­tional guest suite, home of­fice, or den. And it’s no won­der many home­own­ers are look­ing down the gar­den path: the av­er­age cost of mov­ing house is al­most £12,000, ac­cord­ing to Lloyds Bank, while Sav­ills has found that up­siz­ing from a three to a four-bed­room house re­quires an ex­tra £164,000.

Th­ese gar­den rooms don’t come cheap, and can cost tens – in some case hun­dreds – of thou­sands of pounds to cre­ate. But ex­perts be­lieve that if done right they can also add sig­nif­i­cant value to a prop­erty.

Bruce King, di­rec­tor of Ch­effins es­tate agents, which cov­ers a swathe of eastern Eng­land, finds most gar­den rooms are built as workspaces for freelancers and flexi-work­ers. “As more em­ploy­ees ne­go­ti­ate flex­i­ble work­ing con­tracts, we are see­ing less pres­sure be­ing placed on com­mut­ing times or ac­ces­si­bil­ity to Lon­don, and in­creased fo­cus on broad­band speeds and home of­fices,” he says. “For many, they like the home of­fice to be sep­a­rate to the house, so they can ef­fec­tively ‘go to work’.”

Abi­gail Ash­ton, part­ner at Ash­ton Porter Ar­chi­tects, is some­thing of an ex­pert on gar­den of­fices. Her firm has been based in a stu­dio at the end of her gar­den in En­field, north Lon­don, for 10 years. “It is fab­u­lous,” she says. “It is su­per con­ve­nient, but work is still sep­a­rate from home. You can close the door and walk away.”

Ru­pert Law­son Johnston, head of Strutt & Parker in Sal­is­bury, says a gar­den room can in­ject “real per­son­al­ity” into a prop­erty. “For some, they’re a valu­able workspace, for oth­ers, a re­treat from the stresses of mod­ern life, or an op­por­tu­nity to in­dulge in a hobby or pas­sion that may not be wel­comed in the fam­ily home,” he says.

“Ris­ing house prices and a short­age of hous­ing have also led to an in­crease in multi-gen­er­a­tional liv­ing. Hav­ing an ad­di­tional room in the gar­den that can be used as a den for teenagers or a peace­ful re­treat for grand­par­ents can give ev­ery­one a bit more breath­ing space. A gar­den room may be a home gym by day, a fam­ily cin­ema room or den for the kids in the evening, and a spare bed­room for when guests come to stay.”

Gar­den rooms do, of course, eat up gar­den space. But there are ways around this. In Thrux­ton, a vil­lage near An­dover, Hamp­shire, Strutt & Parker is sell­ing a three-bed­room house with a clever out­door stu­dio with doors that open out to cre­ate a shady porch area on sunny days. The Long House is on the mar­ket with a guide price of £550,000.

A plus point about gar­den rooms is that often they can be built with­out plan­ning per­mis­sion. As long as they are sin­gle-storey, sit be­hind the house, and do not have a ve­randa or bal­cony, they are con­sid­ered “per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ments”.

There are, how­ever, height re­stric­tions, and own­ers of listed homes will au­to­mat­i­cally need plan­ning con­sent. The com­plex­ity of the reg­u­la­tions means it is cru­cial to con­sult the lo­cal coun­cil be­fore em­bark­ing on a build. Fail­ure to do so could re­sult in en­force­ment ac­tion and the prospect of hav­ing to pull the struc­ture down.

Gar­den builders also have to be clear about what they want their room for. “It could be a record­ing stu­dio, or a yoga stu­dio, or a home of­fice. What it can­not be is a sep­a­rate dwelling to the house,” says Ash­ton. “It can be used as a guest room, but you can’t use it, for ex­am­ple, as a full-time granny flat.”

The price of a gar­den room varies wildly but, un­less you are fan­tas­ti­cally handy on the DIY front, don’t ex­pect a lot of change out of £10,000 if you want a proper room rather than a glo­ri­fied shed.

Firms such as Crown Pavil­ions sell off-the-peg op­tions, which tend to be the most cost-ef­fec­tive and the quick­est to in­stall. The tim­ber-clad San­dring­ham gar­den room starts from £9,610 for an 8ft 2in by 8ft 2in sim­ple, mod­ern room. Prices in­clude in­stalla- tion, but not ground­works or con­nect­ing the room to the mains elec­tric­ity sup­ply.

Apro­pos Con­ser­va­to­ries has sev­eral cus­tomis­able de­signs in its Ate­lier Gar­den Stu­dios range, in­clud­ing the con­tem­po­rary flat-roofed, glass-fronted Panorama, which mea­sures a spa­cious 25ft by 14ft 10in. It starts from £23,745, which in­cludes in­stal­la­tion but not ground­works, or electrics and plumb­ing (if re­quired).

If you pre­fer the one-off ap­proach, then Ash­ton es­ti­mates that a qual­ity be­spoke gar­den room will cost around £200 per sq ft, plus any pro­fes­sional fees and VAT, al­though some cost far more and also push the bound­aries of de­sign.

Per­haps the most fab­u­lous ex­am­ple of the genre has been built be­hind a Ge­or­gian town­house in Clerken­well, Lon­don. The prop­erty is owned by Anna Liu and Mike Tonkin, part­ners at Tonkin Liu ar­chi­tects. Their mul­ti­award-win­ning stu­dio, com­pleted last year, en­cir­cles the gar­den, cre­at­ing space for their of­fice, plus a small cir­cu­lar ter­race. Its curv­ing green roof rears up to meet the house, while floor-to- ceil­ing glass cre­ates a sur­pris­ingly open feel, de­spite the loss of out­door space. This project also in­cluded a new base­ment level, adding a to­tal of 538 sq ft of liv­ing space to the prop­erty. This ex­ten­sive build did not come cheap, at £265,000. An­other cus­tombuilt gar­den room, by Mus­tard Ar­chi­tects, was clad in cedar and blends in with the trees and shrubs. It was a slightly more af­ford­able £60,000.

Of course, there is a pay-off to gar­den rooms – the pos­si­bil­ity of adding value to the prop­erty when it is time to sell. King be­lieves an off-the-peg op­tion adds around five per cent, but “the smart, be­spoke ex­am­ples could add around 10 per cent,” he adds.

Roarie Scaris­brick, of buy­ing agent Prop­erty Vi­sion, is more cir­cum­spect. “It to­tally de­pends on the size of the gar­den,” he says. “I would rather have a de­cent amount of space than a mi­cro gar­den and a ping-pong room at the back of it.” Qual­ity also counts. “When they are badly in­su­lated and cov­ered in spi­ders, your heart sinks,” adds Scaris­brick. “If they are pris­tine, and plumbed and heated, and they ac­tu­ally have a use they can be very cool, that will cer­tainly add value.” Of course for many peo­ple a gar­den room is not a mar­ket­ing tool but an at­tempt to avoid the need to move up the prop­erty lad­der in search of ex­tra space. “While mov­ing costs are go­ing through the roof, any­thing that helps you stay in a house that lit­tle bit longer is worth do­ing,” says Scaris­brick.

This gar­den room in north Lon­don by Mus­tard Ar­chi­tects is clad in cedar and cost £60,000 to build, main and be­low

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