14 ideas that prove you can have a garden office even if your plot is small

Crawling the walls when trying to focus on work indoors? We can help you escape to the garden.

Whether you’re still employed and work from home, pursuing a desk-based hobby, or simply want somewhere different to do the crossword and our daily puzzles – having an office space can be a huge boost to your quality of life.  

However, not every house has room for a home office or hobby space. That’s when our thoughts might turn to outdoors. But if you’re warily looking out towards a compact courtyard garden thinking, “but where will it fit?”, you’ll be surprised at how much functionality you can squeeze into a tiny footprint. Our small garden office ideas will show you how to feel focused, not constrained. 

You’ll be eyeing up the garden shed for a transformation in no time. 

Credit: Green Retreats

Do you need planning permission for a small garden office? 

Before we leap into our small garden office ideas – or you create a new Pinterest board – it’s important to work out whether your new creative hub will need planning permission 

“For small garden offices under 15sq m (161sq ft), planning is not required in the majority of cases, unless the property is in a conservation area or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” explains Liam Bee, founder of Garden Office Buildings. “The building also cannot exceed 2.5m (8ft 2in) in external height, if positioned within 2m of a boundary. It can go up to 3m (9ft 10in) if positioned more than 2m (6ft 7in) from any boundary. 

“We consider small garden offices to be anything less than 10sq m (108sq ft). An average garden office is between 10-20sq m (108-215sq ft), and large is anything 20sq m (215sq ft) and above.” 

These measurements are important when working out if you’ll need planning permission for a shed, too.  

1. Opt for an oak frame

A sturdy structure with farmhouse charm

Create a rustic, country feel no matter where you live with an oak-framed small garden office. The exposed frame on this example from Border Oak means you can leave wall decoration to a minimum, letting the building’s structural features speak for themselves.  

Oak is a wonderful building material due to its strength, and it’ll be very unlikely to succumb to rot. There will likely be lots of variety in the designs available – or you could even take on a completely bespoke project. Meaning no one else in the UK will be sitting in a small garden office quite like yours. 

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2. Buy a purpose-built structure

A solution for DIY dodgers

Thankfully, those smart, purpose-built garden rooms you might have seen on the market don’t have to be huge. Companies like Forest manufacture them for tiny outside spaces too.  

This small garden office idea is ideal if you want a structure that’s been engineered for you to be energy efficient and is easy to construct. Well, easier than planning and cutting every piece of wood from scratch.  

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Forest Garden Xtend 8x9 Pent Tongue & groove Garden office with single door, B&Q

3. Reinvent your shed

…Or why not convert an existing outbuilding?

In complete opposition to the previous small garden office idea, why not show your shed some love and convert it? 

Research* from Forest Garden revealed that 20% of 55- to 64-year-olds say their shed is mainly full of “broken stuff”. In our eyes, this means there’s plenty of opportunity to reimagine an existing, unloved outbuilding into a functional workspace. Provided you have some natural light and can hook your shed up to mains power, there’s no reason it can’t become a new place for you to focus.  

If you’re up for a little (or a lot of) DIY-ing, you’ll need to think about the following when converting a shed into a workspace: damp-proofing, wall and roof insulation, electricity supply, proper lighting, a heat source, adequate wi-fi connectivity and security. You may even want to add a water supply, if you don’t already have an outdoor sink.  

* Research conducted by Forest Garden, which surveyed 2,000 shed-owners across the UK (August 2023)

4. Light up your workspace

Mix natural light and useful lamps

Lighting can help set the mood, keep your focus and ease your eyes. Any workspace should have carefully chosen lights to accommodate these needs. But seeing as this office is in your garden, a softer approach might be needed.  

“Avoid anything too commercial-feeling at home,” says Lucinda Newbound, Back in Action’s senior ergonomics adviser. “Instead, opt for various lighting options, such as wall lights and overhead lights, to keep the room bright, and a desk lamp to keep your task area well-lit to avoid straining your eyes when working. If you’re not easily distracted, place your desk in front of a window to allow you to soak up natural light throughout the day.” 

This small garden office idea from Green Retreats does just that – with the desk position benefiting from both natural light and a useful desk lamp. (Plus, we think the bright mural will be a great conversation point during any Zoom calls.) 

Making walls work in a small garden office 

Being apart from the house, a small garden office offers a unique opportunity to take a separate decorating approach. What’s more, as you’ll be limited as to what furniture you can fit in, they’re a prime place to introduce personality.

Wallpaper will be an option only if you have a well-insulated (likely bespoke) building with flat walls. Alternatively, have fun with masking tape and block paint colours, or – if you’re particularly handy with a brush – paint your own mural.   

5. Include a seating area

Work and entertain under the same roof

Although the overall footprint of this wooden summerhouse courtesy of Cuckooland.com is larger than what would normally be considered a small garden office, it has a trick up its sleeve. You can save space elsewhere on your plot by incorporating your garden seating area under the same roof.   

What’s more, as well as relaxing with friends and family around the table next door, you could also take the opportunity to work al fresco when the weather allows. It’s the perfect place to clear your head and refocus. You’ll still be stone’s throw from your main desk if you need to pop back to your proper setup.  

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6. Build an extension into your garden

For when you have hardly any space left

If you’re completely stuck for space, like this tiny courtyard garden, you might not have the option to add a separate structure. But this conservatory office idea from Welsh Oak Frame shows it is possible to squeeze a garden room into a tight space. This option will provide the easiest access – so might be suitable if travelling across your garden isn’t feasible.  

The warm, terracotta tones in the wood complement the paved stone floor. Plus, the glass ceiling lets loads of light flood in, avoiding the space becoming too dark, even when it’s a shady time of day. This small garden office idea becomes a buffer between the house and garden, inviting all the best bits of your outside space in, while keeping your workspace separate from the rest of the rooms you live in.  

7. Choose another shape

Try an octagonal office instead

If you want to make your small garden look bigger, you might want to save on space and cut some corners. Quite literally. We love the octagonal Wiveton summerhouse from Crane Garden Buildings, which would work as a small garden office. 

You’ll feel far from boxed in, thanks to its inviting shape, which could easily also double up as an entertaining social space when you’re not glued to your desk. Windows on half of the walls illuminate your workspace, and there’s a tall ceiling overhead. You can nestle into a quiet corner of your plot and get lost in the task at hand.  

8. Employ ergonomic and adjustable furniture

Be comfy sat typing or stood crafting

Ergonomic seating options and other alternative office chairs don’t have to take up much space. In fact, many designs on the market are rather slimline, like the HAG Capsico from Back in Action. If your small garden office is going to double up as a craft space, then your back might thank you if you also choose a sit-stand desk.  

Rather than taking up room with two work surfaces at different heights, these desks can adjust to your needs. Though be sure to check the mechanism before you buy if you tend to experience weakness in your arms and hands – I used a budget model at a previous job, and it was quite an undertaking to bring the desk’s height up and down. 

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HAG Capisco 8106 & 8107, Back in Action

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HAG Capisco 8106 & 8107, Back in Action

Liam Bee from Garden Office Buildings shares the reasons he thinks small garden offices are a great idea: 

  • “They’re less expensive to keep warm during winter months than a larger office. We would recommend a small oil filled heater that is cheap to run and can heat a small garden office up in a few minutes. 
  • “It’s perfect for smaller gardens, especially terraced houses where space is limited.
  • “Garden offices can add between 5-10% of value to a property, even small ones.” 

9. Bring plant life inside

Indoor plants can boost your mood (and your air quality)

Seeing as you’ll be working in the garden, don’t forget to add foliage and include indoor plants. This small garden office idea won’t take up too much space – if any, if it’s in a hanging basket. 

There will be a plant suitable for all light and humidity conditions, but we particularly like Scindapsus, also called devil’s ivy. It can be propagated in water (which makes for a handsome little desk ornament), grown in a pot or can cascade down from a hanging basket.  

“We think he’s a fab choice for an office plant,” say the team at The Little Botanical. “He’s a top-notch air-purifier, and as well as detoxing the air in your office he’s also super easy to look after. He can grow in any direction and will thrive in a dark corner or a well-lit spot.” 

10. Choose the same hues inside and out

Match your office exterior to garden features

OK, we admit that plonking an office building into a modest plot won’t exactly be a subtle addition to your landscaping. But there’s no reason it should be completely overbearing. Take this small garden office idea from Green Retreats 

Its exterior finishes are in similar shades to the other garden hardscaping. This helps the structure settle into its surroundings. The ash-coloured wood complements the pale decking and patio, as well as the garden seating. Meanwhile, the door and window frames tie into the dark fence panelling. 

11. Pick a slick, multifunctional desk

A powerhouse hiding behind minimalism

Minimalist office accessories can still be useful. Some desks, like this Koble Silas Smart Desk, will keep your small garden office neat and tidy with a wireless charger surface, or opt for in-built USB points instead. Anything that reduces the number of wires streaming around the place becoming mysteriously entangled is a win in our books. 

Nifty features like pop-out drawers can also keep messy paperwork out of sight (but not out of mind). Minimal can be multifunctional – which is an essential design hack for smaller spaces. 

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Koble Silas Grey Smart Desk, Dunelm

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Koble Silas Grey Smart Desk, Dunelm

12. Combine your desk and shelving

Taller storage can make the room feel wider

We’re huge fans of multifunctional furniture at Saga Exceptional. It’s one of the best ways to save space, which is needed if your small garden office is, well, small.  

This modular design from Shelved combines a desk with helpful deep, wide shelves to fit all your nick-nacks on. But it’s not just multifunctionality that helps here, it’s the dimensions of the shelves themselves. 

“Use tall bookshelves (floor to ceiling, if possible) to make the room feel wider,” advises Bee. It’s a quick trick to open up the cosiest of creative caves.  

13. Go heavy on the glass

Let in as much natural light as possible

Wide, sliding doors don’t just look good, they’re useful for letting in light and air – and  your garden. You can soak up the sights, sounds and smells of nature while you work away. 

“Ensure there is a large amount of glass to bring in natural light,” says Bee. “We use 2.5m (8ft 2in) wide sliding doors as standard, rather than single opening doors, to ensure maximum light. We would also recommend adding an additional another window to at least one other wall in the building, to provide a different viewing aspect.” 

That’s exactly what this small garden office idea from Green Retreats does. But check out the internal decor, which embraces light colours to maximise a sense of space. 

“Keep all the internal walls and ceiling painted white (or light coloured) to make the room feel bigger,” agrees Bee. “We would also recommend using a lighter coloured flooring option too, like a natural oak or light grey.” 

14. Choose rustic, natural materials

If you can, shun technology completely (well, almost)

Imagine this. No glaring screen, distracting phone notifications or dodgy wi-fi connectivity. Just you, cocooned in your small garden office with your thoughts. And probably a pen and paper. We love this design from Garden Trading, which embraces a rustic charm that uses natural colours and materials to create a wonderful sense of calm. 

If you’re able to create a digital-free space to focus in, then we urge you to do so. Some modern inventions are allowed, though – you’ll still need a lightbulb. 

Featured product

Hambledon Shelf Ladder (5 tier), Garden Trading

RRP: £256

Hambledon Shelf Ladder (5 tier), Garden Trading
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Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

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Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

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