Whenever we hunt for tiny build projects, we find lots of photos/videos of tiny houses and general sheds, but not as many of purpose-built backyard offices. This is surprising because backyard offices are great to work in and home working is becoming increasingly popular. So we have written this guide which shows off the interesting backyard office projects we have come across. Whether you have just started building your own backyard office, or you are merely looking for inspiration with a future project, we hope you find this roundup useful.
Table of Contents
First up we have a neat video of architect Karl Wanaselja and Cate Leger (Karl’s business partner and wife) who converted a disused shipping container into a backyard office:
This 9’ 6” (2.9 metre) high shipping container offers a lot of space with its 40 foot (12.1 metre) length. You might be wondering how they insulated it: well, Karl picked a refrigerated unit (used to transport food and other cooled items over the seas) which has built-in insulation via the high-R-rating polyisocyanurate insulation between the metal walls.
The shipping container is made from aluminium on the outside and stainless steel on the inside, and it cost $1,800 to purchase. The couple then made it into an office by cutting large holes for windows, and putting down an eco-friendly flooring material (Pure Bound, a soy-based plywood material which has no formaldehyde and thus minimal off-gassing effects).
This is an interesting build because it does not follow the usual timber frame and flooring approach, but it still keeps the overall costs right down by reusing an existing (but perfectly sturdy) shell: a shipping container. Hence we thought this was an interesting project to start with.
Next up we have a UK based project (from Cheam, Surrey - in England) using a prefabricated shed from a company called GardenFortress:
The first 2 (and a bit) minutes shows the build being carried out, the build being a timber frame on top of a concrete screed base. The last minute of the video is worth skipping to if you just want to see the end result: a high quality backyard studio office with downlights inside and outside (the external ones are in the timber soffit).
There is a lot of natural light available due to the large ¾-height windows/doors as well, along with a good amount of internal space in the single room. Whilst the garden shed in the video has not been furnished, this build could have a lot of storage space along with desk space because the building is a bit bigger than the average backyard office.
Derek Diedricksen (author of various tiny build books) covers a backyard office/reading studio based in Boston:
This dynamic-looking office is 10.5 feet (3.2 metres) tall due to the sharp roofline, and the use of corrugated roof and window materials hint at a budget build (despite still looking great). Indeed, the overall cost was just $1,000 due to clever use of materials and construction methods.
The plot is sloped, so instead of levelling it out (for a big cost), the timber base sits on top of concrete blocks which are securely held in the ground. The external walls use leftover roofing shingles, the front-door is partially made from delivery pallet wood, and the internal walls use a range of different timbers to create a unique-but-consistent look.
Overall this is a fairly ingenious build due to how little it cost, and the use of recycled materials still pulling together to create a nice, consistent feel throughout. Basing the backyard office on different length timber (which then sit on concrete blocks) is also a good approach, compared to buying in lots of soil to try and level up the plot.
The fourth project we cover is one of the perfect use cases for a backyard office: needing space to work from home, but the house not allowing for extensions or loft conversions. The answer? A backyard office!
Garden/backyard offices in the UK generally do not need planning applications (as long as the height of the building does not exceed Permitted Development rights), however this particular building intentionally exceeded that height to give extra head-room inside the office studio. This is a trade-off: the convenience of extra head-room means the inconvenience of a planning application.
The office has a styling wood cladding on the outside, with black UPVC window and door frames. Natural light is allowed in via the windowed-front door and small corner window, and the side has a lean-to which allows for general backyard storage (bikes, tools etc).
1:05 of the video shows the roof: a grass roof with a gravel border, leading to great drainage along with an eco-friendly roofing solution. The inside is functional and contains enough room for up to 3 people (and their desks), if needed. All the sockets are smart, too, meaning that the lights and single-panel heater can be turned on from the main house before starting work. Always handy to come into a warm office each morning!
We said at the start that this is arguably the perfect use case for backyard offices, and so we will finish with the following quote from the video: “I’ve got a home office, I’m not couped up in the house, I don’t have to take over the spare bedroom, and I’ve got the greatest commute in the world: out of the back door and down that garden path!”.
The following covers the building of a transportable office which has a front wall made fully from glass:
This backyard office was built via a timber frame, but designed with transportation in mind (hence it being sold in 2017 and moved from Charlotte, NC). 100 square foot (9.3 square metres) offers a good amount of backyard studio/office space for a single person, and the simple timber sheet interior wall cladding is a good ‘blank canvas’ to hang things on, or potentially clad/decorate further as needed.
There are only windows on the front wall, but do not worry: there is plenty of natural light because the walls/doors here are practically full height. This leads to a space which will be flooded full of light (although - not to be negative - the position/direction of the office will therefore be important).
This backyard office was built and sold for $10,000 on 7th March 2017.
Almost a decade ago now, Sue wanted an art studio in her backyard and commissioned a company called K &B Home Remodeling to build “Suda’s Studio”:
The first 4 minutes of the video shows the build, then there’s less than 30 seconds showing the completed build. Nonetheless, this is clearly perfect as an art studio: windows on each wall allows light in, and there is sufficient space for a desk with lots of drawing room (and storage), along with an axle for actual paintings.
The build uses a ‘floating’ foundation in that the 2x8’s sit on 4x4 timber, which themselves sit on solid concrete blocks. This is simpler and cheaper than doing a full concrete pour, whilst the actual building sits well off the ground preventing possible water damage to the timber. The building is then held to the ground via tiedowns which are supported by four bars sitting 4 foot (1.2 metres) in the ground. The rest of the build is fairly standard: a timber frame and floor, finished with painted drywall to the inside.
We are back in the UK for another garden (aka backyard) office, to be used as a gaming ‘man cave’:
The first 9 minutes are a time lapse showing the construction, whilst the final minute shows the finished office: a nice, straightforward room with space for two desks, a storage unit and an electric-powered oil heater for those cold UK nights (… and days!).
The foundations are interesting: using a series of concrete blocks/squares in the ground, and then resting concrete panels (with a tongue and groove, to keep them together) on top of them. The building itself is a prefabricated studio shed kit, with a flat roof to finish it.
With sufficient windows/doors for allowing in natural light, but also enough sockets for mains-powered lighting and heating, this gaming office can be used day and night.
A pair of videos from ‘mlawson123’ shows the building of his backyard office, and also a before/after of the previous shed and the inside of his new office:
Previously the poster of the video had a simple shed with limited storage space and “poor security”, so he aimed to have a brand new workshop and backyard office built which was well insulated, provided lots more storage and workspace (despite also having a small footprint) - for a good-sized budget of £10,000 ($13,129).
The new office has lots of sockets and (from the looks of it) ethernet ports, along with tonnes of storage space - along with a good sized desk. It is actually organized into two rooms/sections: one which is mainly for storage, and one which is cleaner and more of an office workspace. The flat roof has four solar panels (photovoltaic cells) on it to help.
The outside is clad in light, thin timber which looks great, and the doors and windows have a dark UPVC trim which complements the light timber well. The timelapse building video is also a good watch: this garden office has been meticulously built at all stages, and should stay standing for a long time with its full concrete foundation (including with rebar steel in it).
Back in 2015, Angus McGregor started work on his UK-based ‘man cave’, which apparently has now become a ‘she shed’ after Angus’ wife took it over!
The first video mainly shows the building taking place and is an interesting watch, as is the final few minutes and the second video which gives a tour of the final backyard office. The foundations for this build were timber put on top of a levelled backyard, with a damp proof membrane put down (before the timber) to protect against eventual wood rot. The building is then very well insulated, with both foam board (rigid) insulation and fibreglass wool (batts) insulation used in some areas.
The external walls are clad with light wooden planks, whilst the inside is painted drywall. There are lots of convenient sockets, and also lots of decorative hanging lights with edison style bulbs: leading to a really nice look/feel inside this man cave/she shed.
Just like a previous project, this office shed is also split into two: a main workspace/hangout zone, and then a separate storage area for bikes and tools (with a separate external door). This is a good idea because many storage sheds seem too big for just storage, but too small for storage plus workspace: so why not make it a big bigger and have both?
Architect Sarah Deeds and her carpenter husband John McBride wanted more space but extending their one-bed house was not possible, hence their lovely backyard studio was born:
This 120 square foot (11.1 square metre) office is not a simple square (or rectangle) shape: it instead has five sides, so is more of an irregular pentagon, which has allowed Sarah and John to squeeze as much usable space out of their chosen plot as possible. A dormer roof/window also helps out here, making the building feel more spacious whilst also letting in a lot more sun.
This video is worth watching because the outside of this office is really striking, whilst the inside has lots of nice designs ideas and features that you would not naturally think about (whether it is the curved desk, or the tiny - but useful - storage drawer below the desk which “forces you not to keep a lot of crap”!). The rest of the interior is clean but practical: white painted walls and ceiling, although the ceiling does show off some roof timbers which is nice to see.
The walls are 2x6’ which naturally take up a little bit more wall space, but have allowed them to add more insulation to keep the building warm. The siding goes into fern strips, giving a bit of a space behind for the wood to breath more and hopefully prolong its life. So the overall wall width is bigger than normal, but it has a number of positive benefits compared to minimum-width walls.
All in all, this is a nice looking and practical backyard studio which shows how handy an architect and carpenter partnership can be!
If you do not want to sit through a couple of hour’s worth of videos, the below image gallery contains some of our favorite pictures from the above videos and other backyard office projects: