Focal point

Tim Sykes of Gardenproud reveals the history of the folly and why it makes such a wonderful addition to any garden – big or small…


Follies have been an important feature of English and French landscapes for hundreds of years.

Our concept of what constitutes a folly is very much in the eyes of the beholder. In other words, it could be ornamental or decorative; it

could have a practical purpose disguised to blend or contrast with the landscape; it may be eclectic in its design, or historic, or it could be very contemporary. And it is likely to be a focal point in the garden

Think of the Pantheon at Stourhead in Wiltshire for example. The view of the temple and the Palladian bridge is iconic, created by Henry Hoare and his son in the mid-18th Century and designed by the renowned architect Henry Flitcroft. (

In the modern garden the folly might masquerade as a garden room, or a ‘man cave’. Cedar clad boxes (there are some very nice ones) immediately spring to mind. But it could be a building of architectural merit that adds something to the garden.

Take for example the stunning mirrored building that reflects the landscape. Called the ÖÖD House and distributed in the UK by Roundwood of Mayfield (  it sits beautifully in any landscape. This particular example doubles up as an Air BnB!

The folly combines the practical with the aesthetic. That means it could work as an office, a potting shed, a gym, a music room, a bar area, a wellness centre, or even an outdoor lounge.

We recently visited the Millennium Pavilion at Oare House in Wiltshire. The property is a grade 1 listed house dating from 1740. Built for the London wine merchant Henry Deacon. Along a tree lined avenue to the west of the gardens, at the peak of a slope, stands a stunning piece of architecture that contrasts splendidly with the Georgian mansion. It was designed by the famous Chinese American architect I.M. Peri (famous for the Louvre Pyramid) as a summerhouse and was completed in 2004 for the businessman Sir Henry Keswick and his wife Tessa.

Back on Mother Earth we have recently designed and built our own folly in the shape and style of a Moroccan Riad garden building. You can visit this at Corker Outdoor Living

Conceived by George Sykes, our folly fulfils a similar role as the Millennium Pavilion, which is that of an outdoor lounge and relaxation space, all under cover.

At nearby Sissinghurst there are at least two follies worth visiting. The one I find most interesting is the Sissinghurst Gazebo. It is a beautiful weatherboard building, reminiscent of an angular Kentish Oast House. The building was erected in 1969 as a memorial to Sir Harold Nicholson, the husband of Vita Sackville-West. One of Nicholson’s sons used the Gazebo as his office, beautifully perched on the banks of the moat that borders the meadow at Sissinghurst. On a recent visit I discovered that the building, designed by Francis Pym, is the exact size and dimensions of the Apollo 11 command module which took Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon that same year. What an amazing provenance to give to a building! (

One other icon I have recently had the pleasure of enjoying is the folly at Hauser & Wirth in Somerset. This is called the Radic Pavilion and it was designed by Chilean Architect, Smiljan Radic in 2014. Originally featured at the Serpentine London, it now rests in its permanent location amidst the incredible perennial meadow garden created by Dutch landscape architect, Piet Oudolf. (

Finally, if you are thinking of creating a folly on a budget then look no further. Here we have a clever way of disguising a common garden shed and turning it into a stunning garden studio. The building is insulated and clad inside and out, with lighting, heating, Wi-Fi and music. It even has a fridge!


For further information or help with your garden design contact Tim Sykes on
07725 173820.

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