If you’ve ever found yourself trying to work from home, you’re probably all too familiar with this problem: it’s hard to be productive in the same space in which you relax.
There are dishes to clean, daytime television to watch, kids interupting. Sometimes, you need a space to get away, but traveling to a coffee shop defeats the whole purpose of working from home.
But what if you could have it all? A quiet, productive space, away from the distractions, but that you didn’t have to travel to and in which you could still wear your pajamas?
Enter—the tiny backyard office.
Backyard offices are the perfect place to get some focused work done, and they’re also a great place to let your creativity shine. I spoke with three people about their tiny offices—ranging from a colorful shack in the Pacific Northwest, to an architect’s retreat in Toronto, to a wooden shack in England. A tiny office may not be for you, but for these professionals, it’s a blessing.
An Architect’s Retreat in Toronto
For Oliver Dang, starting his own architecture practice, Six Four Five, meant working from home. With a 2-and-a-half year old son, space and privacy in his Toronto home are tight. So he created a 10-feet-by-11-foot tiny office that nearly spans the width of his backyard. Now, he’s got a 20-step commute to work.
Photos by Ashlea Wessel
Dang designed the office with exposed wood studs and a plywood birch veneer to help with insulation. “I wanted to keep it really simple and true to a shed typology. In most sheds, you have stud framing then cladding—that’s it,” he said. “I wanted that aesthetic but I also wanted to make it nice, bright, and warm feeling.”
Inside, the space contains a drafting table, stand-up computer desk, chair, and plenty of books to help Dang with design inspiration. It also has electricity and internet connectivity. With a 10-foot tall ceiling (at its highest point), it features a skylight for extra sun. To keep the temperature comfortable, he uses a space heater for winter and a fan in the summer.
A major plus is that his backyard office is distraction free.
“When I look out the window I’m staring at the backyard. If my office were on a street with pedestrians walking by I’d probably be distracted by that,” he said. “Working from home leads to a lot of small distractions too. If I want to grab a glass of water, that leads to wanting to tidy up something. It’s nice to step away, and have my own space where I can really focus on work and think about design.”
Having a backyard office also helps Dang maintain a flexible schedule. He’s so close to home that he can easily spend time with his son in the afternoons, then head back to the office in the evenings if necessary.
“A big reason I designed this space was for work/life balance,” said Dang. “Let’s say I had an office a half-hour away, going to-and-from the office would be a big time commitment. I’d have to commit myself to staying at office for an hour or two to make it worthwhile. Here, I can just come in and work for 20-35 minutes if necessary.”
A Colorful Retreat in the Pacific Northwest
Violette Clark knows just where to go to get some solace—the tiny office in her backyard in Sechelt, on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Clark is an artist and her 7-foot-by-8-foot Spanish caravan reflects her bright, fun aesthetic.
Since Clark works from home, she wanted a place free of distractions where she could really think. “I come from Morocco so I have this affinity for colorful things, patterns, and glitter. I always wanted to have my own Bohemian caravan because I have a Spanish background, so my partner—his hobby is woodworking—built it for me,” she said.
Inside, the backyard office features electricity, Wi-Fi, a bed, storage space for art supplies, and a folding table. It also has benches on the side for extra seating. The space has gotten attention on Facebook and Instagram—and spawned a new line of business for Clark.
“I’m followed by a lot of artists and creative types, and they love my caravan office. Now, I’m actually designing some life-sized caravans of my own. I found a carpenter and he’s designing a prototype,” said Clark. “This brings me joy and I want to share it with as many people as possible.”
It features cute little extras, like hand-painted flowers on the floor. “To me, it’s like a little sanctuary. I believe that when you do something positive, it builds up the good vibes. The space makes me feel more creative and more centered.”
A Freelancer’s Haven
Louise Taylor and her husband Ben are busy people. The Kent, England couple run a joint venture called HomeWorkingClub.com, a resource center for freelancers. To accomplish it all, they work from the 16-foot-by-9-foot office space in their backyard.
Made of timber with a tiled roof, the space came with the home they rent. It was built approximately 15 years ago.
“Our landlord built it so that he could have a quiet space in which to work,” said Louis Taylor. “We were incredibly lucky to come across it while searching for a new home to rent. As soon as we saw the tiny house-style office in the garden, we knew it was the right place for us.”
Inside, it looks like a normal office—with desks, chairs, printers, and computers. But the best feature is the lack of distractions.
“The solitude is ideal, particularly when writing. The office is free from distractions, so it allows me to focus completely on the task at hand,” she said. “We have two young children, so our house tends to be scattered with toys, artwork, and superhero costumes. If I work in the house, I spend the first hour of the day tidying and doing chores. By going out to the office, I can be productive from the moment I open my laptop. It makes a huge difference to how much I get done.”
The space has electricity, Wi-Fi, and plenty of lighting. “We’ve been working with the door open over the summer months and it’s lovely and warm, but we will soon need a plug-in heater for the winter,” said Louise Taylor. “I would urge anyone who works from home to consider building a backyard office. We were really lucky to fall upon a house that came with one included. When we move, I think I might have to build my own—there’s no going back now!”
Want Your Own Tiny Backyard Office?
Thinking about building your own backyard office? While you can create your own custom design, there are some prefabricated options on the market:
OfficePod, offers seven different pre-fabricated spaces and served customers like the BBC, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and London South Bank University.
The Ecospace WorkPod, features low-energy heating and lighting, a swing-up window cover, and can be installed in just five days.
The Sett Studio DIY kit is just that — a do-it-yourself option that you can build. Think of it as building Ikea furniture on steroids.