12 modern summer house ideas – how to create a serene escape in your own garden

Be inspired to add an extra space to relax in, work from or even host guests in with these gorgeous summer house ideas...

Summer house with colorful furniture
(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

It's the dream, isn't it? Having a summer house that you can saunter down the garden to, dashing barefoot across the lawn, to a secluded spot you can relax with a book and a G&T. Or maybe you would use it as a place to work, or turn it into a gym, or even a guest bedroom – a summer house can be all manner of things and can fit into all styles and sizes of garden too. 

So whether you are after a traditional timber clad, whitewashed, country garden room, or something more extensive that can add lots of extra living space, we have plenty of lovely summer house designs and garden ideas to get you inspired to start a new project... 

1. Find the perfect position for a summer house

Summer house with French doors

(Image credit: Lisa Cohen)

Before we get into lots of lovely summer house ideas, let's talk practicalities. The positioning of a summer house is the first step, and it can determine the size and design you go for.

The best place to position a summer house generally tends to be at the end of a garden. This way it won't break up the space or make it feel smaller. Plus, having a summer house tucked away, far from the main house gives it a more separate feel, making it seem like even more of an escape. Create that almost hidden, secret house feeling by surrounding your summer house with trees and billowing climbers as you can see here. 

And if space isn't an issue in your garden, think instead about what time of day you'll mostly use the space and position it in an area that will get the nicest light. For example, if you will be using it in the mornings, east-facing will get the best morning sun. If you want to be sipping cocktails in there of an evening then pick the positioning based on where you will see the sun set. 

2. Create a stylish at home bar 

marble clad garden room with home bar

(Image credit: AO Architects)

If the past year has taught us anything, it's that a well-stocked home bar is an essential. Why not upgrade your crammed drinks trolley and build a summer house that can double up as a garden bar? Pinch ideas from this gorgeous marble-clad design and add bi-fold windows with a bar underneath so you can sit inside and yet feel like you are still in the garden.

3. Add a stylish industrial vibe with corrugated cladding

corrugated iron summer house on upper level of a small garden

(Image credit: This project is by Ollie Hammick from agarchitecture.net)

As this super cool corrugated metal design proves, not all summer houses have to be traditional and timber clad. If you like a more contemporary style to your garden, opt for a summer house that uses more unusual materials and then you can soften it up with a wooden patio as you see here or lots of greenery around the edges.

Also, this small garden doesn't have acres of space, and yet still manages to fit in a summer house. Using levels can be a great way to zone the space, making it feel larger and more functional. 

4. Create a light filled summer house 

Summer house with colorful furniture

(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

Really maximize light in a summer house with large windows and French doors. You want a summer house to feel open and airy and almost like you are still in the garden, just with some nice furniture and a roof over your head. 

Stick with a light color palette too – white walls, ceilings and light wooden floors make this summer house feel bright and fresh. The colorful furniture adds just the right amount of bold hues and the mix of neutral tones and bright shades of the area rug brings the scheme together. 

5. Treat the inside like an extension of the house

Garden room with blue patterned sofa, larger mirror and sky light

(Image credit: Future)

If you really want to make the most of a summer house, treat it like an extension of your indoor living space. It's what stops it from turning into a glorified shed. Fill it with gorgeous soft furnishings, add prints, mirrors, throw down a rug, hang drapes and pick decor that reflects the style inside the main house too, so there's cohesiveness between the two spaces. 

6. Invoke calm with a light scheme and rustic decor

roof garden with greenhouse conservatory

(Image credit: Manolo Yllera)

If you want your summer house to be a shady spot to escape to on warmer days, opt for an interior that will invoke that cool, serene feeling. Take inspiration from this gorgeous effortlessly stylish space and cream-painted panels, keep the floor light too and adds lots of texture with wooden furniture and rustic touches. Soften up the space even more with floaty drapes in a slubby linen that pools on the floor. You essentially want to create a modern rustic living room just out in your garden. 


7. Turn a summerhouse into a guest bedroom

Blue and pink spare bedroom in a summer house

Or take it even further and copy this summer house idea by turning the space into a guest bedroom. GIve the space a modern rustic feel with darkly painted wall paneling, vintage furniture, and low lighting. Throw down some large area rugs to add softness underfoot and thick curtains to make the space feel cozy and private in the evenings. 

Feeling inspired? Check out the full tour of this gorgeous summer house

8. Or use it as a home office

white summer house with bold artwork used as a home office

(Image credit: Design by Gachot)

If working from home is looking like it's going to be a more permanent set up for you, using a summer house as a home office means you can get some peace in the day and escape your workspace in the evenings. And you could always tuck the desk away in a corner so it could also double up as an extra living room if you need it.

This calming, all-white and soft wooden scheme is perfect for a home office; light, airy and stylish but not too visually stimulating.

9. Add a kitchenette 

Kitchen in a summer guest house

(Image credit: © Unique Homestays)

If you have the space, why not go all out and add a kitchenette to your summer house so you can have it as its own self-contained space for guests. It wouldn't need to take up the whole space, just a row of cabinets with a sink, some shelving, and a compact under-counter fridge would provide all you need to make a morning coffee without having to traipse back to the main house. 

9. Opt for a glass roof

Whatever style of summer house you are after, you want it to be filled with light, to feel like an extension of your garden and blend into the outside space. It should have a more outdoorsy feel than your indoor living room, with plenty of lovely views out into greenery. 

Choosing a glass roof is sure to bring in plenty of light no matter what the weather outside is doing, so you always have a bright room to work in or relax in. For a more classic look opt for a roof lantern, and if you want a more sleek contemporary feel choose large glass panels to create a more seamless glass roof. 

10. Blend a summer room with the surrounding garden

Summer house in roof top garden

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Make a summer house sit more naturally in your garden by blending the walls with large potted plants and climbers. Add trellis up the side, or extend the space with a pergola so you can add extra greenery above too. Position potted plants in clusters around the base of the structure to add some lovely texture, and as you can see here can be used to almost disguise the dimensions of the building.

11. Paint it white for a classic look

white timber clad garden room with large lawn and potted plants

(Image credit: Sandtex)

For a really classic summer house design that's going to work in any garden, modern or traditional, opt some something that's timber clad. You can then paint it whatever color suits your style, but you can't go wrong with white for creating an instant focal point. Give it a more contemporary feel by placing some simple galvanized metal pots filled with olive trees against the white wooden walls. 

12. Build out a small patio

So many summer house designs have large French doors, bi-folding doors, or sliding doors so there's that really seamless flow between indoors and out. So make the most of that indoor/outdoor living and extend a summer house by adding a patio area that you can use for extra seating,  al fresco dinners or you could be very extra and add a hot tub. 

Do you need planning permission for a summer house?

The majority of summer houses won't need planning permission. The acceptions to that are any summer houses that are taller than 3 meters or are within 2 meters of your boundary wall. 

Also, you may need planning permission if you live in a listed building or in a conservation area. Just always be safe and check with your local planning officer before you start your project. 

How much does a summer house cost?

The cost of a summer house can vary massively depending on the design and finish you are after. For example, you can have a timber pre-fab summer house installed in your garden for between £1,000 - £3,000. But if you want to go bespoke, that goes up to between £15,000 - £30,000 depending on the size and the design, plus any extras you might want to add like a decking or patio area or outdoor lighting. 

Hebe Hatton

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.