Garden Workshops: Thinking it through
Whether you enjoy crafts for fun or profit, there comes a time when you think “I need more space!” Many of our clients come to us just at the point when a skill or hobby is about to turn into a home-based business, or when they’re already making a go of it and are outgrowing the spare room.
Garden workshops can be the perfect answer, but it’s worth thinking it through to make sure you get a creative den that’s just right for you and your crafty activities. At Garden Affairs we’ve built garden studios and workshops for sweet makers, picture framers, ceramicists, dress makers, wood workers, jewellers, cake makers, leatherworkers, print makers, gift makers and more. Here’s what we’ve learnt along the way.
Think: what kind of space do I really need?
You need to create a working space where you can be efficient for what you do and how you do it. With some crafts such as pottery, large items such as wheels and kilns need to be accommodated and these will probably be your starting point. Around the ‘fundamentals’, every crafter will need the right size and layout of work tables, shelving, seating and storage.
If you need to accommodate other people, whether co-workers or visitors, they’ll need access and space too. Your computer will need a separate space from paints, pliers or buttercream. And it’s personal: think how to make it yours. If you like a cuppa on the hour every hour, make space for a kettle and mugs!
Think: where might this go in future?
If you’re starting or running a business, try to allow for expansion space in a garden craft workshop. Compared to many types of accommodation, garden log cabins are relatively easy to extend if there’s space, but it’s worth thinking ahead to the capacity you’ll need if your business plans all come up roses.
If it all goes really crazy and you need a factory in a couple of years, a garden room is also an investment in the value of your home. Equally, if you decide to call it a day, you can use a quality log cabin for something else. Either way, your outlay isn’t lost. You can’t say that about a lockup unit on a windy industrial estate.
One of our clients commissioned a beautiful contemporary two-room garden workshop to accommodate her growing leatherworking business. She intended one room to be for storage, but the main workshop proved big enough for all her stores. No problem: the second room is now a home gym, but could be repurposed again later if the need arises.
Think: multi-function, multi-use, multi-dimensional
The same thinking often applies successfully to furniture and fittings and to planning space really effectively. If you choose items which are functional but not too ‘corporate’, they can be used again in your home and added to affordably as your business grows. You’ll need a proper ergonomic office chair for daily use, but shelves, tables, old CD racks and pin boards are easily sourced and can move between workshop and home as needed and create an eclectic but orderly look to be proud of.
With this kind of thinking, your outdoor workshop can also be useful as extra domestic space. If square footage is really at a premium, consider fold-down or extending work tables which can be squirreled away if you have to use space for something else. And if you have to sacrifice a garden shed to accommodate a workshop, consider a dual-entrance partitioned garden cabin so there’s still somewhere for the lawnmower.
If it feels like no studio will ever be big enough, think in 3D. The walls and ceiling of your garden workshop are just as important in planning your storage and working area as the floor. A client who runs a frame-making business from one of our log cabins has created bespoke storage racks for his framing components on the wall. Another uses canvas wardrobe organisers hanging from a ceiling rail to store carefully sorted haberdashery materials. With a dedicated garden craft space, you can create the exact solution you need – and then change it as your business develops.
Think: I could be in here nine, ten, eleven hours a day…
Well, at least you’ll be doing something you love and there’s no commute! Many of our clients like the small but important separation that a garden workshop brings between work and leisure. Still, it’s worth investing in the things which make your workspace warm, ventilated, efficient and pleasant
to be in.
Our clients have installed toilets and even shower rooms into garden cabins. Plumbing, drainage and power supplies need to be factored in, so consider what you need up front: even if you can pop up to the house for the loo, regular hand and equipment washing is important in many crafts.
Probably one of the most important requirements for your health and well-being is a comfortable workstation and plenty of light. Consider painting the walls of your garden workshop in a light colour to create the illusion of more light. Roof lights are a great idea to flood your workspace with all that lovely natural light, and you need to arrange your primary working area to make best use of the sun and task lighting.
It’s a good idea to opt for double-glazing and an insulation upgrade to keep you warm in winter and perhaps more importantly, cool in summer.
Think: is this right for me and my craft business?
Compared with many business choices, a decision to build a garden workshop isn’t make or break. With one-off prices starting around £3,800 (for a 2.4m x 2.4m garden room fully installed) it’s a lot more affordable than most accommodation, and as we’ve seen, it adds value to your home and offers alternative uses now and later. Installation usually takes a matter of days and you may not require planning permission (though do check – we can advise too).
Still, it’s not an everyday purchase, so it’s important to visit a show site to get ideas and see if you too can imagine yourself working this way.
And it’s also worth asking yourself about the impact of not choosing to create a separate work space away from home. Not everyone is like our client who finally had to move her cupcake business out of her kitchen because her dog kept begging for icing, but for every family there are conflicts between business and pleasure.
If your craft business is going places, it might be time for it to vacate the spare bedroom and move in to a garden workshop instead!
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