How unique can your garden room be?
No better person than Ivana Cavallo and Lukasz Brzozowski to answer this question but before that let’s learn more about Ivana and Lukas, their story and how A Room in the Garden, a company specialised in luxurious bespoke (and we mean BESPOKE!) garden buildings came about.
Lukas: well, I guess it all started with our first meeting on 21 July 2015. From that day on has been like a rollercoaster ride (and we are still riding!). In November, after 3 months of knowing each other, I proposed to Ivana – who was crazy enough to accept – in April 2016 we got married and soon after we started to refurbish our flat. First, stop the garden. Our old storage room had its time and it was really time to get a new one, something practical but at the same time beautiful and that would complement our garden. We browsed the internet to see what was out there, but we couldn’t really find what we were looking for. They all looked the same. And the most annoying thing was that every time we found a company promising us a truly bespoke garden room all they meant it was you can add a window, or two; move the door from left to right and maybe choose the colour of the cladding!
So, we decided to take the matter into our own hands and designed and built – with the help of our builders – our perfect garden storage room. Exactly what we needed, exactly how we wanted it. No compromise, it was our room in the garden.
Ivana: It was a very warm June evening and we were sitting outside, enjoying a glass of wine while admiring and complementing each other for our creation when suddenly Lukas said: “how about we drop everything and start building bespoke garden rooms?”. It took me a second or two to answer. It was a crazy idea but it just felt right. My answer was: “Yes! Let’s do it!”
So what happened later? How quickly the idea turned into what we can see now, which is an amazing company delivering one unique project after another?
Lukas: Having marketing and design experience helped us a lot. We created our logo the next day, built the website the following and started distributing our leaflets in the neighbourhood around 2 weeks after. 3 weeks later we had our first conversations with clients, and in September, 3 months later, we started to build a bespoke summer house for our first client.
Ivana: Now you understand why Lukas described our relationship as a rollercoaster! No much time to think! To add a bit more of extra fun in October we found out we were expecting a baby! Our already busy life was now even crazier.
So now you have a new business and a new baby as well? How does this work for you?
Ivana: It is challenging sometimes, but it gets easier with every new day. Our oldest daughter, Adia, is now 12 and the little one is almost 2. Lukas, although he works a lot – managed to organise the business in a way that he is able to come home to play with Zeno and put him to bed. When Zeno is in a nursery or sleeps, I do my business duties.
It really is a great story and I can see the passion you put into your business. I’ve got the feeling that this is actually the main reason you have started it, is it?
Lukas: It is! Every time we meet with a client and we have the opportunity to design something unique, we have the same feeling as when we started. It gives us an enormous pleasure to listen to the clients’ ideas and wishes, look at their gardens, their house and then come up with something that will work both from the aesthetic and practical point of view. We always look at what materials work better, how to match the architecture of the garden building to the main house and its surroundings and what practical aspects we should make prominent. It always makes me very happy when I give the keys to a new garden room to a client and he says to me “‘it looks like it has always been there.’ It means that we have delivered something that works perfectly for them and their space.
Ivana: you’re 100% right – I think this is the core of our thinking and working – there is no success without passion. And passion is contagious! It is so nice to see how our clients get all excited and passionate after our first meeting. It makes all designing process much more fun. We meet them a couple of times, show the drawings, discuss ideas, different possibilities, materials, etc – and this is where we end up with a really stunning project.
Do you think this is the source of your uniqueness, this passion, or there is something else?
Ivana: Passion and the desire to make the impossible possible! This makes us constantly search for new solutions, ideas, materials, technologies… I don’t think we have ever designed something similar twice. I love to look at how all starts from a quick pencil sketch and then after a few months, or sometimes just weeks, you have the completed garden room.
Weeks? How long the entire process takes then? How quickly could I have one of your bespoke garden buildings?
Lukas: I think the shortest time we have ever done it was around 8 weeks from the moment we met the client for the first time to the day we gave him the keys to his brand new, very individual garden office. Usually, it takes longer, though. The design stage is what usually takes a lot of time, as many of our clients have busy calendars, making it difficult for them to find the time to review the design and accept the drawings. Once the design has been approved things usually move rather quickly. Majority of our projects don’t require planning permission, so we can start almost straight away. The biggest project we have created so far took us over six months to design and less than twelve weeks to build!
May I ask you, who are your clients?
Ivana: Business owners, CEOs of large companies, artists, professional sportspeople, etc… We pride ourselves on creating very high-quality luxurious products, built only with the best available material and using very experienced builders. This obviously makes our garden rooms not something easily accessible to everyone. Lukas’s previous experience in working with very high-profile clients came very handy, giving us a perfect understanding on what kind of level of service is expected from us. Loyalty, honesty and discrete service are crucial for us.
Lukas: We also work for charities – at the moment we are developing a project consisting in a series of colourful accommodation for disadvantaged children -, hotels and spas looking to add some special and unique experiences to their portfolio and property developers, who often see those outbuildings as a really innovative way of adding value to the property. Finally, we have clients who simply want a small garden office, a studio or additional, occasional bedroom in their garden. What all of them have in common is the desire to have something different and unique, not a typical looking garden building.
That sounds like you found your niche. So how far can you go with customization, how unique those garden rooms could be? Let’s answer the title question here. What can I expect as your client?
Lukas: Almost anything you want! Apart from some physics rules we need to respect, we believe that everything is possible!
Let’s start with the shape of the garden building. Who said it has to be rectangular? We have done some very quirky, irregular shaped garden rooms, including a small artist studio without a single straight angle! Then there is the design – from different roof levels to external architectural elements and amazing doors and windows – like corner bi-folding doors which once completely opened make the roof seem to be hanging in the air. After that is the internal and external finishing. There is no end to the different possibilities: stainless steel, stained glass, outdoor wallpaper, cement particle boards, reclaimed wood etc. Last but not least is the equipment inside. From simple underfloor heating and air-conditioning to a full network of cables, sauna and a cinema room. Really, the options here are endless. All of those elements are discussed with our clients at the beginning, so they can choose what is it they want.
Ivana: All our garden rooms are designed based on the client’s taste and needs and always keeping in mind the garden they will be sitting on. Sometimes those are modern, straight lines, sometimes not. This then dictates the external materials. Recently we have completed a project where we used for the first time an outdoor wallpaper system from Italy. A stunning effect and I can not wait to use it again. We could even create a bespoke wallpaper design! Last year we built a garden studio using cement-particle boards – a small building directly on the beach finished in vibrant red and yellow colours. Not so long ago we have used a very specialized version of external cladding, which beautifully blends into the customer garden and already existing patio area. We always get excited about every possibility we get of using something new!
So if I have a garden and I would like you to design me a special, lovely building, what could I use it for?
Ivana: Anything really. All our garden buildings are insulated and can be used all year round. What you are getting is a beautiful additional space. A place to entertain your guests, a garden office where you can focus on your work, a cinema room, a gym, an annex for friends, a yoga room, an art gallery, a playroom for the children… – it is really up to you!
Lukas: Actually, that is not right. I think that there are only two main ways our clients use their garden rooms. The first one is to send their children over there, so they can keep the mess and noise away from the house. The second one is the other way around – a quiet room for themselves, where children are not allowed.
That is very true. My house would be much cleaner…and quieter! Guys, it was great talking to you and hearing your story. It is a great inspiration to probably anyone who is starting their own business. What are your plans now, where are you going from here?
Lukas: After finishing the garden room, several clients asked us if we were willing to do other work for them, such as extension and/or loft conversions or simply manage the work for them. Something that is now brewing in the pot. While soon we will be installing our first two floors garage – using a car lift system – for a car collector. We are very excited about that!