Want to beat the British weather? Put up a pod! Forget pizza ovens and firepits. Invite your chums round to chill out with a glamorous garden igloo

  • Pods designed to keep out showers have become a must-have garden accessory 
  • Shelters can cost anything from £400 up to an eye-popping £24,000 
  • Harry Wallop reveals the best pods available in the UK to suit any budget 

Forget that fancy barbecue or swanky outdoor sofa — this year’s must-have garden accessory is a pod.

Designed to keep out summer showers and breezes but let in the sunlight, garden pods or igloos promise to transform your standard lawn into a Tuscan terrace or San Francisco sundeck. Or that’s the idea.

‘It’s insane at the moment,’ says Nathalie Davis, co-founder of Cuckooland, a retailer of homewares and garden equipment which has gone from selling five different pods a year to 20 versions so far in 2021.

And customers appear willing to spend considerable sums on them.

The shelters can cost anything from £400, at the bottom end of the market, all the way up to deluxe pods with sliding doors and bluetooth speakers which will set you back a somewhat eye-popping £24,000.

John Lewis has seen a boom in demand for its small range of expensive pods, which includes one with a price tag of £23,995.

Harry Wallop reveals a selection of the best pods available in the UK to suit any budget. Pictured: The Astreea Igloo gets a thumbs up from Harry

‘Our gardens have worked harder than ever for us in the past 12 months, with many of us investing in outdoor furniture, cooking equipment and quirky items such as pizza ovens and firepits to create additional social space in our homes,’ says Ian Ellis, outdoor buyer at John Lewis.

‘Garden pods are particularly attractive, though, as they create an extra room.’

Manufacturers and retailers say the trend started a couple of years ago, when restaurants and cafes started to invest in pods.

‘Prior to coronavirus, Christmas markets, hotels and cafes were buying them for the winter months so they could monetise their outside space,’ explains Nathalie at Cuckooland.

‘Then the public spotted them and started to think: “Maybe that would look great in my own garden.” Then, with Covid, came the rule of six, allowing six people to meet outside but not inside.’

With the further easing of lockdown restrictions, groups of six will be allowed to meet up indoors from today in England. But, thanks to the British weather and travel restrictions, Nathalie is confident the trend for garden pods is here to stay.

‘There are a lot of people who don’t want to travel and want to invest more into their own home and garden, especially those working mostly from home,’ she says.

At the very top end, one might wonder why consumers would pay for a pod rather than a garden room or conservatory.

Harry said the Alvantor bubble tent pop-up (pictured) is perfect for those who want to eat outside on a chilly day and still enjoy the view

‘Garden pods are different to a traditional building, and this uniqueness is particularly appealing to some of our customers,’ explains Ian Ellis at John Lewis. ‘They can have open sides, which makes them the perfect spot to relax in the shade or utilise as an alfresco dining space on a warm summer’s evening.’

The cheaper ones don’t have the comfort, electrics, heating or shade that these swanky ones have, but they do provide more shelter than a pop-up gazebo, as I discovered when I tried out the Astreea Igloo for a week.

Happily, you can forget having to wear your thermals and ski boots while eating outside: an igloo manages to keep you relatively protected from the elements yet allows you to look up at the stars.

‘The beauty of pods, and the reason they have become so big,’ explains Nathalie, ‘is that they are enclosed but you still feel like you are outside.’

So which one should you go for? Well, that depends on your budget . . .

BUBBLING UP

Alvantor bubble tent pop-up, £399.99, 3.2 m diameter, amazon.co.uk

The budget option and hardly beautiful. More pop-up see-through tent than fully-fledged pod, this will, however, provide proper shelter — as long as a gale isn’t howling.

The manufacturers warn buyers that this isn’t suitable for extreme weather and you do need to secure it with some guy ropes.

That said, it is pretty swift to put up and would be perfect for those who want to eat outside on a chilly day and still enjoy the view.

SPINNING AROUND

Farmer’s Cottage rotating seated garden pod, £8,999, 2.4 m diameter, johnlewis.com

Harry said Farmer’s Cottage rotating seated garden pod (pictured) seats seven or eight guests as a very modern summer house 

George Bernard Shaw famously had a rotating writing hut. This is the equivalent for the 21st century.

The pod swivels round to allow the entrance to face the sun or shade, or away from a stiff breeze. Simply give it a push.

Cleverly, it can be configured either as a dining room, with internal lighting (though no heating), seating seven or eight guests, albeit quite snugly; or the table can be lowered and the entire pod becomes an extended day-bed.

The stainless steel exterior reflects the heat and provides shade, and in winter you can attach a canopy to close up the exposed entry. A very funky and modern summer house.

MAKE A STATEMENT

Hype Dome Garden Pod, £2,995, 3.6 m diameter, cuckoo land.com

Harry said Hype Dome Garden Pod (pictured) is very elegant, but will take the best part of a day to put up 

This is for style fiends who want to make a statement. It is very elegant but very expensive, considering it is little more than a big plastic dome, without lighting or electricity.

And if you want one with panels that open to allow in a breeze, or you want shade, you will have to pay extra — £115 for a window and £250 for a sun shade.

Made using polycarbonate panels, it promises to look indistinguishable from glass but is far stronger and lighter.

It’s still pretty heavy, though: it weighs 100kg when fully constructed.

And be warned, it will take the best part of a day to put up.

NO EXPENSE SPARED

Grand Deluxe Garden pod, £23,995, 3.3 m diameter, cuckooland.com

Harry said Grand Deluxe Garden pod (pictured) is best for those who have big gardens

The Maserati of garden pods, with a similarly fancy price tag. It resembles a yacht more than a garden shed, with bluetooth speakers, a suede interior, sliding doors and windows, heating and a dining table for 12 which folds down into a coffee table. There’s even mood lighting.

For this sum, you could build yourself a conservatory, but would it be as stylish or as much fun? Plus, at least you don’t need planning permission with this.

For those with big gardens — and even bigger wallets.

IGLOO ELEGANCE

Astreea Igloo, £1,078, 3m diameter (medium size), astreeauk.co.uk

Harry said Astreea Igloo (pictured) took nearly four hours to set up, but sits six pretty easily and is quite elegant 

This is the one I tried out in my garden. It consists of an aluminium frame over which a PVC covering is stretched. The estimated two-hour construction time was a little ambitious, and it was hard work stretching the PVC taut enough so the igloo looks like glass, rather than saggy plastic.

It took me nearly four hours, with my strapping 18-year-old son helping me for an hour of that. Once up, it’s quite elegant, sits six pretty easily, and the pre-installed exposed filament retro light bulbs are great — ensuring a wow factor. 

You and your friends can enjoy a pretty cosy evening, even when the temperature plummets, once you zip up the door. (A summer shade cover costs an extra £358.) The igloo is about four times the price of a similar sized pop-up gazebo. Is it really four times better? Probably.

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