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Dunster House Competition

The Great British Garden Retreat 2014 is now closed!

Thank you to all those who entered The Dunster House Great British Garden Retreat competition! The deadline for submitting an entry has now passed and our winners have now been announced.

Congratulations to Chris Partridge, David Quinn and Matt Hogben for their winning entries and for showcasing such amazing creativity with their garden buildings.

Read Chris' story ▾

At Dunster House, we manufacture high-quality garden buildings because we believe everyone deserves a retreat away from the stresses and strains that populate our lives. Yet the idea of what makes a perfect garden retreat differs from person to person.

That's why we wanted to create a series of case studies showcasing some of the best garden retreats our customers have created using our garden buildings. The first case study focuses on Chris Partridge, winner of our 2014 Great British Garden Retreat Competition, who has created a beautiful yet versatile space from a Dunster House Alexander office. Here is his story.

Creating a versatile and energising environment

"We wanted a separate space from the house in which to pursue creative activities and complementary therapies," said Chris on his reasons for purchasing a Dunster House garden office.

As a Holistic Therapist, Chris required space away from the house for running meditation workshops and message therapy work with clients. But because Chris and his partner, Ara Bazmi – an actor and tennis coach – also desired recreation space for their many hobbies, the versatility in use that a Dunster House office provides became vital.

Another part of Chris and Ara's motivation for creating a space away from the house was the belief that it would help them enter into an 'energetic mindset' for creativity. As Chris explains, that belief has become the reality, "the meandering pathway we laid, running from the house to the studio, is a great way to represent 'symbolically' the change of energy we feel on our journey towards the studio."

Choosing a Dunster House garden building

"We compared several log cabin companies online and found Dunster to be the best value for money, with one of the largest ranges." But for Chris and Ara, the fact that we are not just another faceless online company influenced the decision to buy their garden building from Dunster House over our competitors.

"Right from our initial visit to the Dunster House showroom in Bedford, we were well looked after by our sales representative, Ricky." And for Chris and Ara, being able to speak to someone face-to-face and talk through their various options provided the confidence to press ahead with a purchase. "Ricky was fabulous throughout the ordering, buying and installation process, which took a lot of the stress out of organising what is a big investment."

Designing the ideal environment

"A highlight for us was planning how best to adapt and lay out the interior of our garden office, so that the room could be used for multiple purposes." And having studied stage design, Ara's experience proved instrumental in creating the ideal environment for a variety of uses.

In fact, after the Dunster House installation team built Chris and Ara's garden office, it only took a further two weeks for the two to add the finishing touches. Commenting on the garden office's beautiful aesthetic, Chris says, "We now have the ideal environment for work, rest and play, as well as a great vantage point from which to admire our old apple tree in the garden!"

Keeping up with the Joneses

Chris and Ara have found that the versatile nature of their garden office has also provided a great space for entertaining guests and throwing al fresco garden parties. Having only just moved into their new home in Pinner, North West London, at the time of purchase, this proved to be a fantastic ice breaker. "Our brand new garden office has been a good way to meet several new neighbours who were intrigued about our project. One of them has since ordered a Dunster House log cabin!”

What does the future hold for Chris, Ara and their garden office?

Many believe that masterpieces are never finished; only abandoned. And to this end, Chris and Ara plan further improvements to their already gorgeous garden office. "We plan to purchase some internal room dividing screens for the interior of the cabin, to facilitate the multi-purpose uses of the space, and also some wooden Venetian type blinds for better light management."

When asked if they would buy from Dunster House again, Chris replied: "Given our experiences so far we would, and already have, recommended Dunster House to many friends and neighbours. So yes, we would definitely buy from you again!”

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Read David's story ▾

Our second case study focuses on David Quinn, the runner up in our 2014 Great British Garden Retreat Competition. David transformed our Valiant 470 Summerhouse into a bright and airy escape from the modern world. Here's how he created his perfect space.

Giving an unloved part of the garden a purpose

It was a friend's summerhouse which first planted the seed in David's mind, to purchase his own from Dunster House. "Some friends had a summerhouse they had built themselves, as part of their garden and they used it all the time," David explained, "It inspired us to get one".

However, another motivation for the renovation was to give a neglected corner of the garden a new lease of life. "We had a small unused hard standing from an old greenhouse and… it seemed an ideal use for an unloved part of the garden."

Choosing a Dunster House garden building

We liked the size and design of the Dunster House Valiant range, and it was good value for money", said David about his decision to choose the Valiant 470 Summerhouse. But for David, the friendly and helpful customer service offered by our team was just as important to his overall experience of the process.

"The delivery driver was excellent. He helped unload it to the back of the house and gave some tips on how to handle the different sections. Customer Service was also helpful when a pane of glass got broken, whilst it was still stacked up. They gave me the correct sizes to order, so it was ready when we assembled it."

A speedy transformation

David and his wife Susan assembled the summerhouse together, with assembly, painting and furnishing all taking place in a matter of weeks. The initial build took three days, with two people for two days on assembly and then David working for one day on shingling the roof.

In total, the entire project took only three weeks, with the three coats of paint inside and out taking up the most time. David's confidence in his choices undoubtedly increased the speed of the process. "I had a design in mind, particularly for the interior. I even knew what sofa was going in it!" The finished product shows a real flair for design, with strong flashes of colour on a neutral background, giving the space real impact.

Getting back to nature

The three weeks of work have certainly been worth it, creating a retreat that David and Susan love. In particular, the summerhouse is a space which allows them to feel closer to nature and escape from everyday life.

"We like how it fits into the garden, far enough away from the house that you feel like you could be anywhere," said David, speaking about his favourite aspect of the finished project. They've even been lucky enough to see some garden wildlife that they might otherwise have missed, and which has helped form one of David's fondest memories of the retreat so far.

"We sat in the summerhouse at night and a family of hedgehogs appeared and spent ages wandering around outside while we watched".

A resounding success

The stylish space, which transforms into a cosy hideaway when night falls, has been a resounding success. "Everyone that sees it loves it. One friend said ‘This isn't a summerhouse, it's a second home!’"

In the future, David and Susan plan to continue improving their summerhouse, making the view from its French windows even more picturesque than it already is. "We plan to install a path from the house down to the summerhouse and there is more landscaping and planting to do around it."

When asked if they would buy from Dunster again, David replied: "Definitely. The product is good and it was great value!"

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Read Matt's story ▾

Our next case study tells the story of Matt Hogben, who came third in our 2014 Great British Garden Retreat Competition. A lover of all things fun, Matt transformed our Lantera 450 Grande into a hangout for family and friends, complete with boy's toys including a pool table, TV, dart board and bar. Here's how he created this enviable space.

A home for a pool table

The idea to buy a log cabin first arose thanks to a disagreement about where to put a rather large 'bargain' purchase of Matt’s.

"The honest truth (behind) the cabin purchase was my 'bargain' £300 pool table from eBay! My partner Jane then exclaimed that we had nowhere to put it, as she likes to use the dining room for eating in – a ridiculous idea, personally!"

While refurbishing their home, Matt and Jane had cleared the garden of many skip's-worth of weeds, roots and stumps. What emerged was a conveniently log cabin sized shape – a perfect solution to the pool table problem.

Choosing a Dunster House garden building

"We came to view a cabin in summer last year at your Bedford site, as we were nearing the completion of our refurbished house and our thoughts turned to the garden," said Matt about the first steps to choosing the Lantera 450 Grande.

"We were pleasantly surprised at the quality, and after being reassured that we could put a deposit down and pay the rest later, when we had time to erect it ourselves, the deal was done."

The essential pool table and bar were an important consideration when it came to choosing the perfect log cabin. "The size of the pool table and the added requirement of the bar (naturally) meant we needed quite a big cabin and with plenty of natural light," said Matt.

Achieving the dream

For Matt and Jane, achieving their dream of the perfect space happened remarkable quickly, with the entire project being completed in a matter of weeks.

"The assembly to being watertight took roughly 2 weeks, with a bit of help from the brother in law. Then it was roughly another slower paced week and a half, painting several coats outside and inside, getting electricians in, carpeting and finishing touches... plus another week to make the seats from a written-off Audi A6 from eBay!"

Matt's experience of dealing with the Dunster House team also made the process more enjoyable. "The sales team were fantastic, really helpful allowing us the time to ensure we could afford it – no pressure whatsoever."

A space for everyone to enjoy

A lover of football, pool and relaxing in the garden, it was important to Matt that the log cabin was a fun space for everyone – from dogs Winnie and Pete, to family and friends.

"Everyone absolutely loves it – there is something for everyone."

Having never built anything more than IKEA furniture in the past, Matt was initially apprehensive about taking on such a big project. However, the log cabin has been a resounding success. "The satisfaction we get when we're in there is amazing, we are so proud of it and everyone who pops in is amazed with the whole project."

"My favourite aspect is the bar; it looks just like an 'Olde Worlde' pub that just makes you relaxed and really brings everyone together for a good party!"

What does the future hold?

Aside from a pump to use water at the end of the garden, Matt's future plans for the log cabin involve having even more fun. So, what are the most important things left to get? "An aerial for the TV to watch the World Cup and some more spirits for the shelf!"

When asked if he would buy from Dunster House again, Matt replied: "Hell yeah, in a heartbeat – though hopefully we won't move for a long time – why would we with that at the bottom of our garden!?"

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Hundreds of you shared your pictures and stories behind your garden retreats and we were delighted with not just the number, but the quality of the entries we received. From cosy cabins to offices, bars, nurseries, craft rooms, music studios and gyms - we saw it all and we look forward to launching another competition in the near future.

If you would like to know more about the competition you can read our blog which has continued updates on the winners, or visit the competition gallery below.

View Entries

Alternatively, you can email us at or find more details on our Terms and Conditions page.