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The rise of the garden office…

For many of us, working from home is here for a while longer. For others, it could mean that they never return to the workplace again.

We now find ourselves at the end of the third national lockdown, more individuals than ever before have used their kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms as pop-up offices.

Whilst some of us are still savouring these home comforts, for others the novelty has worn off. So, it isn’t surprising that homeowners are eyeing up their own back gardens as a new potential working space.

Garden offices have increased in popularity since 2005, however back then there were very few forward-thinking companies that allowed their employees to work from home. Jump forward to 2020/ 21 and much has changed, ‘WFH’ has now become the new normal.

After the first official lockdown was announced, things changed overnight for my husband Sam. His workplace in the city of Norwich closed its doors and called for the entire company to operate from home.

Initially, we thought it was great. Sam was spending more time with our son Leo, cutting his two-hour daily commute and petrol costs, plus he was able to have more leisure time at the end of the day.

As the months progressed, the honeymoon period ceased. The routine of waking, working, eating and then sleeping again soon gave us a repetitive cycle that would lead to what I can only explain as Ground-Hog Day. ­­­

As a self-employed person, I had already experienced what it was like to work from home. After giving birth to my son eighteen months ago, I had discovered what it was like to be a mum and businesswoman combined. However, juggling between the two can often be challenging.

With a dedicated office already inside our house, I have everything I need. But when Sam started operating from home as well, it was difficult sharing space between us. Trying not to include baby Leo’s cartoons and Sam’s conference calls was also another challenge.

We soon figured out that our own personal situation had to change. It didn’t look like any kind of normality would return for a while. After some careful consideration, we came up with a plan – to build our own garden office.

After undertaking a full house renovation in 2019, Sam and I are no strangers to building work. Because of the sudden surge in home improvement work, hiring a contractor was not only expensive, but hard to find, therefore Sam buckled up his tool-belt and stepped-up for the ‘home-office’ challenge.

When he revealed his ambitious plan for an eco-style garden-office, I felt excited but sceptical at the same time. I thought, how can one person accomplish such a feat all by himself, during lockdown with no additional help?

Planning and Build

For us, at the end of our garden, we had a section of unused land. After much clearing and preparation, Sam built a sturdy timber foundation and then constructed each of the four wall frames separately. After these were put in place, the roof and the skeleton of the building took shape.

Once the external structure was complete, it felt like we were almost there, but the internal aspect of the office still had to be insulated, boarded-out, glazed, cladded, plastered and then needed all the electrics added, and finally painted.

From start to finish, we completed the project in just over six months. A local builders’ merchant supported us over the course of the project. C.C. Betts and Son in Beccles a family run business of 150 years were extremely helpful, offering good counsel throughout. The rest was a combination of plucky determination and YouTube tutorials.

Eco friendly

Our impact on the environment had always been an important consideration when choosing materials.

Sam decided to clad the outside in Siberian larch, which is a highly abundant wood species. Being replanted quicker than it is being harvested makes it a very sustainable choice.

Inside, we used carpet underlay made from recycled plastics, each role of Spring Bond uses 180 recycled PET plastic bottles.  

Finally, we used Farrow and Ball paint on the walls. We are huge fans of their colour range and their eco-friendly paint formulas contain recyclable materials.

Interior

The main focal point of the room is a huge picture window; the perfect place to admire those incredible Suffolk skies.

Another important consideration was ‘the library’. Using the left-over larch cladding, Sam built a bookcase the height and width of the far wall, surrounding the picture window.

In Beccles we’re spoilt by the range of independent shops and Keith Skeel Interior is a treasure trove of wonders from around the globe. An antique workbench with heavy cast iron legs now sits centre stage, paired with a Persian style run from The Rug Seller.

Being at the end of the garden meant it was desirable to be self-sufficient. A kitchen area with built in storage and a coffee machine was a must, not to mention the jewel in the crown; a wine fridge for winding down at the end of a busy week.

Outside Lighting

As well as having a built-in outdoor security light, a really practical and easy to install solution is the lily spotlight 3-pack from Philips Hue. You control the lights through an app on your phone, which also has colour changing settings to create drama or theme your garden for an occasion.

For pathway lighting we also installed some Philips Hue Impress Pedestal lights and we even added some Light Bars to the interior for that additional glow.

Security

For greater protection and security, we used Arlo Essential security cameras, which we’ve set up around the garden office.

Arlo Essential also produce a Wire Free Video doorbell, which we installed at the front of our house, so we can see who’s at the front door, without leaving the desk.

The benefits of having a garden office

We have definitely managed to restore our work life balance; our home feels more like a home again, without the struggle of keeping our young son Leo quiet all the time.

Sam now has a lot more detachment from his work. He leaves his garden office at 5pm and trundles down the garden path, past the vegetable plot and home. It’s such a monumental change from the hustle and bustle of city rush-hour traffic.

I’m so proud of Sam for completing this project – all the late nights, weekends and rainy days he spent constructing the garden office has certainly paid off. A genuine DIY hero!

Follow me on Instagram @rachelducker


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