Not long ago, garden buildings were generally storage sheds, summer houses and children’s playhouses, all uninsulated and generally susceptible to moisture. Why the nationwide trend for well-insulated, souped-up sheds, shoffices, shepherds’ huts and many variations on this theme began has never been pinpointed, but it has roots in the early noughties and Yorkshire-born journalist Alex Johnson certainly played a key role in helping to popularize the concept.
In 2005 he published The Shed, a magazine for those who, like him, worked in fairly rudimentary garden sheds. This became the brilliant www.shedworking.co.uk blog and book. Andrew Wilcox, aka Uncle Wilco, also played an important role in fueling the desire for a garden room.
A passionate ‘Sheddy’ he runs www.readersheds.co.uk and is the founder and head judge of the Shed of the Year competition. His website has also successfully revealed the multiple uses of a garden building, which includes everything from an office, retreat, artist studio and pub to workshop, yoga studio, mini-museum and holiday rental. The list goes on.
Yorkshire author Sally Coulthard, who built her own shoffice, helped show us how to make garden buildings super stylish with her bestsellers Shed Chic and Shed Decor, while for the more adventurous, she published the DIY guide How to Build a Shed.
The pandemic, the rise of working from home and the desire for “a room of your own” have since fueled an already buoyant rocket fuel market while expanding the range of designs and price points.
Andy Eamonson, co-owner of Cedar Garden Buildings in Wakefield, says: “Interest has skyrocketed since the pandemic began and while it has waned slightly, the market is still very lively. “People now buy garden buildings for all sorts of purposes. We’re still building a lot of home offices, but we’re seeing a lot more clients wanting to use our buildings as gyms and exercise rooms, bars, studios and even saunas.”
Prices for the Cedar Garden Rooms range from £18,000 to £20,000 to £40,000 and come with a concrete base and electricity connection. They are insulated and the roof is covered with EPDM rubber which is guaranteed for 20 years.
“We had to factor in the increased cost of materials and diesel, which is now an issue, but the higher cost hasn’t deterred buyers,” says Andy, who advises would-be buyers to exercise due diligence before choosing a horticultural installer. “Look for a company with a proven track record,” he says.
If you fancy something modern with great attention to detail, Mytholmroyd-based PodSpace has that covered with a range of architect-designed buildings that can be raised into the garden as a complete module or as a panel system assembled on site.
Constructed from Siberian larch with a rainscreen finish, the frontage is glazed from floor to ceiling and prices start at £28,890 for a 3.6 x 2.6m NeoPod and go up to £47,860 for the large EcoPod. PodSpace’s Michelle Lord says: “A lot of our work takes place in London, where space is at a premium and buyers often want it as a home office or gym. We’re also seeing more and more people wanting bigger pods with shower room and mini kitchen.”
For something really special at the higher end of the market, a garden shed from Yorkshire Oak Frames is a good investment. The timeless, rustic buildings are bespoke and built to last, with sturdy oak frames and tiled roofs. Prices start from £30,000.
Robert Hornshaw of Yorkshire Oak Frames says: “Our buildings are built to last and the benefit of investing in them is that they stand the test of time and therefore you get what you spend back when you renovate your home to sell. Also, there is no doubt that they will make your home more salable.”
For those who want something rustic and also portable that they can take with them on a move, a shepherd’s hut should appeal. Based in Stainburn, near Otley, Oliver’s Huts is a relative newcomer that has experienced a boom in business with orders from across the country.
It was founded 17 months ago by carpenter Oliver Molyneux and produces kitchens, doors and furniture alongside the traditional and modern cabins on wheels. Prices start at £25,000 and £35,000 plus for a larger cottage with a kitchen and bathroom.
“My background is in traditional woodworking techniques so it suits me perfectly and the business has really taken off,” says Oliver. “The huts are durable and popular because you can take them with you when you move. They also have a high resale value. Our best selling cabin is £37,000 which is tailored for glamping and can be used as holiday rentals.”
Before you buy, check whether you need a permit to build a garden shed. Most do not require planning permission if the building has a maximum height of 2.5 meters and is within two meters of the house line.
If you live in a national park, listed building, or conservation area, you must obtain planning permission. Rules for shepherd huts on wheels are more relaxed as they are classed as portable but check anyway and if it is a field it may require a change of use for the land the hut is on.
Useful contacts: Yorkshire Oak Frames, near Wetherby, www.yorkshireoakframes.co.uk; PodSpace, Mytholmroyd, www.Pod-space.co.uk; Cedar Garden Rooms, Wakefield, www.cedargardenrooms.com; Oliver’s Huts, www.olivershuts.co.uk; Shedworking, www.shedworking.co.uk. Readers Sheds plus details of the Shed of the Year competition, www.readersheds.co.uk. Sally Coulthard’s website is www.sallycoulthard.co.uk