Making the most of outdoor space at home was a big trend in 2020, boosted by many of us working from home and socialising outside owing to the coronavirus pandemic. With this set to continue well into 2021, garden rooms are continuing to get a lot of attention.
They're a much cheaper way of adding living space to your home than an extension, conservatory or loft conversion. But they aren't necessarily suitable for exactly the same activities.
The most popular use, according to Which? members who already own one, is a multi-purpose space, followed by:
That's based on our online survey in September 2020 of 1,264 Which? members who have a garden room.
The most luxurious use of a garden room, having a hot tub just steps from your back door will add glamour to your garden, especially while spas and saunas are closed.
To put a hot tub inside your garden room, it will need a strong floor and sturdy foundations. You'll also need to consider good ventilation to stop the room getting damp.
If you'd rather place the hot tub outside, beside the garden room, and use the room as a space to relax or prepare for a dip, both will still need a good base.
Hot tubs need a firm flat base, for example slabs, concrete, gravel, brick or paving stones. You'll usually need a power supply too - keep this in mind when you're installing your garden room so you can arrange electricity for both at the same time.
Reading, admiring the garden, having a shady spot to sit in the summer, or a way to be in the garden when it's a bit too chilly to relax outside are all popular garden room uses.
Several Which? members use their room as an escape from the bustle of the main house, the TV and other electronic devices.
Others told us they have converted theirs into a library and reading room. If you're keen to do this, it's important to ensure that your garden room is fully insulated and weather-proof to protect your collection. Look for double glazing, insulation and consider blinds if your room will have large windows to stop your books fading over time.
Other relaxing ideas include:
Are you imagining yourself sipping an aperitif before dinner or having your coffee break in a sheltered sunny spot at your very own bar?
Garden rooms can be the perfect space for entertaining and socialising, including as a cocktail lounge or even your own mini pub. Some summer house retailers sell bar accessories for garden rooms including draught taps, wine bottle storage, and wine coolers. You might consider plumbing-in a sink or dishwasher so you don't have to carry glasses back to your main house.
A space for older children to play away from the main house can provide a bit of much-needed peace and quiet for parents, and a special den for children.
If you're transforming an existing summer house into a playroom, pick a colour scheme that will work for your children long-term. Painting the summer house will also protect the wood. Before painting the whole cabin, test paint on leftover wood first, if you can, so you can see what it looks like. Alternatively, test it on an out-of-the-way spot on the woodwork.
Fun flooring options include painting it as a checkerboard for draughts and chess, marking out a Twister board or even snakes and ladders if you have enough floor space.
Make sure your room is safe and secure for children by tying up any dangling electrical cords and fixing freestanding furniture to the walls so it can't topple over. Also consider child-locks on windows to stop them opening too wide.
Whether it's a den for video game lovers, a separate space to play pool or darts, a games room is the ultimate space to escape to.
Heavy items, such as a snooker table, will need a floor and foundations strong enough to support them. Consider other essentials for your hobbies too - perhaps protection for the wall where you hang the darts board for those guests with a less precise aim, or electricity for your gaming setup.
As with games rooms, if you're planning to make your garden room into a gym, check that it will be able to take the weight of any heavy equipment, plus whether the floor is suitable for jumping if you're planning to do aerobics in there.
A couple of members told us they'd created a tranquil space for yoga in their garden room, including one who teaches yoga, away from the distractions of the main house.
'Getting out of the house and creating a separate space in the garden is the new commute', says Brian Berry, the Federation of Master Builders' Chief Executive, and 6% of those who had a garden room in our survey said they used it as an office.
To work in comfort, you'll need insulation, heating, electricity and a good broadband connection.
A garden room can be the perfect place for working on DIY projects, instead of a shed. Members told us what hobbies they do in their garden rooms, including:
Accommodating your guests in a garden room can offer extra privacy, or give you the option to host if there's not a spare room in your main house.
Self-contained living accommodation needs planning permission, unlike most garden rooms which are allowed under permitted development rights. If you're unsure whether your planned use needs permission, check with your local planning office before you start.