How to revamp an unloved garden room, from furniture and textiles to lighting and plants

If you're thinking of getting a garden room built, or re-doing one which lies unloved and under-used, interior designer Birdie Fortescue has all sorts of ideas. She spoke to Giles Kime.

Sometimes it feels as if we’ve all been in a state of yearning for home improvement ever since the first lockdown began last year. Spending more and more time in our homes has prompted millions of people across the nation to think about their space, how they use it, and how things could be better.

For many, that’s meant moving out to the country; for others, it’s meant making changes to our homes — and creating or improving a garden room or orangery is high on the list. And for those of you who are in that latter camp, we spoke to interior designer Birdie Fortescue to get her ideas.

Where do you start?

Think about the plants you’d like to display and how to arrange them. Here, a low metal shelf shows off the palms, orchids and spiky red cordylines. In summer, geraniums in pinks, reds and whites can look chic, as can azaleas and pelargoniums. Olive and citrus trees will create an Italianate atmosphere.

And the furniture?

Rattan has a classic garden-room feel and, when it is in strong colours, it can bring a space to life, creating a more casual feel than upholstered furniture. I also like to mix old and new, here with a vintage rustic table, to add to the relaxed mood.

How do you choose fabrics and rugs?

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Pick fade-resistant fabrics if you can and don’t worry too much — slight fading adds to the charm. You could swap cushions in and out, too. Mix floral and geometric patterns to create a relaxed look, working with one or two base colours and building on them to introduce other hues in fabrics, art and lamps. Add a rug for comfort and to demarcate a seating or dining area, preferably in a material such as jute, to complement the natural wood, rattan and stone.

Your tips for lighting?

I favour a hanging lantern or leafy tole chandelier to catch the eye, with lamps to build layers of light. Candles contrast with the darkness beyond the windows at night and can add a sense of magic and drama.

Teras Rattan sofas, £600; side table, £150; sofa mattresses, £145; cushions, from £55; all from