5 Backyard Spaces We Love

Backyard Spaces

WORDS Jessica Baxter, Emily Pettit-Coetzee

Need an additional room? An office? Guest accommodation? Man cave? Take inspiration from these unique spaces and transform your garden shed into a backyard getaway.



With its oak flooring, cladded walls and deck, this contemporary garden room in the Scottish Highlands is a lesson in smart living.

Originally designed as a private art studio, this space has evolved into a play area for the whole family. “We built this garden room using the same principles we would use to build a house,” says John Langley, managing director of JML Garden Rooms, Scotland. ‘The main structure is made from structurally insulated panels so that it is as airtight as possible, with triple-glazed windows and doors.’ While the cladded walls add character, natural stone, concrete or textured plasters will look equally stylish.

The addition of the deck creates an indoor/outdoor flow that gives the illusion of more space and also serves as an entertainment area. To further extend the use of your outdoor living space, consider installing a fixed or retractable awning, says Craig de Necker, managing director of award-winning South African garden design and installation firm The Friendly Plant, based in Johannesburg.

“An awning will provide much-needed shade during the hot summer months and a little protection against the wet weather, so you can make use of the garden room all year round,” he says. According to Craig, most South Africans buy timber or plastic sheds, as they are convenient and cost-effective. If you’re looking for a custom-made garden shed, The Friendly Plant can assist.



The conversion of this shed into a chic pool lodge complete with a small kitchen, bar, shower, toilet and sauna is a clever utilisation of space.

While its position next to the pool would have you think it’s used exclusively in summer, the underfloor heating and LED lighting make it equally inviting during the winter months.

Sliding doors bring in maximum light and create a lovely flow out to the pool. The real standout feature, however, is the eco-friendly sedum roof, which doubles as a low-maintenance garden that attracts plenty of birdlife. “Aside from providing a good view from the main house, the garden roof absorbs large quantities of rain and slows down the rate of runoff into the drains,” says Janine Pattison, director of Janine Pattison Studios, a leading landscape and garden design practice in the UK.

Craig agrees that a garden roof improves the aesthetics of the building but warns that the growing medium (especially after rains) adds substantial weight to the roof, so ensure that the underlying structure is designed to carry the load. Alternatively, consider decorative timber structures, skylights, or even a retractable roof.



A pitched roof, glass doors and clever illumination by UK lighting design company Victoria Jerram transform this ordinary shed into an urban oasis. The accordion-style doors opening onto the deck maximise the space and allow natural light to flood the room, while the washed-out cedar floorboards contrast well with the clean, all-white interior – a well-appointed area that embodies modern minimalism.

Versatile use of LED lighting highlights the vaulted ceiling, adding a sense of extra space.

LED lights last longer than regular incandescent bulbs, making them a more affordable (and eco-friendly) choice.



Modelled on a traditional shepherd’s hut, this bespoke version is ideal as a guesthouse, or bed and breakfast.

Designed by Riverside Shepherd Huts in the UK, this space is fully insulated, keeping it both cool and warm.

Constructed using a steel frame and chassis, the hut is raised off the floor on cast iron wheels, which, says Craig, allows for water to pass underneath, and also creates additional storage space. The interior is boarded with tongue-and-groove wooden panels, which provides a lovely blank canvas on which to decorate.

“Huts are made to the customer’s specifications, so the decor really depends on the use,” says Jean Richmond of Riverside, whose kitchen design makes this a perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon lunch.

While space is limited, the options are endless when it comes to designing a kitchenette, says Craig.

“The easiest way to outfit a small kitchen is to look at the galleys on yachts. Because space is tight, they use every inch of it in the best possible way – think fold-out countertops and elements that serve a dual purpose, such as a microwave that doubles as a convection oven.”



This former garden shed is proof that limited space doesn’t have to mean limited ideas when it comes to architectural design. “Small spaces don’t feel small if there are lots of windows, and the ceilings are reasonably high,” says Jeff King of Jeff King & Company in San Francisco.

Remodelled as an art studio, this shed is clad in wire trellis material to really make the greenery sing. “As you can see, the ivy transforms what is really just a shingled box into a beautiful display of greenery-articulating structure,” says Jeff, who recommends choosing an evergreen plant that is not too aggressive and can be shaped and trimmed so that the structure can still be seen.

To create synergy between the main house and the shed, the wooden windows have been painted black to mimic the steel windows of the home. As with any piece of architecture, positioning the structure is important. “Take advantage of the natural elements – the light, air, view and shading,” says Jeff. Allow the interior to echo the exterior detail by opting for contemporary timber furniture, suggests Craig.

PHOTOS courtesy of Riverside Shepherd Huts; John Sutton Photography for Jeff King & Co. Janine Pattinson Garden Design Studios; Victoria Jerram Lighting Design, Garden Building