Think Garden, Think Richard: Garden Buildings

This month I want to investigate garden buildings and how to use them in the garden. The garden is a great place of refuge from our busy lives, somewhere to relax in peace and quiet or simply enjoy spending time with friends and family. Garden buildings can be a good way of making space that helps us with this down time.

Sheds are an integral part of the garden and on a basic level are storage facilities for the garden stuff we don’t want on show. I have lost count of the number of garden sheds I have seen rammed full of stuff. For a functional shed it is often better to conceal them out of the main sight line. This can be done with climber clad trellis or well positioned larger shrubs. For a serious gardener, the shed is a key component of tending the garden and raising plants; with tools standing to attention and a potting table for raising plants, perhaps close to a green house. The position then needs careful thought to make the most of the growing area in relation to sun light and prevailing wind.

Garden offices are a very popular way of increasing useable work space into the garden. It is important to position them well in the design of your outdoor space. The subtle feeling of leaving the family space and journeying to the work space can often be represented by a path from the house up the garden. The transition from one area in a design to the next is a good way to make sense of space especially if the garden is larger. I like to design gardens that reveal themselves so why not have the office space nestled in transparent planting with stimulating views. We all crave an inspiring view to stimulate our brains. Having a relaxing space to work allows for greater productivity.

Gyms and games rooms are a good way to exercise and socialise at home in the garden. We recently designed a garden with a pretty cedar clad gym positioned overlooking the garden. The building was anchored into the space with planting and provided a work out space for the whole family. It looked good from the house too, with a path leading through planting. Gardens can look very disjointed if components such as buildings feel like they have been helicoptered in without any thought for their relationship with the rest of the space.

Summerhouses provide a traditional feeling of a space to sit, relax and entertain; perhaps with a veranda and fairy lights. Again, it always comes back to designing space carefully. If the garden building is decorative then it needs to be positioned carefully in the design. Views back from your garden building need to be given a thought too. We often fix on the view from the house but we forget that the views back across the garden are just as important.

Playhouses are a great way to engage children with the outdoors and stimulate their imagination. Having somewhere to role-play with friends and having picnics develops their social awareness and interpersonal skills too. Learning through play without the influence of screens is a key component of early years teaching. Just look at the explosion of forest school activities being offered now days. I grew up playing in the garden, climbing trees and role playing in a tree house with my brother and I loved it. Think back to your best childhood memories and see how many of them were outside!