This week we spoke to RHS Gold medalist Melissa Jolly, who gave us her insight into the different aspects to consider when incorporating an outdoor office or room into a garden design.
Melissa has innovation at the heart of her designs but also a strong awareness of structure and balance. She is a designer who believes that a garden must have a sense of proportion and flow, which blends in with the house. Additionally, the right aspect and everything has to be really practical for the modern busy lifestyle.
Melissa Jolly: “When I am asked to include an office or outdoor room into a garden design there are a couple of key points that need to be addressed from the start (aside from the practical issues of size, planning and specification).
MJ: Do you want to be able to see it and what will the room be used for? So to begin with, do you want to have the building on show or hidden?
MJ: This will depend on the size of the garden, and in most cases it will be difficult to hide a garden building in a small plot. Therefore it is important that the building is designed into the layout of the garden. It must integrate with the siting and style of the house.
MJ: However, also think of juxtaposition; often a very modern house could have a more traditional, rustic building nestled amongst the trees and grass, and equally a country house could have an ultra contemporary office with large glass windows looking back at the house.
MJ: Consider aspect: a little sun to warm the room up and flood the space with light is important but you do not want to have so much glare coming in that you can’t see your computer screen, or so that the office heats up like a conservatory. Have doors and windows that open up fully in the summer months to make the most of being in the garden, and plenty of insulation in the building to keep it snug in winter – perhaps even with a log burning fire.
You will not make the most of the room unless is it comfortable to be in.
It is possible to soften the building once is it in place with the use of planting
Then, if you want to conceal the building it could be placed behind a timber screen or even a trellis or hedge.
MJ: Consider the finishing: Think about the finishing touches such as if the building will be left with its natural wood finish to grey down over time, or will it be painted or stained with a striking colour? That is, dark colours are a fantastic backdrop to the vivid greens of plants up against them.
MJ: Also consider the views: Think about the views from the garden building as well as the views of it. Views of the garden can be calming or inspiring or energizing as you wish.
So that is one key point and the other is what the room can be used for:
MJ: For a Home office or music room, a kids’ play den or a general chill out room.
MJ: In most cases I would advise not placing it too far from the house. That is, it
- Needs to be convenient for all the necessary services: electricity, water and even soil waste for a toilet,
- Also needs to be convenient for us to go out to.
MJ: The access must be easy: a path leading to it with steps if necessary to avoid having to walk across a wet/ muddy lawn and also to draw the eye down the garden.
MJ: The path should be well lit so access is possible at all times of the day (don’t forget how early it gets dark in the winter months).
A pergola along the path also helps to create interest and draw the eye towards the garden room.
MJ: Something else important is to be aware of security because offices and music rooms will contain expensive equipment and could be an easy target for burglars. To address this, think of installing a PIR light, which will go on if anyone approaches the building, or of placing the building so it can’t be seen from outside the property.
Melissa Jolly grew up being taken by her architect mother around different building sites. As such Melissa realises that the mood of a garden can be altered by considering the different points outlined.
To bypass the changes in contemporary styles why not try to have something that suits you personally perhaps you will find that these will turn into timeless qualities?