While we’ll all be glad to see the back of COVID-19 restrictions for good, it’s likely that working from home is a workaday habit that’s here to stay long after face masks can be discarded.
Sales of domestic office equipment and furniture are booming, while phrases along the lines of ‘working from home’, ‘home office’ and ‘workspace’ top the search engine charts. But beavering away in that cluttered little corner of the living room just isn’t viable in the long term; if you’re cutting out the commute for good, it’s time to put a little bit of work into your working life.
Large alcoves, spacious cupboards, landings and even that ‘dead’ space beneath the turn of the stairs can, with a little bit of creativity, be put to good use when it comes to creating a less formal home office set-up, and there are countless integrated lighting, furniture and storage options that can turn even the darkest cubbyhole into a sleek, slick productivity zone. But if your new space is centrally located, domestic distractions can prove to be frustrating; when the kids are running wild, the dog needs walking and dinnertime is on the menu, will you really be able to keep calm and carry on working?
Consider Your Needs
Turning existing, underused space such as a spare bedroom into a home office is the next most obvious option on the working life revamp list… but it isn’t necessarily the best. Does the room have enough space for a desk, chair and related office furniture? What about natural light, heating sources, electricity sockets, internet access, WiFi coverage and a telephone line? And there’s the big issue of background noise to consider too; if your new office is too close to the kitchen, the living room or a main road, you may have to get used to wearing noise-cancelling headphones when working – and that’s hardly ideal.
A little story about… storage
Home offices need plenty of storage space, not just for your work-related equipment but for all the domestic paraphernalia that you’ve probably previously used that spare space for – balancing a desk on top of a spare single bed or hosting remote meetings against a backdrop of children’s books or a clothes rail probably doesn’t do much for your productivity, let alone your professional profile. So, when you move into your new workspace, where is all the domestic paraphernalia that once lived there going to relocate to?
If the spare space that you thought you had is turning out to be not quite so ‘spare’ after all, it may time to move out or grow up… but only as far as the garden or up a new flight of stairs. Bear in mind too that adding just one extra room to your home can add up to 15% to the overall value of your property, meaning your new home office makes good business sense in more ways than one.
Building a brand new room over your garage or existing kitchen extension can be an efficient, cost-effect way of adding space, bespoke character and value to your property. There will Planning Permission and building regulation guidelines to adhere to but the paperwork shouldn’t be too complicated or time-consuming, and employing the services of a qualified architect from the get-go will save you both time and money – talking of which: the overall cost of your build-up will depend on how extensive your plans are (if you’re adding one extra room, you might consider adding two while you’re at it, or a bathroom as well?) and the fees for who you employ to complete the work.
The rickety old shed is out… and it looks like the gazebo, summer house and log cabin are going down the charts with it. But Pods, Cabins and Hip Huts (yes, really!) are most definitely in – and it’s easy to see why.
These fully insulated, energy-efficient, weather-resistant garden rooms by any other name can be delivered ready-to-go (negating the need for laying foundations) or made-to-measure. It’s unlikely that you’ll need Planning Permission as a single-storey construction to the rear of your property falls into the ‘Permitted Development’ property rights category (although of course, you must take advice on this before going ahead with your plans) and there are all manner of sizes, designs and configurations vying for your attention on the market right now, made from all manner of materials from aluminium to timber, cedar and plywood at prices to suit all budgets. Contemporary designs generally push eco-friendly/sustainable construction to the fore too – the hardest decision you have to make before you turn your office commute into a skip down the garden path is which Hip Hut works best for your needs.
The Ground Beneath Your Feet
Since the Covid-19 crisis struck, an increasing number of UK homeowners have been exploring the potential of their properties below street level… but not all cellars are ripe for conversion. Adding light wells and windows can be costly, while damp proofing, insulation and ventilation are all issues that need serious consideration. If, however, your cellar room happens to have garden access, high ceilings, easy access and characterful nooks and crannies (perfect for shelves!) it’s well worth taking a fresh look at your subterranean space.
Use Your Imagination
A host of imaginative new spaces built within pretty much every room-shaped frame from decommissioned aircraft and carriage stock to vintage camper vans, ancient buses and shipping containers dominate social media feeds, TV programmes and glossy home interiors magazines right now – and if you’ve got the time, money, inspiration and inclination to consider such a project yourself, why not? But while keeping a close eye on that beautiful but battered 1950s Airstream on your eBay watch list is fun, there are more practical ways to create a brand new, characterful space in which to dream big.
If you have a high ceiling in your entrance or hallway, a mezzanine – built between two main floors, or the floor and ceiling – maximises unused vertical space and can add a unique elegance to your property. You won’t need Planning Permission (although you will need Building Regulations approval), you’ll definitely need a ceiling height of at least 4.2m/14ft to allow the new space to function properly both above and below and of course, the overall cost of your project will depend on surveyors, architect and structural engineering fees. But don’t be put off! A mezzanine can be a relatively fast, inexpensive way to add a whole new aspect to your home working life.
Inspired? It’s time to do your homework.
Time to get personal?
The writers of this feature are long-standing experts in all property-related issues. If you require further guidance, inspiration and expert advice on increasing your existing space to accommodate a home office or buying a new property to suit your changing needs, please do not hesitate to contact Philip Cobb or Vivienne Hayes directly: