Garden rooms: How to plan one, what it costs, and how it can change a home

An outdoor/indoor room will give a taste of the Costa del Sol – whatever the weather

There is something really evocative about a garden room or verandah. A space where you can soak up the rays, but is accessed from the house so you don’t have to put a coat on to go outside. Somewhere that even on a cold day, you can escape the grey.

The past two years of lockdowns have also made connecting with nature a real priority. And a sheltered space from where to enjoy the sun’s warmth and watch the birds wooing each other and building homes of their own at this time of the year helps to fill the everyday with delight.

The space doesn’t have to be huge but it does have to be covered in some way.

Google searches for the terms “garden room”, “sun room”, “conservatory”, “orangery”, “pergola” and “verandah” have all gone stratospheric in the past 24 months. Sales have followed a similar trajectory. Tralee-based Jim Leahy, who runs online store All Outdoors, says he’s seen an increase of 35-40 per cent in the same period – and he’s been operating in this space for almost 20 years.


He supplies some really cool and affordable kits, even one that renters can take with them when they move. Modern Fit is a simple verandah style that can cover as little as 9sq m and costs from €1,400, ex fitting and the need for a new base. Available in white or grey frame options, he recently installed one, extending to about 15sq m in size in Co Sligo, that was set atop an existing patio, its legs sunk into concrete piles below the patio. It cost about €2,500. It’s a design that can also be positioned atop a structurally sound deck. Best of all perhaps, it can be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere. Fitting is extra and will cost €600-€800, depending where you are in the country.

Many homeowners are designing their own outdoor spaces, and they have become key selling points. In the city of the tribes, it was the garden room that recently helped artist and serial renovator Vanda Luddy’s charming terraced house go sale agreed.

Her “farmyard roof” features polycarbonate sheeting, a trope also used to great effect recently by LiD Architecture on a house in Co Down, which won the one-off houses category of last year’s Irish Architecture Awards.

She estimates the Galway garden room cost about €10,000, covering furniture, lighting, including fairy lights for her beloved birch tree – one of the first things she noticed in the house – and fees for an electrician.

It is a considerable sum, but she did the works during the Covid lockdowns, so getting tradespeople was challenging. She also had to move the boiler to free up the back. This required additional pipework and the creation of a new outlet. She was also adamant that she wanted to use the tiles pictured, and these needed a concrete base, which all added to the overall outlay. Minus the moving of the boiler and ancillary costs, she believes it could be done for about half that.

Sinéad Ní Mhurchadha and Bryn Griffiths’ first experiment with an outdoor space was a cloth gazebo, the kind that pops open and can be bought at many of the large DIY chains. While it didn’t last, they discovered it kept the sun off their small baby and also kept the heat in.

So they decided to build something more permanent at their home in Goatstown, Dublin 14, and add their garden room onto an L-shaped kitchen extension.

Sheltered on three sides, they roofed the area, installing a large skylight to help bring light into their dining room. Now they can walk straight out to it via their swish Crittal-style doors, something they like to do in their bare feet. “From June we’ll get direct sun into it,” says Ní Mhurchadha. “We can use it rain or shine, it’s like being on holidays all the time. We drank champagne out there watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve!

“We don’t have to walk across wet grass to access it. You don’t feel you have to get dressed to go out there. It is lovely in the morning to take a cup of coffee straight out into the fresh air,” Griffiths adds. Their kids, Nia, 11 months, Saren, age 4 and Rhys, age 6, all love it.

Extending to about 15sq m, they say it’s like having a fourth sitting room. While they estimate it cost about €5,000, it is still a work in progress. While they’ve installed lights, they still have to paint it and the back of the house.

“There is huge interest in outdoor spaces,” says Paul Blanchfield of Arch Outdoors, whose showroom is in Ballymount in Dublin 24. He spotted a gap in the market for upscale additions to the home that can be delivered on site within six weeks and now supplies Italian-designed slick aluminium frame structures by Pratic.

He describes them as pergolas and they come with options to attach to the house, or to be used as free-standing structures that you can install in the suntrap part of the garden. One option has a fixed louvre roof that can be opened to circulate air, and closed to keep the rain out. A second style features a retractable roof that compresses to let the sunshine in. All designs come with a rain sensor so that should you leave the house and forget to close the roof, its sensor automatically closes to keep the moisture out at the first sign of raindrops.

The structures are smartly configured so rainwater runs down the aluminium legs and straight into guttering. Some options come with toughened glass in fixed or sliding glass panels, and there is also a range of blinds available to suit the various styles. Brera comes in 10 standard colours but can also be customisable to any RAL shade. Prices start from about €1,200 per sq m, with the smallest size available about 14sq m, so you can expect to pay upwards of €17,000 (ex VAT).

Opera extends to about 22sq m, has a fixed louvered roof and a mix of fixed and sliding glass walls. It will cost from about €31,200 (ex VAT). Pricing does not include foundations.

The conservatory has been replaced by its more elegant cousin, the orangery. Better suited to Irish weather, it now accounts for 95 per cent of Portrush-based Hampton Conservatories residential work, with almost three-quarters of the jobs connected to a kitchen or family room. These timber-clad constructions are not cheap and require maintenance. Made of mahogany or accoya, a treated timber, the designs are finished, sprayed and glazed at its factory in Northern Ireland.

Prices range from €75,000 upwards and the firm also offers an annual after-care programme to help maintain the space and keep it in pristine condition. This costs from about €1,100-€2,100 a year, depending on size and location.

Vale Garden Houses is another high-end option. Based in the UK, this kitchen set-up, which is about 45sq m in size, will cost about €178,000, ex foundations, plumbing, electrics and the kitchen pictured.

And if you don’t have the space to go out, consider going up instead. By installing its canteen at the top of a down-at-heel building in Dublin 7 it allowed Bernard Seymour Landscape (BSL) Architects to open it out to a roof garden where you can chow down under a covered pergola.

This flip transformed the Dublin 7 building into a totally green space, appropriate for the kind of blue sky thinking a tech firm demands of its workforce. Creative thinking such as this will require planning and careful consultation with your local planning department.;;;;

Want to green your gorgeous sun spot?

Senior landscape architects Derek Naughton and Periklis Tsoukalas of BSL Arch suggest the following, mainly climber plants, that go well in a south-facing/sunny spot, and provide good ever-greening coverage.

Iris unguicularis (Algerian Iris): The perfect candidate for a warm, south-facing wall, it flowers in the winter and prefers poor soil to thrive, so no need for added compost.

Campsis radicans (Trumpet Vine): This exotic climber will revive Mediterranean holiday memories. Grow against a sunny wall in free draining soil. Add some grit into the hole when planting.

Magnolia (Fairy): This semi-evergreen hybrid from New Zealand has an abundance of flowers in spring to early summer and is great for a south-facing wall.

Echium candicans (Pride of Madeira): A striking spring shrub with beautiful blue flowers belonging to the Borage family. Plant in free-draining soil, without added compost or fertiliser.

Hesperaloe parviflora (Red Yucca): This exotic plant needs free draining soil and loves the summer heat. You need to hardly ever water it. It will reward you with stunning coral-red flowers.

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors