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Garden building trends:
what is next for traditional summer houses?

Against the backdrop of the UK's sixth wettest year on record and the enduring cost of living crisis, the traditional summer house is at a crossroads.


Crane Garden Buildings, the UK leader in the production of high-quality garden buildings, revealed that during 2023, they saw a decrease in sales across its summer house range compared to 2022 when temperatures peaked at 40 degrees in some instances. Conversely, there continues to be a significant increase in homeowners buying multi-purpose buildings. 


The narrative of garden building trends is evolving, with homeowners seeking not only an escape at the bottom of the garden but an additional room, an investment in the home's valuation, and a space that transitions as lives evolve. 


While multi-functional garden buildings gain traction, though, this doesn’t mean that the traditional summer house is a dying trend. In fact, the opposite is true, with Google search data over the last 12 months showing that, when compared to multi-use garden buildings, summer houses remain the most sought-after garden building in the UK.


But what is equally clear is that they also need to adapt in line with consumer demands. In this article, Sarah Rumbles and Greg Clifton, lifestyle and garden market experts at Crane Garden Buildings, explore the adaptation summer houses are going through to meet new needs and their role in the changing fabric of outdoor living.

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Sarah Rumbles
Greg Clifton

The big shift to functionality and all-year use

With the aforementioned unpredictability that hangs over the UK’s weather and economy, the majority of the population is looking at how they can get more from their money in all aspects of their life. That includes the luxury market. 


As a result, summer houses were impacted during 2023, especially with younger homeowners who turned their attention to buying buildings that have all-year use, like garden offices, rooms, and studios that property experts also say can add up to 10% on a home’s valuation - a significant plus at a time when property owners are trying to retain curb appeal.


Over the last four years, garden buildings have become more than just an escape at the bottom of the garden. Homeowners want a place to work, a place to relax, a place to socialise, and a place they can utilise for storage - all within one building, which is increasingly being seen as a cost-effective solution to a typical extension to create a space that is relevant all year round.  

Creating longevity over a lifetime, not just for the summer

Consumers also want to invest in a space that can serve and change purposes over its lifetime. They want something that can be a teenage den-style space right now but are looking at what it could be in the future when their children move on. 


Achieving that is the biggest trend in the luxury garden-building market right now and tailored partitions are increasingly becoming the answer to that.


Partitions are an elegant way of creating different spaces within the same building - again, a fairly cost-effective solution to segregate and create a multi-purpose space.

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As an example, homeowners are looking to create a building that is an office at the front with big glazed windows and beautiful open space with a desk, but behind that is a storage area where the lawnmower can be stored.


Within that, there is a heightened focus on materials that will go the distance.

The growing importance of sustainability and bringing the outdoors in

Less surprising in the bigger picture is how sustainability is becoming more key for what customers are considering, whether that is their overall garden design, how a building is going to fit in with that, or making sure that they've got sustainable materials in their garden. 


From there, homeowners can create this green space that is their own and is also at one with nature. 


This will mean we’ll see far fewer plastics and metals used as part of structures, with timber, bamboo, and recycled materials gaining popularity, aligning with consumers' desires for environmentally conscious choices in their garden buildings.


It’s worth talking about colours, too. Traditionally, people played it safe with green because it blended in with the garden. But now, there's a move towards darker, bolder, choices. 

Black buildings with white or ivory windows are popular for a contemporary look. People are becoming bolder, particularly with more modern builds. We're also seeing a trend towards consumers using colours that spill out to the outside, creating that inside-outside flow.

Changing consumer demands and needs are forcing the traditional summer house to adapt

Up to now, we’ve talked about insulation and the use of partitioned walls as being the two biggest rising trends indicating that traditional summer houses are evolving. 


However, it is worth noting several other ways that are contributing to this, in line with this consumer shift:


  • Smart Technology Integration: The integration of smart technology is becoming more prevalent across all aspects of our lives, including traditional summer houses. Home automation systems, climate control, and energy-efficient solutions are being incorporated to enhance the overall functionality and comfort of these spaces.

  • Multi-Functional Furniture: To maximise space utilisation, traditional summer houses are adopting multi-functional furniture. Pieces that can serve dual purposes, such as a sofa transforming into a bed or a table converting into a storage unit, contribute to the adaptability of these spaces for various activities and seasons.

  • Customisation and Personalisation: Recognising the need for individualisation, traditional summer houses are increasingly being designed with customisation in mind. Homeowners can personalise colours, finishes, and architectural details to align with their unique preferences, ensuring that the structure seamlessly integrates with the overall aesthetics of the garden and the home.

  • Year-Round Landscaping: The evolution of traditional summer houses extends to the surrounding landscaping. Homeowners are incorporating evergreen plants, outdoor heating solutions, and weather-resistant furnishings to create a garden environment that remains appealing and functional throughout the year.

  • Storage Solutions: To cater to diverse needs, modern summer houses are equipped with ample storage solutions. Whether it's a designated area for garden tools or a concealed storage space for seasonal decorations, efficient storage ensures the space remains clutter-free and adaptable to different uses.

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These modifications extend the usability of summer houses beyond seasonal limitations, providing comfort even during the colder months. 


The changing landscape reflects a broader trend where garden buildings are no longer confined to specific seasons but are becoming versatile retreats, meeting the diverse needs of consumers throughout the year. 

Final thoughts

Consumers today seek garden buildings that serve them well even in adverse conditions – whether it's the cold of winter, the dampness of wet weather, or a desire for a cosy retreat amid cooler temperatures. 


This adaptation reflects a broader shift towards multi-functional garden spaces that cater to diverse needs throughout the year.


The changing needs of consumers are reshaping the purpose and design of summer houses, pushing them to adapt to the future of garden-building trends. Summer houses are no longer confined to seasonal use but are becoming retreats that offer comfort and enjoyment regardless of the weather outside. 


The irony lies in the realisation that, to remain relevant, summer houses must break free from their traditional and naming constraints, and embrace a more versatile role in the lives of homeowners.

As the demand for garden buildings evolves, the ability of summer houses to adapt to these changing trends becomes crucial for their sustained popularity. 


Beyond aesthetics, the practicality of providing a comfortable and usable space in all seasons positions summer houses as integral components of modern outdoor living. 


This adaptation not only meets the immediate needs of consumers but also ensures the longevity and relevance of traditional summer houses in the dynamic landscape of garden-building preferences.

Images by Crane Garden Buildings

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