Why it’s time to leave guests in the garden

Guest rooms that take their inhabitants closer to Nature? Giles Kime explores.

‘What’s better than waking up in the garden looking over the countryside?’ Given the amount we have locked up in bricks and mortar – about seven trillion pounds, give or take a couple of trillion – it’s curious that a growing number of us get so excited by the idea of spending time in more modest structures. What started as a fashion for yurts and shepherd’s huts has rapidly spawned into a taste for a new hybrid of a shed and an office, or a ‘shoffice’, as they’re known in the trade. The latest iteration of this emerging trend is best described as a ‘shedroom’ (hopefully, something more glamorous will emerge), an outdoor guest room that takes inhabitants closer to Nature, yet allows them to enjoy the creature comforts of a luxury hotel.

As with all the major design trends of the past decade, this latest twist has its roots in hotels. The idea was first unveiled at Lime Wood, the New Forest hotel in which small, but perfectly formed ‘forest cottages’ provide all the luxuries of its indoor rooms (monsoon showers, king-size beds, pantries) in a rustic context. Recently, the nearby Pig in Brockenhurst (the first of a burgeoning litter of pigs) also launched lodges in a sylvan setting, in addition to its more urban-looking Bert’s Box that’s half-outdoor guest room, half-Hoxton penthouse. A hop and a skip away, Chewton Glen offers guests the opportunity to stay in treehouses suspended 35ft from the ground that are complete with hot tubs and flat-screen TVs.

Philippa Thorp’s outdoor guest room in Hampshire.

Of course, all this might sound ludicrous to someone who lives, 24/7, in a rustic setting (albeit without the pleasures of room service, intimacy kits and an iPod loaded with Ibiza dance classics), but the appeal of luxury hotels has always been that they’re slightly divorced from reality. In the design world, hotels serve as a crucible of ideas that most of us would never have been brave enough to experiment with at home, namely black walls, unhinged patterns and baths in bedrooms.

The idea is also taking a grip in the wider world. Philippa Thorp, the supernaturally versatile designer of everything from prime London real estate to the cabins of private jets, has created a Mustique-inspired cabin in the grounds of her Hampshire home: ‘What’s better than waking up in the garden looking over the countryside? Guest rooms should be places that you never want to leave.’ Caveat emptor.

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