Contemporary exterior design ideas for a granny annexe

Contemporary exterior design ideas for a granny annexe


Granny annexes have always played an important part in British architecture and their origin dates back to Victorian times when the owners of large English, Welsh, and Scottish estates would build secondary dwellings, or “dowagers” for the widow of the estate owner to live in after the heir of the estate moved in.

Over the years, this remnant of aristocratic tradition started to slowly make a comeback and, between 2014 and 2016, more than 33,000 new such annexes were built in the UK, an increase of nearly 40%. The revival of this type of secondary dwelling is due to many reasons, from soaring property prices to the increasing cost of childcare. Then there’s also the fact that homeowners can rent out the granny annexe to supplement their income.

No matter why you’ve decided to build an annexe, one thing is certain: despite the Victorian roots of this type of construction, nothing should stop you from giving it a modern touch and adapting it to your lifestyle. But, if playing around with interiors is relatively easy, and you can easily freshen up the place with a new coat of paint, lighting tricks, and new accessories, exterior details can be harder to get right.

Let’s have a look at the modern interpretation of the granny annexe and discover how you can give it a contemporary touch through exterior design.


Choose a flat roof

The roof is one of the first things that people notice about a house and often the element that places it in a certain architectural style. Although the annexe will not be the focus of your property, it needs to match the modern style of the main home. To avoid a design clash, choose a flat roof for your granny annexe or go for a pitched roof with a very low slope.

Flat roofs are one of the key elements in modern home design and we’ve seen them everywhere from the glamorous celebrity villas in LA to the hygge homes in Scandinavia. Creating a simple, geometric shape, the flat roof is great if you love minimalism and that sense of effortless elegance. To make things even better, the benefits of a flat roof aren’t just aesthetic. Compared to pitched roofs, flat ones:

  • require fewer materials
  • are easier to install
  • require little maintenance
  • they provide easier access, simplifying tasks such as cleaning gutters and making repairs
  • they even allow you to set up a rooftop garden if you want to go the extra mile

However, you will need to discuss drainage options in detail with your contractor. Since there won’t be a slope, water may gather in puddles on the roof, which can be problematic in areas with heavy rainfall such as the UK.


Bi-fold doors and large windows

Modern home design is all about creating the illusion of a bright and open space. To achieve this, consider replacing traditional heavy doors with French or bi-fold doors, which let in plenty of natural light even when they are closed – a key benefit you don’t want to ignore if the annexe will serve as a residence for an elderly relative. Don’t let the extra visibility fool you: despite the appearance of openness, bi-fold doors are highly secure thanks to their multi-point locking systems.

For even more natural light and improved aesthetics, choose large, panoramic windows. Not only do they ramp up the lighting in the annexe, but they’re also energy-efficient and will save you save on utility bills in the winter.

Many homeowners avoid glass doors and large windows for privacy reasons, but there are many ways around this problem, such as buying window shades or installing a privacy window film. This way, you can even rent out the annexe and privacy won’t pose a challenge.


Integrate greenery

Plants have a way of brightening up every living space and making it more welcoming. You already have some plants inside, so why not add greenery around the annexe too?

One of the common “traps” of minimal construction is that, without accessories, it can look like a concrete box with no personality, but plants can change this in an instant and turn the annexe into an oasis.

If you’re blessed with a large enough garden, possibilities are endless. From trees that add shade in the summer to water features and bushes, you can experiment with many landscaping ideas. But, even if you’re short on space, you shouldn’t give up. A landscaping expert can suggest ways you can plan out your courtyard space and squeeze in small patches of greenery. For instance, did you know that you can hang plants vertically to save space or plant greenery on the roof? The last one is a favourite hack of British architects because, in addition to looking amazing, it also utilises the natural water filtering function of plants to reduce stormwater runoff.


Choose contrasting finishes

Can’t decide between metal, stone, glass, and brick for the finish of the annexe? Good news, you don’t have to. Mixing and matching contrasting materials and finishes plays an important part in exterior home décor and, more specifically, in contemporary exterior home décor.

When combined right, contrasting finishes help you achieve a stunning visual effect. Not only do they not clash, but they can also balance each other out. For example, stone and brick inserts can add some homeliness to a plain glass finish, while natural wood panels can add a rustic element to otherwise stark, modern facades.

Modern home design is all about bending the rules and creating a living space where comfort meets functionality. When designing a granny annexe, you have just as many options as when you’re designing the main property, so create a few boards online to explore various exterior finishes and capture the perfect mood.

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