Summerhouse was formed in 1986 in Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, England. Its original aim was to tap into the flow of leading independent bands passing through the area's Dovecot Arts Centre, where label founder William Jones was working as Music Officer, and provide an outlet for some of the region's own bands, centring on those of Jones and collaborator Carl Green.
Securing distribution deals initially with Probe Plus and then Red Rhino, Summerhouse launched with a batch of three singles, from Friends, Whirlpool Guest House and highly tipped Lincoln band 4,000,000 Telephones. The Telephones, who had already released a home-produced album on their own Bunker label, were particularly successful in Germany, where they had built a reputation through touring.
The early Summerhouse house style was decidedly pop, with the exception of 4,000,000 Telephones, whose avant-garde funk was accompanied by a manic performing style. Whirlpool Guest House did not perform live at all, presenting instead taped performances of their music to the accompaniment of films shot by songwriter Carl Green.
Singles and albums from the three bands were followed by the signing of Rumblefish and Quinn The Eskimo. Rumblefish were arguably the most fashionable band on the extremely fashionable Pink Label and released two 12" singles on Summerhouse before moving on to East West. The onward growth of the label was interrupted by the liquidation of Red Rhino and Summerhouse sought alternative distribution. By the time this was found the Red Rhino debacle had halted sales of most of the bands, 4,000,000 Telephones split up shortly afterwards, and Summerhouse re-emerged in a slimmed-down form, featuring Friends and Whirlpool Guest House, now renamed Shandy Wildtyme, and finally performing live. Friends were the biggest-selling act on the label and by the early 90s had released three albums and three singles.
In 1994 Summerhouse relocated to Sheffield and began re-manufacturing the catalogue on CD. During this period Friends released their fourth, fifth and sixth albums, having teamed up with producer John Spence at Fairview Studios in Hull. A debut album from Shandy Wildtyme and a series of live dates with Friends followed before Shandy Wildtyme split up in late 1995. A novelty 7" single from former International Rescue frontman and Edwyn Collins guitarist Steve Skinner came out around this time, before the label reverted in the late 90s to releasing Friends music only.
In 1999 Summerhouse moved to London, and started to become active again after a few quiet years. Friends had built up a huge backlog of songs and released a Best Of Friends compilation and a series of new studio albums, and the first new artist for many years was signed in 2001. In a new departure for the label, Southbeach was a solo dance music writer and producer, and released the first in a series of 12" singles, a progressive house track entitled Hotel de Paris, in late 2002. Retrospective albums by 4,000,000 Telephones and Rumblefish appeared in late 2006, and in early 2007 Belgian band Showstar joined the label, releasing <.> (pronounced 'Dot') in summer 2007.