green terrazzo-clad garden studio surrounded by tropical plants in London

Italian-inspired Terrazzo-clad garden studio

Architect Tim Robinson on building a multifunctional space in his east London garden

By Alice Westgate | 11 August 2021

Architect Tim Robinson built a striking terrazzo-clad studio in the garden of his east London home. Here, he shares the inspiration behind the self-build and how he’s using the multifunctional space…

What inspired the project?

“It was a launchpad for Sonn, the architecture and design practice I set up with Phoebe Burnett. It’s also a way to add space to the Hackney flat I share with my girlfriend Emma.”

Tell us about the design

“I have always been interested in Italian and Mexican architecture and this is a fusion of the two. The tropical planting was inspired by a research trip to Mexico and terrazzo is a finish I have often admired in Italian architecture. You frequently see it on floors, but I wondered whether you could use it on walls, or to clad an entire building.”

The garden studio cost around £25,000, including materials and landscaping, but excluding labour. Photo: Sarah Burton Fielding

Why build it yourselves?

“Emma and I didn’t have the budget to pay someone to build it. So, after watching YouTube tutorials we decided to do everything ourselves, apart from the plastering and electrics. We made lots of bespoke moulds and mixed up the water-based resin to create a series of made-to-measure panels – some smooth and some ridged – that join together to form the exterior. We chose a deep forest green to complement the garden. However, there was a lot of trial and error while we tried to gain a uniform colour throughout. Wanting the same surface inside and out, we added a micro-cement floor, a thin screed with the look of polished concrete but without the depth of a concrete slab.”

Did the self build garden studio require planning consent?

“Yes, because it is slightly higher than the permitted development rights would allow. It didn’t require Building Regulations as it’s not a home, but we wanted it to have the same quality and energy efficiency as if it were an extension to the house.”

Forest green terrazzo-clad self build garden office with pot plants outside

The colour choice of Forest green compliments the garden. Photo: Sarah Burton Fielding

How long did it take?

“We cleared the site by the end of 2019 and had built almost half the frame when Covid-19 struck. We then worked solidly through lockdown, when restrictions were lifted, and completed it in August 2020.”

How do you use the terrazzo-clad garden studio?

“As an office, a yoga room and a bedroom, because one wall hides a fold-down double bed. Behind the studio is a small workshop where we develop, test and make Sonn’s homeware products. It is such an inspiring place to work, especially on a nice sunny day when it feels like a tropical oasis.”

Curtain leading to bedroom of the self build garden office

A full-length curtain can be pulled across the glazed panels and door for privacy when the studio is used as a bedroom Photo: Sarah Burton Fielding