Shed start: Tips for creating your own garden office

PUBLISHED: 10:48 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:18 25 March 2020

The Cork Studio - an eco garden office made partly from cork - was one of 32 sheds shortlisted in the 2017 Shed of the Year competition. Picture: Cuprinol Shed of the Year

The Cork Studio - an eco garden office made partly from cork - was one of 32 sheds shortlisted in the 2017 Shed of the Year competition. Picture: Cuprinol Shed of the Year

Free to use - please credit Cuprinol as the official sponsor of Shed of the Year

The coronavirus means working from home is the new norm for many of us – but lack of space can be an issue. St Albans-based shed specialist Alex Johnson has a solution, however – the garden office...

Philip Pullman's old writing shed also made the shortlist in the 2017 Shed of the Year competition. Picture: Cuprinol Shed of the YearPhilip Pullman's old writing shed also made the shortlist in the 2017 Shed of the Year competition. Picture: Cuprinol Shed of the Year

The world of work has changed almost overnight. For the last 15 years via my website Shedworking I’ve been encouraging people to consider working from home in garden offices and seen a steady increase in interest suddenly turn into a mighty flood this week as people look for a new office location.

A garden office offers a decent solution. Right from the start of the day it offers you the same kind of ceremony as your normal commute (only happily it’s just a 30 second one). This is important as that brief walk down to the end of your garden marks a clear psychological difference between where you work and where you live. You feel like you’ve ‘gone to work’ rather than merely sat up in bed and wedged your laptop onto a pillow.

Having an office in the garden also means that you don’t need to cover your kitchen table with papers or turn your dining room or spare room into a makeshift office. Those spaces continue to be used for what they’re intended.

The other problem with working in the house is the other people. If your laptop and papers are in the garden office then the chances of small children spilling orange juice on them are much lower - of course, you still need to have somebody looking after them in the house, but if there are two of you at home you could try working on a shift system.

If you’re quite DIY handy, you can have a go at building a garden office yourself, but the most common choice is to buy an off-the-peg model from one of the many professional specialist suppliers (though some do supply kits). So what should you consider when shopping around?

In terms of price, a garden office is cheaper than an extension, conservatory, or loft conversion, but it’s not an insignificant sum. As a rough guide, look to spend at least £5,000 and realistically more like £10,000 (though the sky really is the limit if you want to splash out).

This shed in Ayot St Lawrence was used by George Bernard Shaw as his writing hut. Picture: Aex JohnsonThis shed in Ayot St Lawrence was used by George Bernard Shaw as his writing hut. Picture: Aex Johnson

Suppliers can often help with finance packages but it’s worth taking a longer-term view as a decent garden office adds value to your property. There’s no hard data on exact figures, but estate agents estimate it can boost selling prices by at least 5 per cent, and at the very least sway a buyer into making a decision.

The choice is huge in terms of size (don’t worry if you have a very small garden, there are some amazingly clever compact designs out there), shape, price, and optional extras. Pick and mix from traditional sheddish-looking designs, sedum roofs, circular/spherical models, shepherds’ huts, off-grid solutions, mezzanine levels, solar panels, living walls, and outdoor showers. Timber is the most common building material but there are other options featuring maintenance-free products, and I’ve even seen some built from eco-friendly materials such as cob or straw bales.

There is a bewildering number of companies selling garden offices out there so take your time to research.

The following is a list of reputable operators: smartgardenoffices.co.uk, garden2office.co.uk, moderngardenoffices.co.uk, arcticcabins.co.uk, gardenaffairs.co.uk, boothsgardenstudios.co.uk, plankbridge.com, edengardenrooms.co.uk, tinyhouseuk.co.uk.

Size is a key consideration. This will depend on your individual needs but be careful not to get something too small as it’s easy to underestimate how quickly the space fills up once you have a desk, chair, bookshelves, and other equipment (I kept a cider press in my first garden office, though this is not mandatory). On the other hand, don’t go for anything too vast which will dominate your garden and in which you will rattle around.

Also think about planning permission and building regulations. This is a very thorny area and it’s vital to talk to local planning officers before you put down a deposit or go ahead with any build as authorities differ in their approach – considerations include height and distance from boundaries. For a straightforward garden office build you should be fine, but if you want to do anything noisy inside your building or want to construct something enormous, then be prepared to be disappointed.

George Bernard Shaw's former shed is set in gorgeous grounds. Picture: Aex JohnsonGeorge Bernard Shaw's former shed is set in gorgeous grounds. Picture: Aex Johnson

A current pressing concern is of course the coronavirus. I’ve been speaking to garden office suppliers all week and many are now offering ‘virtual’ site visits.

For more details visit www.shedworking.co.uk


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