Continuing our exclusive garden office buyers guide, we look at the elements of garden office design you should think about.
There’s a lot of choice out there when it comes to garden office design from compact cubes to elaborate curved structures.
If you are opting for a bespoke design garden office your designer will tailor the building to your site and needs, but not everybody has the desire, time or budget for bespoke design so standard ‘off the self’ garden offices are the answer – with some canny choices there’s no reason why a standard design should be anything less than a perfect fit.
To make these choices it’s important to be clear from the outset what you want from your garden office – a place to work is the obvious answer, but do you want a spacious room or a small unobtrusive structure? Is lots of natural light and a view of the garden more important than storage space? Are you going to apply for planning permission and have exactly the building you want or are you going to chose a garden office that falls within Permitted Development rules? These are all key questions you should think of early on in the buying process.
If you have followed our researching the market guide you will have already seen a lot of garden office options and you will probably have built up a list of features you do and don’t like, write them down! It’s worth spending some time designing your perfect office before you go any further – you don’t need to be a designer to do this, just think about these questions:
What shape garden office do you want?
In most cases the answer will be square or rectangular, but why not roughly draw out the shape of your site on paper, mark features such as trees, plants and walls and see what shape you are left with, would a round or octagonal garden office work? How about a corner garden office where three walls face into the garden or an L-shaped unit which would sit well in a corner plot, bigger sites might lend themselves to a C-shaped unit where you could have a courtyard area between the two wings. Your drawing might throw up an odd shape such as a tapering site where the back is narrower than the front – don’t despair a bespoke designer can overcome problems like that.
As well as the footprint shape you need to think about the shape of the roof, taste and planning regulations will dictate this choice, we will look in detail at the planning regulations in the Garden Office Guide: Planning Permission but in general if you want to place your garden office within 2m of the boundary of your garden it will need to be less than 2.5m high – this dictates a flat roof, if you can move the site more than 2m away from the boundary you have the option of having a pitched roof garden office. Flat roofed garden offices look very modern and have a ceiling height of around 2.2m which is about what the ceiling height is in a room in a house, in most cases garden offices with pitched roofs have vaulted ceilings which create spacious, airy rooms, which you choose is a matter of personal taste.
What style of garden office do you want?
You probably have looked at lots of pictures and decided if you like modern garden offices with shape lines or softer more traditional style units. It’s worth think about how your choice will sit within the buildings surrounding it, whilst contemporary buildings can contrast strikingly with old cottages, is it better to add a garden office that maybe replicates some of its features such as window style? Contemporary garden offices tend to use the latest low maintenance materials where as traditional styles are often painted so will need upkeep – an important consideration.
Where do you want your doors & windows?
We will look at the types of doors and windows that are used in garden office construction in the Garden Office Guide: Doors & Windows but you should think about where you position them early on, with bespoke design you can specify windows and doors anywhere and with most standard designs you have flexibility in their positioning. Its good practice to focus glazing on the south and west elevations of the garden office as its these elevations that benefit most from the natural warmth and light from the sun, if you don’t already know which way your site faces you can use a compass or Google Maps will tell you which way your house faces (just type your postcode into Google Maps and click street view, in the top left corner the toggle tells you which way is north) you can then work out which walls on your garden office are south and west facing, we’re not saying don’t have windows on the east elevation – they will get the early morning sun but unless you are using the building as an artist’s studio (northern light is considered the most stable) probably don’t put big windows on the north elevation.
You should also think about the size of windows you choose, if it’s all about the view of your garden go for fully glazed walls, they create a great connection of inside outside space, but if work and storage are the main purpose of your garden office consider smaller windows, but think about their height – some are placed a bit too high, so when sitting at your desk you have to look up to see out of them, many modern garden offices now have the windows at desk height, this is a great compromise on maximising the view and keeping wall space.
Many garden office designs make use of narrow windows both vertically and horizontally, these are very useful in providing light and ventilation without taking up a lot of space and they can be positioned to frame snapshots of your garden.
It’s worth considering the space in the roof of your garden office for windows, roof windows are not the preserve of pitched roof garden offices they can also be used in flat roofed units, they flood the office with natural light and can free up wall space for storage units.
What materials should your garden office feature?
The bigger part of this Garden Office Guide will feature articles on your options when it comes to material choices but it’s worth thinking about them early on, one of your key thoughts when considering external materials is how much maintenance they require, internally you need to think about how close you want your garden office to look like a room in your house.
What are your electrical requirements?
The electrical design of your garden office is just as important as the other design elements we’ve talked about, we will do a chapter on garden office electrics later in this guide. Its worth taking some time to think about the electrical appliances you will use in your garden office – how many sockets do you need? Add them up and allow at least a couple extra! Keep this number in mind when looking at the different garden office specifications to see what comes at standard, although most companies can add extra sockets into the garden office at the design stage for a little extra cost. Also think about the type of lighting you want and whether you require outside lights and sockets. Security is an issue with a garden office as you will have a lot of valuable kit in there and important documents so consider an alarm system One addition to the electrical system that is often over looked is a door bell, your office maybe several meters from the house so will you hear when the postman rings the bell? You can get some good wireless doorbells but the most reliable and a cheap and easy option is to run a bell wire with your electric cables.
What does the future hold for your garden office?
Will your garden office always be used as an office, if the answer is no think about this at the design stage and don’t make your choices too office specific for example don’t position the windows at desk height if you might one day use it as a gym and not be able to see out of them when on the treadmill! If you are using the office for business allow for future expansion i.e. specify a size that allows you to add another desk. Could the office become self contained accommodation, well why not specify a shower room and kitchen area now, it’s easier to do now than as a retro fit.
A good quality garden office definitely adds value to a house when you come to sell, but owners have been known to take the office with them when they move, if you think you might do this factor this into the design stage as it can affect the way the garden office is built, the choice of foundations etc.
These are just some initial thoughts you should give to garden office design, as the Garden Office Guide continues we will guide you through other decisions and at the end you should be fully informed to buy your perfect garden office!
Tomorrow we look at another garden office supplier followed by the next part in this guide – Garden Office Guide: Size