How to buy or build a home office in the garden

It's boom time for the garden office as more people plan to work from home

A home office built by Wakefield-based Cedar Garden Buildings

Many of us have dreamed of having our own “Shoffice”, aka shed office, in the garden but since lockdown imposed homeworking, it has been elevated from “wish list” to “must-have”.

Andy Eamonson, who co-owns Wakefield-based Cedar Garden Buildings, says: “We have been inundated with enquiries about home offices during lockdown and we already have a backlog of work. The interest in them has been absolutely incredible.”

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Architectural designer Nick Midgley has witnessed the same phenomenon. He says: “I am seeing a surge in enquiries and new design work for people wanting home office/studio spaces.

Yorkshire architect Ric Blenkharn and his wife, Judith, designed and built this contemporary garden office

“They have been working at home since lockdown and don’t want to go back to city centre offices. They want to cut the commute and have a better quality work environment and more family time. Employers are also waking up to the fact that many employees are happier at home.”

The high demand has prompted Calderdale-based Nick and fellow designer Neil Wilson to launch Urban Cabin, a business devoted to creating bespoke garden studios.

Freelance designer Jane Heyworth is evangelical about her shed office. It sits in the garden of her house near Hebden Bridge and cost £20,000. Well insulated and waterproof with two large windows and a glazed door, it has light and power, a desk and chair, shelves and a small sofa.

“I used to rent an office space but investing in my shed means I have no rent to pay. A lot of my work is done remotely but if clients come here, they love it,” she says. “It’s got a lovely view of the garden and it’s very peaceful. I have also found that I am much more productive now.”

The corner window at sitting height gives glorious views of the garden and countryside beyond

Her garden building will be a big selling point if she puts the house on the market. Garden offices are sought-after and can also be used as hobby rooms and playrooms.

Most garden offices do not need planning permission if the building is a maximum height of 2.5 metres and if it is within two metres of the house boundary. If you live in a National Park, listed building or conservation area you need to seek permission from the local planning authority.

Expect to pay from £15,000 upwards for a small shoffice with a base and connection to an electricity supply. It must be insulated and have power points for laptops and a heater, otherwise it won’t be usable year-round. Beware of cowboy operators who have jumped on the “posh shed” bandwagon and make sure you check out their credentials and ask to see examples of work they have done.

If you are handy, you may want to build your own home office. Architect and Yorkshire Post columnist Ric Blenkharn and his wife, Judith, did just that.

Inside Ric and Judith's garden office. Wi-fi is accessed via the house

“We wanted to build a little office in the garden, a place to work, read, write and generally be creative. We eventually got round to building it two years ago as a DIY project over the summer,” says Ric, who had to get planning consent for it as their home has a Grade II listing.

As it measures just 3.5 x 2.5 metres, permission was not an issue and the Blenkharns set to after creating a concrete base. The shed office is a simple timber-framed building that is clad in OSB board with a breathable membrane. This is topped with corrugated Onduline cladding fixed on battens.

The frame inside is insulated in 100mm rigid insulation and lined in birch plywood with shadow gap detailing. The floor is covered with industrial studded rubber sheeting and the roof is waterproofed by a double layer of pond liner.

Ric’s plan was to have two windows but Judith suggested making a wraparound corner window, which makes the most of the view across the garden to open fields. “The window is set at a height relative to seating level and I made it from two sheets of double glazing with a rebated corner detail. The glass is set in an aluminium frame,” says Ric, who has put castors on the building so it is easily moveable.

Sally Coulthard's book, Shed Decor, offers a briliant guide on how to decorate your garden building

Inside, the desk is a piece of kitchen worktop and the shoffice is heated by a tubular greenhouse heater with an integral thermostat. The only non-DIY element was the plastering of the ceiling, which was done by Barry Johnson, from Johnson and Walton Contractors.

Most materials were sourced from their local builder’s merchant MKM in Malton and the glass was supplied by Calverts Glass in Malton and wi-fi is available from the router in the house, which has a booster. The total cost for the DIY shoffice was £4,500 for the entire building. To get the professionals in to supply materials and build the same product would cost about £12,000.

“Clearly, we must have had a premonition about home working, as the shed has been a tremendous asset over the past three months in lockdown. It is three paces from the back door and has meant that I can still go to work and at the end of a long day, shut the door and return home. My journey time is less than five seconds,” says Ric, who adds: “I’ve been intrigued by those Zoom meetings that show people across the country making ad hoc office spaces in dining rooms and bedrooms. “I must say that an office in the garden is definitely the way forward. Sure, you miss the social interaction with office colleagues but the productivity in shed isolation is great and it’s only four steps away from the kettle. Shoffice working is the future.”

Shoffice Inspiration

*If you want to know more about what it’s like to work in a garden office and where to find one, check out Alex Johnson’s blog, www.shedworking.co.uk and his book ‘Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution’.

*For more inspiration and to marvel at people’s creativity, then www.readersheds.co.uk is the place to go.

*Yorkshire author and shed worker Sally Coulthard has two great books on the subject. ‘How to Build a Shed’ and ‘Shed Decor’.

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