A Garden Room Story – Upgrade your Garden Area

Allan Corfield Architect, Construction Professionals, Jobs Leave a Comment

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A Garden Room Story – Upgrade Your Garden Area. Interview with Cara Mackay from Gillies and Mackay Ltd

garden room shed

In this blog, we have invited the Managing Director of Gillies and Mackay Ltd to share her expertise on bespoke timber Garden Rooms, what they can be used for and the benefits they hold.

Brew yourself a cup of tea, grab a biscuit and let Cara take you on a Shedlife journey.


It’s Thursday night, you’re getting home from what seems like a never-ending day – work is tough, being this amazing at what you do takes a great deal of effort. It’s okay I understand.

While you’re picking up the wee man, from drama class the “live-in demander” [aka teenager]  is calling you to find out what’s for dinner. You know as soon as you get in the door they’ll be a whole other world of ‘things to do’ before there’s even a glimmer of settling down.

Not tonight though, not this Thursday…

Instead, you walk through the front door. The “live-in demander” has been silenced by a Dominoes, the house is clean, there’s no chaos? And the baby is at Grannys.

As your 9-year-old wee man sprawls himself across the living room floor with an army bucket of men ready to tip, you look around for your significant other, where is he?

He’s in the Garden – more specifically, he’s in your very own Garden Room.

He’s already poured you a large gin with a plenty of cucumber and spritz. The woodburner is lit, the blankets are toasting and the gorgeous spring sun is set.

As you melt into your chair, the back catalogue of your days work slowly unfolds… It’s been a long week, month, YEAR! And if there was ever an answer for resting the hard working this is it.

Your very own Garden Room.


garden room shed

Your self-build dream home just got a whole lot more interesting ACA fans. We’re talking about THE GARDEN ROOM, your outdoor happiness. Right on your doorstep! Isn’t it funny how the start of all self-build home journeys begin with a practical purpose; eating, sleeping, bathing… It’s all the practicalities of homelife that get priority over the fun stuff like; relaxing, socialising, hobbies, crafts… dreams even!

I know about the fun stuff. That’s my job I’ve been working with wood all my life and Gillies and Mackay is my family business which prides itself in making the BEST sheds in the world! I build bespoke Garden Rooms specifically to tame the needs of those who think bigger.

Sounds pretty decent right? So let’s get this Garden Room party started. What do you need to know before you embark on your own Shedlife Garden Room? I’ve put together 5 top tips to help you on your way.


Garden room shed

The possibilities are endless! In most cases, Sheddies come to me with a direct purpose for their Garden Room.

  • Some are looking for a place to work, without interruption from household chores, messy kids and barking dogs. That place of work can simply mean ‘Working From Home’ or it can mean your actual place of work. For example Holistic Therapies, Teaching, Crafting Workshops, Doggy Grooming!
  • Some have a creative talent that needs its own SPACE. Draw, Paint, Write, Sing, Play… DANCE!
  • And others just want to chill out, enjoy the evening sun and remember that life doesn’t always have to move a million miles per hour.

The purpose can help determine how much space you need. A floor plan of you and all your STUFF can really help you picture how much space you’ll need.

Interested In Self Building?

Learn more about developing a Self Build!

 Download ACA’s ‘Introduction to Self Build’ eBook!


garden room shed

The floor plan can give you an overall size to work with based on what’s going on inside. It’s easy to get carried away, but you must remember to consider the space of which your garden will allow and the complications of permitted development if you go really big.

A floor plan also helps you see the layout for windows and doors.

Light is a major factor for people who may be using their Garden Room as an Artist Studio and want as much light as possible.

However, you might prefer a bit of privacy if your Garden Room is for say ‘evening entertainment’.  Whatever the purpose, you can guarantee it will have an effect on how many and where you want windows and doors.


garden room shed

Permitted Development can be a complete minefield of misinformation. Especially if you don’t know who to ask or where to look. Luckily, Garden Rooms are typically within the permitted development restrictions. However the simplest of things can throw you in the deep end – so let’s make sure we get the basics right first and then if you do require Planning or Building Control we can talk about that next.

The golden rules: –

  • 30m2 or smaller
  • Maximum of 4mtrs in height
  • Out with 1mtr of your boundary

There are 6 other conditions to consider for Planning Permission. In this video, I explain all.

Your local planning departments’ main concern is the impact your building may have on the surrounding area. Whereas building control is to do with the structural capabilities of the building.

Building Control is specifically for bigger buildings, over 30m2 which might be your preference. I’ve written a blog to explain a bit more about Building Control and when it might be needed. Things like adding in a bathroom or wash station that requires mains plumbing for example, definitely do require building control.


garden room shedNow you’ve got a rough idea of purpose, size and shape, you’ll likely be on the hunt for someone to do it for you?

If you’re out with permitted development, your first port of call is an Architect. They’ll be the perfect people to sort you out with a certified design. They’ll arrange all the documentation and submission of your application as well as providing you with the engineers say so at the end of the project.

When comparing builders, there are a few things that will determine what is best for you and your budget. There are companies out there that specifically specialise in Timber Buildings and it would be those I would recommend first. Specification is key and here are some pointers to help you:

1. Wall Construction

Best practice would be to have an exterior cladding and a breather cavity with a moisture membrane to allow the building to breathe and extract water from the outer wall. I call this a “Three Tier Wall” outer, cavity, inner. Then there’s the insulation – ensuring you have at least 70mm thick insulation in your walls will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Thicker is preferred for the ceiling and floor.

2. Windows and Doors 

There’s little point in insulating if your windows and doors aren’t double glazed. Making sure the specification allows for proper double glazing with an Argon filled casket and 4mm thick toughened glass either side will keep the efficiencies of your Garden Room high.

3. Timber Quality

What kind of timber the builder uses will determine the longevity of the build so it’s important to know the differences. I prefer to make my Garden Rooms with Larch Cladding – it’s slow grown Siberian Larch, with a gorgeous colouring natural and an impeccable, smooth finish should you wish to paint it. Larch can be expected to last 50 years on its own and much more if preserved. Other alternatives such as Redwood, Scandinavian Pine are also good but tend to have movement. A big no for me is Spruce or Whitewood – it’s terrible for splitting, cupping and contracting. It’s also often found with Interlocking log. Again something I wouldn’t recommend for longevity but could be the answer to a tight budget and short span of time.


1. Versatility

What may start out as a workshop/studio can easily transform into an extra room for guests or grown-up kids or even an annex for your own parents in their later years.

2. Value

By adding an outbuilding to your property, you will increase the value of your home, should you come to sell the property in the future. The appeal of already having a Garden Room to new buyers can often sway the balance, especially if there are restrictions on rooms in the house. For example, all bedrooms accounted for and nowhere for the guitars!

3. Wellbeing

A Garden Room can give you that space to just stop, settle down and relax. Thinking of all the things you long to do, play music, read books, paint… But for whatever reason, there’s always something more pressing that needs to be done or someone nipping at your heels. The physical separation that a Garden Room offers from the hat you wear inside the home, allows you the mental permission to close the door, take a deep breath and chill.


garden room shed

It’s been an absolute joy writing this for ACA from my very own Garden Room and I hope that wherever you are on your ShedLife journey this has gone some way in helping you move forward.

I’ve suggested a few other blogs that might be of interest to you. I’m always adding extra to our Garden Rooms page so make sure you check up when you can.


We would like to thank Cara for her expert (and immensely interesting) contribution to ACA’s blog. If you’re thinking, ‘this NattyShedGirl is well cool!’ Feel free to connect with her on all the usual force fed social platforms: TwitterLinkedInFacebook.

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