Kirstie Allsopp’s Homemade Home: Home office sheds its old image
6 July 2018
The garden shed has had a major makeover, and working from home has never seemed so appealing, says Graham Norwood.
The prospect of setting up business from home may become a reality for many as the recession bites. But doing so no longer involves sacrificing house space or working in a dingy loft – follow property guru Kirstie Allsopp’s lead and move your working area outdoors.
Kirstie wrote her first book from an outside office – with a quirky signature ‘K’ perched on the roof – which she had purpose-built in her London flat’s garden. “It’s a proper outside room with heating, wiring etc, and I still rate it as a really good investment. A garden office transforms not just how you work, but also declutters your home. Rooms seem bigger and pleasanter without a desk, office chairs, cables and computers cluttering up living space.”
Kirstie, whose new programme Kirstie’s Homemade Home starts on Channel 4 in April, now rents out the flat, but her ‘working shed’ remains in the garden.
“It adds to how much I can get in rent, it really is a proper extra room,” she says. “This is the way forward, especially now with very little moving on the property market and the high cost of stamp duty, agency fees etc. If you’re planning to work from home, you don’t have to move house or lose your spare bedroom – gain a room outside instead.”
Surrey beautician Mira Britton agrees. She is one of thousands now working from a garden office.
“It’s fantastic,” says Mira, who specialises in maternity and fertility treatments. “My main work area is 12 foot by 12 foot, plus a small loo and sink, and the building is insulated and extremely comfortable. It’s got hot water, excellent heating, is wired for a computer and is a professional workspace.
“Living in a three-bedroom terrace house I thought it would be impossible to work from home,” says Mira – who lives in Ashtead with husband Simon, a local government worker, and their grown-up son Aran. But she then discovered that for less than £20,000 she could have a garden office, with utilities supplied by pipes and cables buried under the lawn.
More than 2.1million businesses are home-based, according to BT and the work think-tank Enterprise Nation. Most are run by working mothers or over-50s and are in London, south-east and northern England, and the West Midlands. The number has risen thanks to near-universal access to broadband, but another surge is expected as the recession forces redundant employees to rethink careers.
Alex Johnson, himself a garden office worker, explains: “It’s the ultimate workplace. It’s a modern environment without the distractions of working in the home itself. It adds value to a property and is usually easy to buy and construct.”
He runs www.shedworking.co.uk , a website that offers advice to those working from their gardens and is a judge in this summer’s Shed Of The Year contest with Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans and developer Sarah Beeny.
“It’s a growing phenomenon,” says Alex. “There used to be just a handful of garden office manufacturers but now there are 20 to 30 specialists. Most owners are creative types, although there are plenty of accountants, too.”
Broadcasters Andrew Marr and Linda Barker, and writers Allison Pearson, Louis de Bernières, Toby Young and Jeanette Winterson have their own garden offices. You can buy ready-made offices for under £8,000, and most buyers do not need planning permission because their offices are small, single-storey and not on permanent foundations, so can be erected under ‘‘permitted development’’ rights. Different rules apply in conservation areas, or if your home is listed, so consulting a planning officer is a sensible precaution before you buy.
Vernon Maye, a buying agent who locates homes and negotiates on prices for purchaser clients, says: “A good-quality garden office is the equivalent of an extra room. Expect it to add five per cent to a property’s overall value, so long as it is in peak condition.”
Kirstie Allsopp agrees. “Don’t think that doing up your garden shed will add anything, you do need to invest in putting up a proper building. But it is the most economical way to get a good office in which to work.
“I have lovely offices in my homes now, but I do miss the charm of my outside room outside; it reminded me of the tree houses my father built for us when we were small. I’ve promised myself that one day I shall buy myself a gypsy caravan so I can have my own ‘private space’ outside again.”