16 Apr 2014

State-of-the-art garden creation


The close-knit artistically-skilled Heath/Barnes family have built a unique garden room beside their cottage that sits on the shores of the beautiful windswept Wirral Peninsula.



Laura and Kris Heath and their three children, together with Laura's mum Sue, decided to create a garden room that enabled them to work from home. This artistic family’s desire was to combine their glorious seascape view with a working environment designed to inspire all those who come to share it.

“Having lived in a unique coastal cottage for over 30 years we couldn’t imagine a better place for people to find inspiration and be creative,” explains Kris. “Our vision was to start a multi-generational business and create a working artists’ studio. We needed a bespoke build to maximise the inspirational panoramic views and to create the ultimate useable space. Because of our unique, remote location we couldn’t buy anything that would rival what we have achieved with our bespoke build.”

Careful considerations

The family made a sketchbook of ideas and decided on an L-shape floor plan with large expanses of glass that look out onto the estuary to North Wales. Careful consideration into how the building would be used with both wet and dry areas was needed.

“We went down onto the beach with furniture and marked out the floor plan in the sand and rearranged until we were happy with the layout and proportions,” Laura recalls. “We took complete control of the inside of the studio choosing to install our own bespoke laser cut floor and reclaimed sinks rather than going for standard fixtures and fittings.”

The right company

“We invited a number of companies to quote for our build, but from the moment Martin Lawson walked through our door we knew Swift Garden Rooms was the company we wanted to work with. Martin’s enthusiasm for our project was palpable from the day he made his first visit to us. He described his team as being solution focused and our unique build certainly threw up plenty of challenges to overcome.”

Martin – Swift’s director – and designer Mike Jolley listened vigilantly as the family told their story and passionately described their vision for a new and exciting business venture. They absorbed all they could of the atmosphere, aspirations and the detailed requirements. Sketches were drawn and studied, vision boards were perused and a walk on the beach was taken to experience the setting in all its natural glory. Typical with this welcoming family, tea and cakes played a part in the process!

Coastal complications

Experience meant that Swift Garden Rooms knew precisely which partners they’d like to choose to deliver this building. Swift engaged the skills of architect Matthew Jarman of Maydean Design in Poynton to prepare the planning application and ensure that every angle was explored so that the building and its construction was planned with empathy for its situation in an area of special scientific interest and beauty.

High spec insulation and longevity were paramount because of the exposure to the elements. The artists decided upon Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) construction with timber cladding and – rather than using the traditional cedar cladding – requested a wider cladding board with a matt-black finish.

Martin Lawson had also worked with Leicester-based Jackpad for a number of years and knew that their innovative environmentally friendly foundations made of 100% recycled and recyclable materials would be perfect for this sensitive location as there would be no requirement for digging footings and filling them with concrete.

There is no road to the site, so all materials had to be transported across the very bumpy beach using a tractor and trailer. The Swift team handled everything smoothly from successfully gaining planning permission first time – despite the plot being in a greenbelt and a Site of Special Scientific Interest – to working the build and site deliveries around incoming tides, as well as scheduling the build around the migratory patterns of protected wading birds.

Swift build

After a period of beautiful summer weather, the first day of the build arrived along with a batch of torrential rain. The delicate moving of thousands of pounds worth of very heavy glass across a windy, rough and inhospitable half mile of beach was nerve-wracking to say the least! The build itself certainly was swift, taking only 10 days to complete – four days quicker than originally predicted – and no unexpected costs meant they remained within budget.

The foundations were set within three hours, another five hours later, the ring beam had been fabricated, the base of the floor adjusted, the sole plate accurately aligned and fixed and the first wall panels glued, screwed and insulated in place. By day two all walls were complete, the roof was on, all was stable and ready for windows. Day three saw the four metre wide aluminium doors and 2.5m wide panorama window and the Firestone roofing membrane in place - suddenly this building was connected with its seascape. The fourth day brought first fix for cables and pipes in readiness for plaster boarding and by day six the plasterers had transformed the interior.

Complementing nature

Once the plaster had dried, the final fit for electrics and plumbing completed, the creative couple brought their own unique skills to bear inside. A reclaimed wood block floor, personalised with laser cut seagulls and set in a wave design provided a beautiful base for reclaimed handmade sinks and furniture. Driftwood and shells add a unique welcome on approaching the entrance.

The whole ethos of this project was to be in tune with nature, respectful of the position of the plot and timing had to take into consideration the migratory patterns of protected wading birds. The Jackpad system overcame the fall in the ground and was the first element to be installed, then the SIP panels that Swift used within the construction system were created offsite, minimising waste. The family used packaging for their fire and recycled delivery pallets into furniture for the finished studio. The SIP panels are eco-friendly, include excellent U-values and structural rigidity and require virtually no extra processing on site. This is a well-insulated, efficient building with trickle vents and extraction just for the laser cutter used in the studio.

The finished building is a large, comfortable working space where visitors can relax and enjoy their surroundings, both inside and outside the building. The large expanses of glass and sliding doors, flood the room with light and really do make the most of the staggering surroundings. The interior has been furnished with reclaimed finds, and the laser-cut parquet flooring adds warmth and personality. The building blends with the garden using driftwood and shingle in a style reminiscent of Derek Jarman.

Creative oasis

Shore Cottage Studio is now a working space for the family to produce artworks and to host workshops and courses. Laura explains: “The build itself went like clockwork and the result is an inspirational building and an amazing home to our creative workshop business. The building and business has been a life changing project for us and we are so pleased to have worked with such a great team who have realised our plans in a well organised and stress-free way.”

“Our garden building allows us and our course participants to enjoy the inspirational views all year round, whatever the weather. Our only regret is that we didn’t do it years ago!” Kris concludes. Laura and Kris, Swift Garden Rooms, Matthew Jarman and Jackpad all recognised early on that this was going to be an amazing space and after some assessment, it turned out that TV architect and ‘Renovation Man’ George Clarke agreed, so the construction was filmed and the project featured on Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces programme.

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