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  • Writer's pictureShelby Whitfield

"Outdoor" Offices: Extending Indoor Square Footage without a Pricey Renovation

Most of us have been in quarantine for a while now, (most of us are probably equally tired of hearing about quarantine) and I suspect I'm not the only one ready to add more space to my house! While I'm not ready for a full addition, I'm definitely outgrowing working from my dining table, and I'm thinking about adding a backyard studio instead. (Important to note that while a backyard office can be a lower cost alternative to a large renovation project- and less headache- you'll still need to check with your city on any permits you may be required to have).

Don't tell me this garden painting studio hasn't already convinced you to convert your shed too! The patina on the walls is a natural beauty, the lean-to roof adds slight architectural interest, and painted floors are a simple way to help a raw space feel more finished. Fabulous designer William McLure does a lot of (DIY) painted floors in his own homes, if you can't get enough of the look.

This converted space by Mary-Beth Jenner is an absolute dream! I love the divided sense of space here- having both an office area and a conversation arrangement creates a feeling of two rooms within one open, if small, space. The homeowner (screenwriter Tassie Cameron) even hosts friends in her "shed," because it's so cozy! If your job requires hosting clients and you'd rather not have to worry about your home being company-ready all the time, a conversation space would be great in your outdoor office too! Though I guess for now, it'd at least make a nice background for your Zoom meetings.

This is also the layout inspiration I'm working with for my own office plan, though I will need a round table instead of a conversation space for fabric flatlays and schemes.

As always, when you're working on designing your home, thinking through how you live and use a space will help make it the best it can be for your lifestyle when you've pulled it all together. There's nothing worse than something that looks beautiful, but just doesn't work!

This studio by graphic design husband and wife team Chris and Elizabeth Boyette of Good South is another great example of making sure your office shed is functional for your needs. They have an optimized worktop for their desktops, and a minimally distracting, yet inspiring interior.

The other side of their space also has a table for brainstorming sessions. Sidenote, I love the warm woods and white walls in this space, and the one above. I get that it's trendy or whatever too, but a good white interior is actually really great for a creative studio, because you can get a truer read on your colors as you work. Plus it feels like a gallery or museum, and doesn't that just get the inspiration going?

Amy Mitchell

Maximizing work space while fitting in storage accomodations is especially important in a small space.

If you work with a standing desk, you can sneak storage underneath, as designer Amy Mitchell has done here. That rolling cart is pretty amazing- I've used it at each high-end office I've worked at, and it's just from Ikea! It's perfect for extra desk supplies, plan storage, files, whatever.

We've even pulled them around as an extra work surface for collaboration sessions and propped a laptop or samples on top, so something on wheels is another great way to add flexibility to a small space.

I also love how Amy uses her wall space! It keeps a current project accessible without taking up valuable work surface area. I'm planning on using magnetic paint in my own office to hang up schemes or inspiration images also.

Let me know what you're planning, after seeing these spaces!

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