Sail shades are one of the most versatile ways to add shade to your garden. You can use them in lieu of an awning or gazebo, to create temporary or permanent shading. You can pair multiple sails together for an eye-catching centerpiece or simple to extend the shelter. With so many shapes and sizes on offer, it can be daunting to know where to start. So we’ve gathered a few inspirational shade sail setups to put you on the right track.
Pair square and triangular shade sails to keep a wider area completely covered – great for keeping decks and patios shady and dry. Mix and match colours for a stylish final look.
This modern alternative to a traditional gazebo is a stylish way to cover larger areas. Use a combination of sail shade poles and matching sized triangles.
Keep a patio or deck covered with a rectangular shade sail and posts. Perfect for creating a porch area that’s cool in the summer and dry in the winter.
Make a place for rest and relaxation on your patio with triangular sail shades. Criss-cross a pair of different sizes for a stylish alternative to an awning on a patio or deck.
Combine several shade sails for true versatility, perfect for large outdoor events like weddings and festivals. Mix-and-match a variety of shapes and sizes to cover a wider space – the only limit is your imagination!
You can even finish off a summerhouse or playhouse with a shade sail or two so you can keep cool and dry while enjoying your garden. Use existing structures to keep your shade sails taught and save money on fixtures and fittings.
If you need more space in your home but an extension or a loft conversion is out of the question, how about putting a log cabin in your garden? Garden buildings have come a long way since the ‘outbuildings’ of old. Contemporary garden rooms can be designed exactly to your specifications and to meet whatever requirements you may have. From teenage den to guest suite, music studio to home office, it all becomes possible with the help of a good builder.
Here are just a few examples of how your new garden studio office might look:
If you’re thinking of a garden office, this can be a clever and cost effective way to extend the usable space in your home, while adding interest by making use of your home’s natural surroundings. What’s more, a professionally designed and installed garden office will look fantastic and add value to your home too.
However, when it comes to specifying your new home office, there are some key decisions that need to be made at the outset to ensure that your log cabin offers the home comforts you need for all-year use.
As a starting position, all garden buildings that are designed for year-round use need to be fully insulated. When you specify your garden office, make sure you choose a twinskin log cabin which comes with cavity filled wall insulation, as well as full roof and floor insulation.
Standard levels of insulation provide a better thermal performance than you would find in a mobile home, while upgraded insulation levels are comparable to those of a modern brick-built house. Once insulated, the walls of your log cabin garden office can be the equivalent thermal value of a solid wall, which is much thicker.
Even with high levels of insulation and double glazed windows in your garden building, chances are you will need additional heating to keep warm during the colder months. There are several heating options.
Wall mounted electric convector heaters are the traditional choice
Wall mounted electric infrared heating panels are energy efficient as they don’t heat unnecessary space
Underfloor heating is unobtrusive and space saving
Wood burning stoves can be fitted to an outside wall for a natural solution and real fire comfort
Fully fitted air conditioning can be used to provide heat in the winter months
Standalone oil filled radiators or electric fan heaters can be wheeled into position for extra flexibility
It makes sense to install a heating system with a programmable timer, so that you can control the temperature to suit the times that you are actually spending in your garden office. The latest systems come with smartphone app controls, which may be useful.
British summers can be hot, and usually when you least expect it! Some form of ventilation is recommended to keep the temperature comfortable, so make sure your garden office design takes account of this.
Glass panels can look very stylish in a contemporary garden building, but don’t forget to include an opening window in the room design to keep their airflow circulating
If you wish to avoid the clutter of a desktop or floor standing electric fan during the summer, think about a ceiling mounted electric fan that can be switched from the wall.
For full comfort throughout the year, whatever the outside temperature may be, air conditioning systems can be fitted.
4. Natural light and shade
Maximising natural light is the holy grail of many interior designers. And what could be nicer than having a garden office where light floods in through large expanses of glass? Using insulated glass panels in your home office design will provide plenty of light while blurring the boundaries between indoors and the natural environment on the outside.
That said, you may also need to make provisions for shading to screen your eyes from the intensity of direct sunlight and to cool down. If you work with as computer screen, the sunlight reflecting onto the screen can be very uncomfortable and cause long-term eye strain.
Think about where the log cabin is situated in your garden. Positioning your home office near a deciduous tree means that the leaves will shield you in the summer but not block out valuable winter light. Consider the design of the building too; deep eaves will offer a degree of natural shading.
Of course, fitting window blinds (or even curtains) to your garden office is a simple trick you shouldn’t miss. Whether you go for Venetian blinds, pleated or blackout roller blinds such as these ones, there’s no shortage of choice to give your building the right degree of shade. For a top end solution, look out for double glazed window designs that come with Venetian blinds fitted within the glass panes.
5. Electric lighting
Your home office will come fitted with standard electrics, and lighting is typically installed in the form of track spot lights or downlighters set into the ceiling to provide a general level of artificial light. Among garden building designers and customer alike, LED lighting has become an increasingly popular choice to provide good quality and energy efficient ambient lighting.
In addition, you may need to consider specific task lighting to aid your work. Depending on the amount of detail incorporated at the garden room design stage, task lighting can be built in – perhaps as a pendant light over a sitting area, wall-mounted picture lights or outside entrance lighting.
If you’re not sure how exactly the room will be configured, why not add more power point to provide flexibility later on? Then, when it comes to furnishing your home office, standalone lamps or desk lighting can be added as required.
6. Data cabling
Finally, in addition to wiring for power and light, it is essential that your garden office’s IT connectivity requirements are fully covered. Tapping into your home wireless network may not be the best solution. Very often, your computer’s WiFi reception may be patchy, particularly if your home router is in the main building and high levels of insulation in the garden office disrupt the signal.
Specifying data cabling when you order the design of your log cabin garden office will give you a much more reliable service when you need it most. You will need data connections for telephone, broadband and possibly TV too. You may also wish to consider cabling for alarms and entry systems, so you can answer the front door or gate when you’re in the office at the bottom of the garden, and to protect your garden building from intruders.
Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.
Spring is a time of new beginnings and your garden is a great place to be, as long as you pay it a little attention of course. From hanging fairy lights to planting seasonal blooms, you can transform your garden with some creativity and effort. Yes, you’ll get a little dirty, but as long as you know how to get grass stains out that shouldn’t put you off working on the garden with enthusiasm. Now, let’s check out four ideas to spice up your garden this spring.
1. Fill your garden with flowering shrubs
Without a doubt, the best way to transform your garden from nice but plain to beautiful and spectacular is to fill it with colourful blooms. Not only will you get to enjoy an array of colours and tones that’ll really transform your outdoor space, you’ll get to benefit from sweet scents too. Evergreen shrubs, colourful pansies, pretty snowdrops, lilacs, crocuses, daffodils… all these flowers and more love the spring and you will love the way they make your garden look. Just make sure you research how to plant and care for your chosen shrubs and you might just get to enjoy them over and over again.
2. Grow your own veg
Developing stunning borders full of seasonal blooms will no doubt look and smell amazing, but what about using your garden for more practical needs? Growing your own vegetables is a very satisfying project and you’ll get to enjoy all of that hard work by eating it! Choose an area in your garden that you can section off, raise if need be and sow produce that flourish in spring. Certain vegetables love growing in the spring, and following advice about what to plant in April and May should see your vegetable patch thrive:
May: Sweetcorn, courgettes, pumpkins, runner beans, cucumbers and squashes.
3. Light it up
Just as lighting can alter the look and feel of any room in your home, it can spice up your garden too. A few strategic wall lights, a string of fairy lights or some garlands hung on a tree will help bring focus to different areas and allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labour when the sun goes down. Speaking of the sun, solar lighting is a really good solution – cost effective and environmentally friendlier too.
4. Sit and relax
A new piece of furniture plays two roles when it comes to re-styling your garden. One is to act as a feature and two is to create an area where you can kick back and relax. Whether it’s a comfy outdoor sofa to chill out on, a hammock to laze away sunny afternoons or a love seat to enjoy with your partner, they’ll give you the chance to enjoy what you’ve accomplished in comfort.
Put these four tips into action to freshen up your garden this spring and enjoy!
Eleanor is a freelance writer. She loves to write about everything from gardening to travels. Her favourite part of her outside space is the fairy garden she created with her daughter.
Sensory rooms, also known as “Snoezelen” (a compound of the Dutch words ‘snuffelen’, to snuggle, and ‘doezelen’, to doze) or, more scientifically, a “controlled multisensory environment” is a kind of whole-room therapy for children and adults with developmental disabilities, autism, dementia or other brain injuries. Developed in the 1970s in the Netherlands specifically to treat disabilities and injuries, sensory rooms are now a popular feature of nurseries, schools and residential care homes across the world. Sensory rooms can be beneficial for anyone, from the smallest babies to OAPs, from students to CEOs.
Unlike other forms of therapy, Snoezelen is designed not to have a measurable outcome or goal but to encourage the client to gain as much enjoyment as they can from the activity. Users of sensory rooms often report feeling more relaxed or “sleepy” and suffering less from the effects of depression and anxiety. This kind of therapy can also improve pro-social behaviour and encourage users to relate better to each other. Some research has even shown that sensory room therapy can decrease your heart rate!
It’s clear, then, that Snoezelen therapy is a great way to support both children and adults with developmental disabilities or brain injuries as well as toddlers, babies and those who are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression. However, setting up a sensory room – especially in your own home – can be a difficult and time consuming project, especially when searching for specialist equipment.
But have no fear! We’ve put together a list of affordable resources that are quick and easy to buy to set up your very own sensory room. These items are by no means an exhaustive list but are a great place to start when looking for a way to support someone’s sensory needs.
One of the most popular features of a sensory room is a bubble tube or wall. In fact, they’ve inspired this whole list! Bubble walls combine colour and the gentle (yet hypnotic) movement of bubbles to create a mesmerising effect which really grabs the attention of both children and adults alike. With integrated LED lights and a remote control, it’s possible to choose from a range of colours as well as strobe and fade effects. In Snoezelen therapy, the client is given control over the remote so they can decide what colour the wall is and which light effects are turned on at any time. Bubble walls are a great way to relax as the user watches the gentle flow of bubbles which shine in the light. You can also adjust the bubble speed, allowing for quick, small bubbles or larger, slower ones.
Bubble tubes are another great water feature for your sensory room. Bubble tubes are particularly engaging as they are wide enough to be able to put plastic fish inside, where you can watch them gently “swim” up and down the length of the tube as they get carried along by the bubbles. This sort of engagement is great for people who can have difficulty concentrating, and the changing colour of the feature keeps it feeling novel.
A sensory room can be easily enhanced with the use of mirrors. Placing a bubble tube in the corner of a room with two full-wall mirrors on either wall reflects the movement of the bubbles and creates the impression that there are more features than there really are. Large acrylic mirrors are usually the most suitable for sensory rooms as they are stronger than glass while being significantly lighter, making them easy to move around and safer for rooms with children. Acrylic mirrors are also available in a variety of colours, making them perfect for sensory exploration as they transform the room and the things they reflect. Small babies and toddlers can particularly benefit from playing with mirrors as they learn to recognise facial features and expressions. A sturdy acrylic mirror placed on the floor is also a great way to play and explore, from looking at yourself from different angles to drawing or painting on the surface and watching the reflection beneath. You can even cover a mirror in something fine like sand, chickpeas or flour and let users trace pictures using their fingers, marvelling as the mirror is revealed beneath.
It’s important to make sure there’s lots of space to relax in a sensory room. There’s no limits in a sensory room so users can sit, recline or even lie on the floor if that’s what they want to do! Placing a few beanbag slabs on the floor of a room provides a soft, malleable surface for users to sit and lie on, as well as being interesting to touch, scrunch and cuddle. Beanbag slabs have wipe-clean polyester covers which can also be removed for more thorough machine washing.
Lots of sensory rooms feature swings and hammocks to provide their users with a relaxing, weightless feeling. Hanging swing seats and cacoon hammocks are a great way to help users chill out as they gently swing back and forth. Cacoon hammocks are particularly effective as they provide a dark, enclosed space which can help people feel more safe and at ease. They also have fewer exposed ropes, making them great for children. Cacoon hammocks need to be attached to a sturdy ceiling beam or hung from a tripod stand. For extra safety, you can put a few cushions, bean bags or soft shapes beneath the hammock or cacoon just in case. For an extra sensory experience, you can fill the cacoon with soft cushions or even a furry rug and decorate it with lights.
Typically, sensory rooms have very low lighting, often using fibre optic string or cable lights. Low lighting creates a more relaxed environment which can benefit children who struggle to keep calm. String lighting, especially coloured lights, can enhance the relaxed atmosphere as well as bringing more colour to a room. Being able to touch and manipulate light is important during Snoezelen therapy, so make sure that users can hold the lights themselves (with proper supervision). Battery operated lights are great for this, as they can be picked up, manipulated and even worn! Solar powered lights have fewer running costs and can be charged outside (or on a windowsill) when not in use, so are better for the environment. For sensory rooms designed for children, solar lights can also teach them about science and sustainability.
Spinners and Hanging Decorations
Another way to add sparkling colour and movement to a sensory room is through the use of hanging spinners. Hung around a room at different heights, these spinners twist and dance as they spin, creating stunning visual effects which are almost hypnotic to watch. Spinners should be hung low enough that users of the sensory room can touch and spin them themselves, and small children can be helped to reach them so they can watch the direct effect of their actions on the world around them. Lots of spinners come with integrated crystals, which when hung in a window or near a light source can beautifully refract the light in rainbows around the room.
Making a sensory room doesn’t have to be a huge project – in fact, it can often be beneficial to have just a few items which are brought out and set up as a treat. Larger features like bubble walls are a great way to start and can also be just as effective when set up in a bedroom or living room where everyone can enjoy it. So let’s turn down the lights, put away our phones, turn off the TV and instead turn to the bubble wall for an evening of rest and relaxation!
Lotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.
When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.
Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.