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Sandro Marcal

A meeting at the Grand Designs Live 2008 show led a truly cosmopolitan house owner to explore how the vibrancy of Rooms Outdoor's modern design could transform his neglected outside area into a calm oasis within the cityscape of Brixton.

Sandro purchased his traditional three-storey Victorian house in Brixton six years ago. Having already been familiar with the area for over ten years he was drawn to the Conservation area and the original features that the house offered as well as the scope offered by the front and back gardens.

As part of the move he had already identified a dilapidated concrete garage as an area that would provide him with the scope for adding more living space to the property. When he visited the Grand Designs show he had already considered an extension but was concerned that it would not sit comfortably alongside the three-storey house.

'I was able to view a number of outdoor rooms at the show' says Sandro. 'It gave me an excellent opportunity to compare the different buildings available but I was really impressed by the contemporary design of the Rooms Outdoor building. It demonstrated just how versatile it could be with a bathroom and toilet included'. Sandro had some very specific details that he wanted to include in the building and Rooms Outdoor were happy to discuss how to include these.

'I also liked the fact that the company was based in London not far away from my home. After meeting the Rooms Outdoor team, I felt that I would be getting a really personal local service. Some of the other companies did not seem to offer the same levels of experience or design or were just based too far away to give me the reassurance I wanted on such a project'. 

On first inspection by the Rooms Outdoor surveyor it was clear that Sandro needed the expertise of a company that would be able to manage the whole project. As well as being within the Conservation area, which would entail planning permission, (note the planning rules changed in October 2008 meaning this project would not require planning approval if it were to be carried out now) a large 'Tree of Heaven' was sited in the centre of the garden. The tree has a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) necessitating the involvement of the Council's Tree Officer for any work potentially affecting its root system.

A key element of getting this approval was the design of the foundation system. Rooms Outdoor appointed an independent arboriculturalist to produce an impact assessment report on the proposal which was to incorporate the tree as part of the design of the outdoor Yellow Balau decked area to the building. His conclusion was that due to the sympathetic design of the foundation system and the methods used to install them it would have no long term or significant impact on the health of the tree. Another key element was to incorporate a rain water trench under the building to divert rain water from the roof of the building towards the roots of the tree. Once plans for the tree were underway, a further challenge was in the demolition of the old garage.

'I had realised that the garage had an asbestos roof' says Sandro, 'so it was important to me that Rooms Outdoor were also able to handle the entire site clearance. They carried out the safe removal of the asbestos including packaging it in a special asbestos skip and then cleared and levelled the whole garage site. It would have been impossible for me to do this job myself.

'I was amazed that once work had started on the site how quick it took to complete. It was nice to know that I was not paying by the hour and that I had a whole price for the job which makes it a lot less stressful but the work was done very quickly anyway.' Sandro likes everything to be perfect and he was keeping a very careful eye on the work. He was very happy that the project was being properly supervised and that the guys took pride in their work.

'I also found that the office was really helpful - there is obviously a huge amount of work that goes on in the background to these projects and I felt that they were so trustworthy that I even gave them the house key while I was on holiday so that they would get on with the job.

'Rooms Outdoor handled absolutely everything from the initial concept through to manufacturing the building, putting in the electrical system and making sure it complies with the latest regulations, right up to the final lick of paint. All we had to do was to choose our furniture.

'The end result is a truly stunning addition to the house. The bespoke design has large aluminium sliding doors which give a great view from the inside out and it has created an area flooded with light for both working and entertaining.

'One of the most important features of the new building is a large fitted wardrobe covering the entire back wall of the building. This offers much needed additional storage space - something you can never have enough these days! It is amazing that our outdoor room is now the largest room in the entire property - situated in an area that once was completely unused.

'I have just bought a table which will seat 12 people and am also really pleased with the sound system which Rooms Outdoor put in for us. It has speakers inside and outside buried in the garden so we can select music remotely using the iphone even inside the existing house'.

Outside the effect is just as impressive. The extended Yellow Balau deck was designed with an interesting angle and fitted around the 'Tree of Heaven' with a circular cut out. The decking is a tropical hardwood from certified forests and has beautiful warmth and character. It is also particularly robust and suitable to changeable weather conditions without warping or requiring chemical treatment for preservation.

'The design has really brought the tree alive' says Sandro. 'It makes an amazing feature in the garden and is a real talking point.

'This is not the sort of project that you do everyday and it was Rooms Outdoor that helped make it happen. I work in the service industry and I know that it is people and service that make a difference and this was definitely the case with this project. As far as the investment is concerned, I'm sure it has added value to my property but more importantly it has added value to my life as well'.

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