Early followers of this blog will know that I originally started designing small garden offices and little studio spaces for my own use. Eventually, the plan was to build one in my parents’ garden so that I could have somewhere quiet to work, but 5 years on and I’m still working in my bedroom. However, November saw us finally start to sort out the back garden, and build a retaining wall to stop the stream from eroding our garden. In fact, I’ve layed over 12 tons of stone by hand in just over a week in order to build the 11.5m gabion wall needed!
It’s because of this that my mind has turned again to designing a tiny garden office. This is not to say I’m going to be building one, but I can’t help it when my mind wanders and I get an urge to design a proper space that I might like to work in one day. I’m very particular when it comes to what I consider to be an ideal workspace, and whilst this design still has some flaws that would need ironing out, it certainly would be a great space to work in. We’ll get onto flaws and improvements that could be made at the end of this blog entry, but let’s take a quick look at the key design points that I had in mind…
Key Design Points
Natural light - Plenty of it! Preferably with openable windows or doors on opposing sides for cross-ventilation
2 zones - A work zone, and a “relaxation” zone, split up by a slight change in floor level rather than a wall
Tiny - A reduction in as many aspects of the building size as possible, without feeling too claustrophobic.
Intrigue/fun - Less important, but a fun building will make you feel better and potentially be more productive
Good views/sight lines - For me, it’s imperative to have good lines of sight throughout the building, including a good outlook
Storage - Whilst this design suffers a bit in this regard, adjustable pegboard shelving makes for a useful space for books and supplies
Colour - A pop of colour amongst an otherwise neutral and light colour scheme (in this case, a green wall!)
Outdoor space - Again, lacking in this design, but the tiny balcony is still somewhere nice to sit on a warm evening
Entrance space - Somewhere to put shoes/boots without entering the main space. In this design it’s tiny, but still there!
Heating - In this case, a tiny log burner/multi-fuel stove - the kind used on small boats!
Despite being a tiny single room structure, the interior is pretty complex; thanks to the myriad of trapeziums and wedges that it’s made of. These are at different levels and heights to split up the space without actually having any dividing walls. With a room so tiny, you’d definitely want to avoid physically splitting up the space; but I still wanted to have different “zones” in the pod.
The majority of the exterior of the building is clad in reclaimed wood - I’d imagine the most convenient source of which would be old pallets! That said, any old recycled wood would be equally fine, providing the structure is wrapped in weatherproof membrane. In order to produce some contrast, the rest of the building is wrapped in either a steel or zinc cladding. Steel is the most affordable, but is not quite as durable or long-lasting as zinc. I will admit that I did not pay as much attention to the finer details of the roof as I usually would, so there is no overhang or soffit shown. This was originally intended as a quick idea, and as such I never finished it to a high quality.
I’ve also shown coated metal doors and windows, which are also a dark grey colour to match the rest of the metal aspects of the design. The result, particularly with the sharp edges and cantilevered extensions, is a very modern looking building. The light scoops on either side are of different proportions, which I think adds an element of fun to the design; it kind of reminds me of a ducket on a railway guards van that the guard would use to check on the rest of the train, and the line ahead/behind.
I’ve shown the lounge half of the structure to be completely cantilevered, and off the ground - the assumption being that the rest of the structure sits on a hefty concrete foundation, and that the cantilever is formed from a metal frame which is half buried in said concrete. It’s worth iterating that I’m no structural engineer - so the finer points are best left to someone with experience! That said, given the tiny nature of the building, I’m pretty sure this is a feasible design.
. There are two main spaces (marked “3” and “4” on the image below): the desk area, and the chair/lounge area. Both are of similar size, and both feature pegboard walls with adjustable shelving. In the chair area, these shelves can double up as a coffee table!
As I mentioned earlier, whilst overall it is (at least to me) a pretty interesting and solid design that I would love to work in, there are a few areas that could be improved, and some challenges that this design faces. Some are simple changes or additions, some would require a bit more thought. The first pressing concern I have is how complex the building is. It’s not exactly going to be an easy build; especially with the awkward angles and the cantilever. It’s fair to say that I don’t forsee it as an affordable building project; and given its diminutive size vs cost ratio, this may well be enough to stop anyone sensible building it…
Another issue is that the entrance is perhaps 100-150mm too narrow (it’s only a 700mm wide external door), but theoretically speaking that would be relatively easy to solve with a slight adjustment in the angle of this extension. Ideally I’d have an 800mm wide door, with a bit left over either side to allow more room for the door to swing fully open.
The third issue I foresee is the lack of storage space. Whilst the adjustable pegboard shelving does offer some space for books and decorative objects, I don’t foresee it being as useful as a cupboard or similar. My initial thought was to try adding underfloor storage in the cantilevered lounge floor and steps so that it didn’t intrude into the main space too much, but I fear that there will be not enough space by the time you’ve allowed for the metal framework that supports this half of the structure. One alternative would be to extend the exterior of the window seat extension all the way to ground level, and have storage underneath the seat. Or perhaps (whilst enlarging the entrance) you could allow an extra foot or so of floor space on the green entrance wall and build custom full-height cupboards/lockers along it. This could however impact on the outside aesthetic quite heavily, so care would need to be taken in order to get it looking “right”.
As for improvements, I can’t help but see the potential that a skylight would bring above the desk area. It wouldn’t even need to be a particularly large one to have a big impact on admitting a lot more natural light into this section. And whilst you’re at it, why not pop a couple solar panels on the roof?!