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We built a music studio for Rob Eckland

rob-ecklandRob Eckland is an extraordinarily talented young musician whose credits include the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic games as a drum captain. Where does Rob record his music?  He has a studio in his parent’s garden near Watford.

In October/November 2011, Rob had received a call from The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) asking if he would be one of 20 professional drum captains for the Opening ceremony.

“My drumming hero, Ralph Salmins, got me involved,” Rob said.

“He was my professor when I was at Royal College of Music and he is the country’s leading Session Drummer, the absolute top of his field, so it was a huge, huge honour for me to even be considered.”

Yet since June 2012, Rob has been based in the studio at his parent’s home, David and Mary Eckland.

Rob had moved home intending on having a rough shelter for a studio in the garden. His dad, David, had decided on something more resilient.

“Our son was about to move back home. He said he would like to ‘put a garage’ in the garden to use as a studio.  We did not like the idea of a rather flimsy garage being constructed, and we instead looked at something more robust, that we could also use for our purposes,” David said.

David Eckland scoured the internet and found that the Gembuild garden studio designs were a good price.

“We undertook an extensive search on the internet, and came up with Gembuild. They have lots of flexibility around size and style, and we could also customise to a large extent. The buildings are robust, and the price is OK,” David said.

Having his own, local studio, means that Rob can now get things done quickly.

“I don’t have to travel to other studios in order to get things done” Rob said.

“I can do everything from home essentially.”

“I have been the arranger of two touring shows, The Twist and Only Yesterday, where I did all of this from my studio. I’ve also been able to record many singers and instrumentalists in there for varying projects.

“It is a good size and Gembuild incorporated a Vocal Booth in the corner”

“This means I can record the vocals properly in there, and I can also, if I want, record Brass/Wind instruments there. It has been fully padded out with foam in order to make it a very dry room so that I can record it completely dead and add special effects on later.

“There’s also a window there looking through to the control desk so I can see who I am working with.”

Currently touring as Musical director for Soul Sister, Rob’s abilities are bona fide.

Although outside his studio you won’t hear it, inside the sounds are varied.

“The main recording stuff I’ve done in there so far is Pop/Soul/Acoustic stuff. I’ve got backgrounds in Classical/Pop/Soul/Gospel/Latin/Big-Band/Rock/Motown/Acoustic so I imagine they will all play a part in there at some stage, “ Rob said.

Rob is actually a Pianist, a Musical Director and an Arranger.  He has been a pianist since three years old. Rob’s reach will be far.

Although the Gembuild office took a bit of planning and moving things around now Rob has his own studio as a base as well as a record of his work and a home for his recording equipment.

Ilze’s gourmet delights

I wanted some of my clients to tell their own story about their Gembuild office.  Ilze van der Merwe is a chef and a chocolatier and she spoke to journalist  Carol Miers about her bespoke chocolate factory, which we built in September 2011.

Ilze makes her confectionery in two garden buildings, her macaroons now appear from an original hut and her natural chocolates are in a specifically designed factory.

“What Roy Thomas from Gembuild did for me is quite interesting, having a wooden house for the chocolate factory,” Ilze said.

chocolate-makers (1)

“I Googled and I found the Gembuild website by chance. I could not have got a better person than Roy to do the job, I did not shop around as Roy was so knowledgeable about it.”
The factory was later built in four days in the back garden. The idea had come from a friend.

The “beauty of it” was that by keeping the height low, it bypassed the need for planning regulations. As it was a first for Ilze, they went through her requirements.

“Roy does rooms in different lengths and sizes and we discussed this and what kind of flooring I wanted, and having Roman blinds. We also chose a deep commercial sized basin which Roy got for me,” Ilze said

“I could have asked him for anything and he would have said, ‘That is fine, I can sort things for you'”.

“I originally started the little chocolate factory in one room in the back of the garden where I am now just doing macaroons and I am making my chocolates in the room that Roy built.  This factory is from my own home, I live on the premises and at the moment it works.”
machines in the chocolate factory (1)

The stringent requirements for making a food product, as specialist as chocolate, call for a cool ambient temperature and proper housing for stainless steel units, tempering machines and a hot cupboard.

There are also wall racks for sprays and utensils, as well as space for a trolley and all the necessary props.

“I was quite worried about the whole thing about having a space between our neighbour and the unit, about it being made from wood and the low ceiling, because of the heat,” Ilze said.

“But Roy sourced a good powerful air conditioning system for us, that has a fixed 18C temperature which is ideal for me to work in.” the chocolate room (1)

“We deliberately did not want it to be too wide, as I did not want it to disturb the flow of the garden. Now two people can work in it comfortably. 

“It has a separate boiler so it is not connected to the house. I think there is a little generator for the power and I got in an electrician to do that,” Ilse said.

Ilze’s factory gets used daily and everything is set out for her particular needs.

“The room is the right temperature, a cool place to work in. I switch the machinery on until all the chocolate has melted. I tidy up the room and prepare it for the day. I have a trolley in the corner and I put the trays there. We fixed rails on the walls where I hook on the utensils,” Ilze said.

“Then I start. It is messy a bit like working in a potter’s studio.  It is really functional and it does what I wanted it to do.”

As well as this, Ilze enjoys what she does and knows her chocolates are a good product. With only an online outlet, selling chocolates without preservatives is a tough niche market to charm, but having a factory in the garden has helped Ilze to make this possible.

Related articles: Ilze’s chocolate: The  New Factory

Anything less is just a Posh Shed!

We are confident our garden offices and studios are built to the highest standards.

In this blog post I wanted to explain this quality and ensure you arent tempted by the price of a much inferior garden building!


Our walls are 170mm thick and comprise of 100mm thick panel which is filled with fibreglass there is an internal moisture barrier to the inside face and a vapour and reflective outer barrier then a TRADITIONAL cavity ….just like your home ..with an external cladding to suit you …we offer cedar larch or thermoboard all offer 30 year plus lifespans… we also offer traditional barn type 25mm featheredge cladding which is treated and finished in a proprietory which is extremely durable and only needs recoating every five years ..recently we have introduced Cedral which is an eternit product and comes in a range of attractive colours.

As well as giving excellent insulation properties the wall is also a good sound insulator and this why our units make first class music practise studios.. indeed this is why Vervace chose us for their piano practise rooms

You can remove and replace the cladding without affecting the building you cant do that with a 75mm composite panel or a log cabin type building.


Our roofs are our trademark pitched rooves with a barn hip which look absolutely beautiful in any location.

The loft space is insulated with 180mm of fibreglass which keeps the building really warm and there is a choice of roof finishes

Asphalt shingles these will give a 20 year plus life and come in a variety of attractive colours or our newly introduced stunning slate roofs these give 50 year life and come in a range of gorgeous natural colours.

All our 25 roofs are flat but with enough fall to move the water, these roofs are necessary to comply with the 2.5m rule of the permitted development regs. The finish is EPDM or rubber as its better known and this give a life of 20 plus years in fact EPDM roofs have been on Chicago airport for over 50 years and are still going strong.


Our floors are fully suspended and again insulated we can finish in carpet tiles or laminate in a variety of colour and pattern options.

Windows and doors

We use upvc throughout with 20mm double glazed units and all the usual locking refinements you associate with these units.

We offer a variety of colours and sizes.


With our building you can mix and match the windows and doors cladding and roofs together with the internal socket layout to get the perfect building for you all within the standard price.

And remember our units are used as granny annexes and extra bedroom space, they are that good, we can air condition them and include bathrooms and even kitchens!

If you can’t get all these features …then you will just be buying a posh shed

Introduction to Gembuild

Seven years ago, me, Roy Thomas, an NHBC registered builder with twenty-five years experience, began designing, manufacturing and installing garden offices. I installed the first at my home. The end product was a comfortable, airy space, having wooden beams across the apex and cream coloured walls.

The desire to find some exclusive space away from daily work congestion has never been stronger and having a garden office makes it possible.

Working from home is not as it used to be. No more stepping over the kid’s toys and pushing aside objects for a space at the dining room table, now you can be snug in a corner of your garden, reconnected to the plants and birds around you.

Well, perhaps it is not quite that idyllic, yet truth is, there’s a resurgence in being back in the natural habitat, where life seems far removed from driving hard down a duel carriageway commuting to and fro.

Garden offices are an affordable, attractive, concept and back then at the outset the possibilities were clear to me. By making modular designs, of variable size Gembuild can install everything that goes inside, from the bottom up, including a kitchenette or WC, high or low power sockets, down lights or long windows, all to make it individual, all in line with building regulations.

Gembuild are a team of experienced builders and specialise in timber frame construction with panels, the way that America and Canada and most of Scandinavia have been building for ever, you can build almost any building you want, as high as you want from timber.

Gembuild’s designs are often put on a concrete raft or use carefully treated ground timber.

The wooden framed rooms also meet people’s wishes to use renewable materials, and our walls are thicker than many, at a total of 170mm, as well as being well insulated with rock wool in the cavity, having the usual multiple layers all giving it a high U value. 

This December a small fan heater beside the chairs is enough to keep it warm.

The list of different functions these rooms has been put to is baffling, chocolate factory, respite room, sound studio, pottery studio, photography room, for example.

Timber frame, it’s an absolutely wonderful way to work, it’s clean, it’s dry, you’re done, just a lovely way to build, it’s got everything going for it,

The system we use to construct their garden rooms allows them to build at the highest quality at a fraction of the cost of its main competitors. This is a feature I want to make people aware of. Not all garden rooms offer the same quality and you should look at the specification carefully before choosing which company to use.