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The rise of Shoffice

Sheree Foy's garden office
Sheree Foy's garden office
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More of us are shunning traditional workspace for a “Shoffice”. Sharon Dale looks at the pros, cons and the costs.

In the not-too-distant past, working in the shed generally meant you were potting plants, brewing beer or doing a bit of amateur carpentry. Now shed workers are more likely to be running a business from the hut at the bottom of the garden thanks to the phenomenal growth of the “Shoffice”, short for Shed Office.

Sheree in her  office, which features acoutsic insulation and glazing, along with Cat6 cabling.

Sheree in her office, which features acoutsic insulation and glazing, along with Cat6 cabling.

Alex Johnson, author of Shedworking: the Alternative Workplace Revolution and founder of www.shedworking.co.uk and www.themicrolife.co.uk, says: “It’s been an amazing upward curve. Initially, suppliers just provided slightly fancier sheds, then they started playing around with size and shape and that’s starting to morph into providing buildings for the tiny house market. Generally, the buildings have become much more complex so that garden offices are now as well fitted out as a modern home.”

Shed workers rarely have any gripes about their accommodation. The most common is that they have to fight off other members of their family who are keen to share it.

The biggest benefits, according to Alex Johnson, include “the lack of commute married with a separation between home and office. It means that you don’t spend hours pointlessly travelling every day but you still have that sense of ceremony of leaving home and going to work.”

He adds that a “posh shed” also adds value to your property. “Plus you can decorate your garden office how you like and wear what you like inside it and that can be nothing at all if you wish.”

The office is constructed from western red cedar.

The office is constructed from western red cedar.

Andy Eamonson, of Wakefield-based Cedar Garden Rooms, has built 60 garden offices and says: “In a lot of cases they free up the spare room in the house. We’ve built one for a fruit importer, a property developer, a banker and a travel agent, to name a few.”

Prices vary and so does quality. Expect to pay about £15,000 for a small Shoffice with a concrete base and connection to an electricity supply.

Most garden buildings do not usually need planning permission if the building is a maximum height of 2.5 metres if 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.

Sheree Foy, a property consultant and buying agent who runs Source Harrogate – The Property Finders, is a recent convert to shedworking and now recommends it to clients. She says: “Clients often ask me for advice when looking to buy a home that just needs a little more accommodation or if their existing houses need a bit of a space injection. I ask if they have thought about a garden office, gym or chillout space. The looks on people’s faces tell me that an image of a shed has sprung to mind – damp and freezing in winter and hot and humid in summer.”

Alex Johnson's former shed office, where his book Shedworking was written.

Alex Johnson's former shed office, where his book Shedworking was written.

To remove this notion, she shows them her Shoffice, constructed in western red cedar. Built by Ripon-based Oeco Garden Rooms, it measures five metres by four metres and costs £22,000 after she specified a number of upgrades including inset LED lights plus acoustic slab insulation in the walls and floor, acoustic plasterboard and acoustic Planitherm glass, which reduces noise from outside.

She then added Haverland electric radiators, a hi-fi system and Cat 6 cabling and fibre broadband for high-speed internet connection. The minimalist blinds that sit inside the window frames are from Curtains and Blinds in Harrogate. The second-hand office furniture was a bargain buy and Sheree painted the walls in light colours decorated with images of Harrogate through the seasons.

Outside, Jamie Goddard Gardens did the landscaping and seven-foot high laurels from Wykeham Mature plants in Scarborough were used to screen the building.

“An unused part of the garden has been transformed into a little rural retreat. If done stylishly these outside spaces improve marketability of a property and can prove to be a good investment,” says Sheree.

“Costs are extremely reasonable compared to either extending an existing home or moving house to get more space. There’s a little bit of project management involved in pulling it all together but nothing more onerous than ensuring everyone arrives in the right order. In just three weeks, a merry band of Yorkshire tradesmen created the perfect garden office for me.”

The benefits are already apparent. “My clients seem to visibly relax more in my garden office when we discuss some of the stressful aspects of buying a house. Why? I don’t know – maybe it is being closer to nature.”

Top Shoffice tips

Alex Johnson says: “In terms of the kind of building you need, it all depends on what you’re planning to do, but generally not much more than four walls and a roof, and sometimes not even that.

“I’ve come across people tentworking more times than readers might imagine. What you don’t want is anything too vast or you end up feeling a bit lost, or too small where you cram everything in like the worst kind of cubicle. In terms of amenities, most people will need power – usually electricity but increasingly solar is becoming popular. You also need wifi, although there again I know several writers who deliberately don’t have wifi so that they can escape the evils of the interwebs.”

Sheree Foy says: “If you are aiming to truly bring the outside in, then think carefully about location. Your thoughts should include not only how to get to the garden office (no trips across waterlogged lawns), but also where the sun rises and falls and even where the windows will be placed to give sight lines to your favourite part of the garden. Don’t forget the practicality of how easy it will be to bring power, broadband and possibly water to the garden office.”