Working from home… in the garden?

13 October 2021 by Darren Leach

House refurbishment Edwardian house London studio sketch

Having only recently moved house ourselves, in search of more space and like many we are still working from home a few days a week, we are reminded of the challenges that home working can bring.

Whilst the concept is nothing new, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, with more people now doing just that than ever before. During lockdown, we were lucky to have a spare guest bedroom that we repurposed as a home office, but this was certainly not the case for some of our clients, colleagues and students alike. On a recent trip to IKEA, we were impressed to see how they had adapted their room sets, to replicate various home working arrangements.

It almost goes without saying that the first place you should look for a home office is inside your home! It may be that you can eke out that little bit of extra space you need from what you have at your disposal already: an unutilised corner of the lounge, under the stairs, on the landing, or the box room. 

Failing that, you might want to then consider extending your home outwards, upwards, or even downwards. Of course, this process takes time and it is unlikely that the kids will stop growing anytime soon! The ‘go to’ solution, more often than not, is a garden room; either ‘off the shelf’ or bespoke (designed by your friendly local architects).

 

South View 5

Garden rooms – defined as outbuildings in planning terms – usually fall under Permitted Development Rights, provided the design meets certain criteria: these cannot be located forward of your house, must have an eaves height lower than 2.5m, and be no taller than 3m - or 4m for dual pitched roofs - or fill more than 50% of the land (which includes front and back gardens) around your ‘original house’ (which excludes extensions or other outbuildings)*. These rights do not apply on ‘designated land’, such as conservation areas for example, or National Parks – including the South Downs where we are based – and the like. The bottom line with Permitted Development Rights of any sort is that they are very complex, and you should seek professional advice before carrying out any building work.

Wherever your home – or garden – office ends up, here are Simon and my top 3 tips, to make your workspace just right for you:

Working from Home London Solution

Furniture

For the sake of your spine, you should invest in the best chair you can afford, no matter what it looks like (shock horror!). Here at the George and James Architects HQ, we would be lost without our sit/stand desks. In the absence of a formal workspace assessment, you can very easily carry one out yourself. It might well be that you need a laptop or monitor stand to set your display at the correct height (a pile of books usually suffices!). If your workspace is in the living room for example, try thinking about creative ways to shut down at the end of the day, such as a drop-leaf desk, floor-length curtain or room divider.

A one off family house in Somerset comprising 3

Lighting

Whilst lighting most definitely deserves a blog post in its own right, there are a few things you should bear in mind with workspaces. Combining general lighting (ceiling lights) with task lighting (desk lamps) works well, with some mood lighting thrown in for good measure to soften the contrast between the two. Be sure to place desk lamps on your left side if you are right-handed and vice versa to reduce shadows, and place your computer at a 90° angle to the window to avoid glare and silhouettes on Zoom! As always, be sure to choose LED lamps of the correct temperature (2700k is our favourite) to keep your energy bills down and your workspace conducive to work.

Extension and refurbishment of a small 90s terraced house in Stoke Newington 4

Plants

It is scientifically proven that plants in an office increase the level of oxygen, which in turn also maximises concentration and productivity so a win-win situation all round. Speaking from personal experience of a past two-week Christmas shutdown… remember to water them when you are away on holiday! Your office should have a means of heating and cooling it in winter and summer respectively, as well as natural ventilation – ideally on two sides – via openable windows preferably with trickle vents. Last but not least, think about what other areas of your house or garden you can see from your desk, less compost = more wildlife… out of sight, out of mind.

Hopefully you have found this blog post useful; if so please do check out our others, or give us a call with any questions.

*Correct at the time of writing.

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