Thinking about a Garden Office?


Thursday 2nd May 2019

Chris Brookes has recently been thinking about adding a dedicated work space to her home - and asked the ICG egroup for suggestions and experiences.  Here is a summary of the responses she received...

I’ve got a tiny house which I love – but the (lack of) space it offers makes it difficult at crunch points to live/work/entertain in that same space.  Having looked very briefly into the costs involved with loft conversion and extensions and deciding I didn’t want to take that on, I came across the idea of “garden offices” which are double glazed, insulated, and have a power supply for heating and lighting; the idea being that you can work in them year-round.

It occurred to me that other ICGers must have done or considered this route already and so I posted to the e-group on 24 April to gather some feedback.  What did I discover from the super-quick and thoughtful responses I got?

Yes it’s a great idea

First of all, the response was overwhelmingly (though not universally) positive:

  • “I love the space [20 sq m] and have enough…to separate office/workspace from relaxation area.”
  • “I love it that we just wander down the garden to the office now, we also have a resident wild peacock which is a great source of entertainment…We just had our first winter here and we were as warm as toast, best thing we have done, wish we had done it earlier…”
  • “I love my 20 second commute when I work from home, and it’s great to have a dedicated place for work that is away from the house. Wish I’d done it years ago!”
  • “It helps to create emotional separation between home and work.”
  • “It is great and I am so much more relaxed with my work…I would fully encourage anyone to get a home office. It is the future and I love it.”

The person who wasn’t a fan said “I prefer to be surrounded by all my stuff at home really!”

What to watch out for

The main ‘watch-out’ was connectivity of internet, computers and phones. There were a number of solutions:

  • “Ensure you get a Wi-Fi connection – distance from my house meant an additional line but we have 135 mbps most of the time and I use Skype all day with no issues.”
  • [However]“…all is not lost if your WiFi doesn’t reach your new office…I invested in some Powerline adaptors which make use of your electrical supply to send the internet around rather than using WiFi…TP Link and Devolo were the brands most recommended, I went with the latter and have been more than happy.” Different adapters come with different numbers of Ethernet connections so bear that in mind depending on how many things you’d like connected.
  • “Try to hardwire the internet to the office.  If you’re having electrics installed it shouldn’t be difficult to route some Ethernet cables to your main hub.”
  • Create a single network that your work and home computers connect to so you can print work files on your home computer as well as your work one.
  • If you use a separate business landline, buy 2+ landlines with strong signal and put one in the house so you can answer a business call when you’re in the house.

In addition, heating and insulation were mentioned a lot: “Go for insulation and if possible look into a heat exchanger as an economic way to heat/cool the place…better than getting an air-con unit.” Underfloor heating “definitely helped during the winter months.”

Think about a heat source that you can switch on from home or have on a timer.

Depending on how far the office is from the house, think about lighting the walk to and from the office after dark that you can switch on and off from both office and home.

One person said a garden office is a “great idea…One pretty obvious point though: it is separate – that can be a good thing, but a potential disadvantage if you have a partner who is in the main home, especially if you spend ‘too much’ time in the office.  Maybe just something to be aware of, clocking on/off times, or even some audio/visual wi-fi based connection…”

A top tip before you decide

  • “Shop around…look outside your immediate area as many will travel.”

Recommended suppliers

The following suppliers had one or more devoted customers:

Smartgardenoffices.co.uk (“Superb quality and service; I’m delighted with mine”).

Homesteadtimberbuildings.co.uk (“brilliant…Great bunch of guys who did all the work who were great company and amazingly for builders really tidy.”)

Green Retreats.co.uk

Other things to consider

Other things I didn’t ask about in my post but you need to be aware of is the need in some cases for planning permission (depends on a range of factors including whether you live in a listed building or conservation area or a flooding risk area; how high the office roofline is going to be; how close to boundaries you are wanting to site anything). Suppliers should be able to advise on this.

There are elements of expenditure that you can offset against tax in terms of building and furnishing, repairs, and ongoing costs. Check with your accountant.

Many thanks to all respondents: David Spenser, Alan Bowman, Dan Boustead, Corky Gormley, Chrissie Rogowska, Simon Riley, David Evans, Simon Shaw, Mark Lasbury, Hugo Reynolds, Rob Weisner, Martin Hollis, Mary Leslie, Shirley Brent, and Peter Jackling. (Apologies if I’ve missed anyone out).

Chris - we would love to see the end result if you do go ahead.