Our Home Office, aka the “World Shedquarters”

by Vanessa Hayes

in Around the House,Office Tech,Organizing,Productivity

I get asked all the time about my home office because I film many of my videos in there.  So, I thought I’d share a little bit about it for those who are interested. Here goes…

We Need a Home Office!

My husband and I had two different “home offices” that were separated from one another by only a few feet.  One was the dining room table and the other was a glider that we bought in anticipation of the birth of our (now almost 5 year old) baby girl. As comfortable as the glider is (it’s the amazingly stylish and well built Luca Glider and ottoman from Monte Design), it doesn’t make for much of an office!  We both run our businesses from home (of course, I run ‘Get Simplifized’ and my hubby does marketing/media consulting). Together, we got pretty tired of our temporary offices and the clutter that inevitably takes over. We decided that an actual office was not only necessary to keep the peace, but also to keep our sanity. So, we built our own! As you can see, it turned out really well.  Well, here’s the story on how we ended up with our dream office…our “World Shedquarters!”

We don’t buy into the whole McMansion lifestyle.  Our home is an ample 1800 square feet, 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. Since we have two kids converting a “spare room” into a home office just wasn’t in the cards. We’re also planning on being in this house for a just a few more years before we move to some land in the Texas Hill Country, so building an addition was out of the question.  We had to think outside the box.  Outside the house, actually.  So, we decided to build a home office (our “World Shedquarters”) in an unused corner of the back yard.  OK, “unused corner” is a bit misleading…our entire back yard was essentially “unused.” But we picked the corner of the yard that would be the least obtrusive to our view from the living room and would hopefully allow us to start using the back yard a bit more.

My husband looked around the Internet and saw a few office shed designs that inspired us but none captured completely what we wanted.  So, armed with what I wanted and what my husband wanted, he designed one for us! He started with a list of what the goals were for our home office:

– It needed to be large enough to have two separate work spaces (one for me, one for him).

– He wanted it large enough to host 3-4 clients comfortably.

– He wanted it “tech infused,” meaning that he could have all his gear there, have it integrated, and attempt to have it visibly as “cord-free” as possible. We both despise visible cords.

– It needed to be comfortable in the hot San Antonio summer and cool winter.

– We wanted it as aesthetically pleasing inside and out as we could make it.

– Be able to take most of the “expensive” items with us when we move.

– If we had the choice we would choose sustainable options over non-sustainable.

Once we knew what our goals were my husband set out to figure out how to make it all happen.  First call was to the city to check applicable codes.  Luckily, he found out that as far as structure was concerned, if it was under 200 square feet the city’s only concern was that it be 5 feet from all property lines.  Unfortunately, we had to take 2 trees down so we called Matt from Land ‘n Lawns (our go-to guy for anything lawn or landscape). As usual, Matt and his crew did a fantastic job and we had them back to do some landscaping later…

Building Our Home Office Shed

Here’s a little “photo montage” of the actual build:

 Did I mention that we (OK…my husband) built this during the hottest summer in recorded history for San Antonio???

A lot of design went into the shed structure itself, but the structure design was born from the functionality we wanted the inside of the shed to have.  It’s the inside “stuff” that makes it a productive office.

Furnishing a Home Office

So here is a little info on what’s inside the office:

SAYL Chair by Herman Miller:  We absolutely LOVE our Sayl chairs by Herman Miller.  These were a splurge for us but it really makes sense that if you’re going to spend a lot of time sitting you really need to invest in a good chair.  We’ve always loved Herman Miller products and took to the modern aesthetic of the new SAYL as soon as we saw it.  On a trip to Portland for Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit we popped into a Herman Miller distributor, plopped down into the SAYL, and were instantly sold!  Don’t cheat yourself, your back, or your productivity…if you spend a lot of time sitting for work you should really consider investing in a good chair! We opted for the chrome base, adjustable arms, and adjustable lumbar support.  We also ordered the chairs with the hard-surface casters, as we knew our floors would be bamboo.  When deciding on the right chairs, we took a long time considering whether the cost of the chairs was really worth it.  Never again…these chairs are amazing! Plus, they’re 93% recyclable (I dread the day I have to haul these beauties to the recycle bin!)

Standing desk: Yes, as comfortable as the SAYL chairs are, my husband does like to use a “standing desk” part of the time. Well, his “standing desk” consists of a $10 black “pleather” ottoman we bought from Target years back.  He put felt pads on the bottom so it doesn’t scratch the desk and simply set in on the desk top.  Instant standing desk!  He uses his Apple wireless keyboard and Trackpad and mirrors his iMac desktop to the 42″ Visio TV and voilà, a whole new workstation. It rocks! More on the Visio below…

Visio TV with Internet Apps:  We didn’t run cable for internet or television to the Shedquarters. Our wifi signal from the house’s Apple Airport Extreme/Time Capsule is plenty strong enough to give us good signal in the office.  So, we went “old school meets new school.” He put a TV antenna on the roof and dialed in more stations than we really need and we stream Netflix, Hulu, TwiT, etc, via wifi.  If there is a cable TV specific show (such as news, a documentary…) that we want to watch we simply use our iPads and the free Time Warner Cable app.  So, all of our viewing bases are covered.

Ikea: Upper Cabinets- We don’t have a lot of “stuff” to store so the upper cabinets are really all we need.  Ikea stuff looks good, is inexpensive, and easy to assemble (well these cabinets were anyway).

Filing Cabinet- We don’t have many paper files as we’re essentially digital, but we do use the filing cabinet for printer paper, cleaning supplies, odds and ends.

Whiteboard: OK, we like to use a whiteboard for brainstorming, making lists, fleshing out ideas, etc,  but whiteboards always seem to leave “ghosting” eventually.  We researched alternatives such as Idea Paint, and glass whiteboards.  Candidly, I just wasn’t convinced with Idea Paint (although admittedly I never used it) and it seemed pricier than we wanted to go.  Glass whiteboards were just outrageously priced!  So, my husband’s gears started turning and he began to explore.  We settled on the Vika Glasholm tabletop from Ikea for under $80.  Dan just made a couple of oak cleats and hung it horizontally, with the frosted side facing the wall.  This works absolutely flawlessly!

Other items we got from Ikea include my shelf, my desk light, our trash cans and recycle bins.

From Amazon:  With all the techie stuff my husband is into, he bought a LOT of “stuff” from Amazon, including all cords (HDMI, Apple dongles for HDMI, Mini Display Port to HDMI cables), VGA cables, audio cables, grommets, powered outlet grommets, USB grommets, 5.1 surround speakers, Audio/Video Receiver, speaker wire, speaker connection plates, A/V and audio plates, speaker connection hardware, and some stuff that I have no idea what it is or does!  He also bought our outdoor speakers, ceramic heater, security keypad deadbolt and door handle there too.  Electronic cords and accessories were so much cheaper and easier to get from Amazon than from Radio Shack (which charged nearly double for some items), Lowe’s, or Best Buy.  As an Amazon Prime member the 2-day shipping was free too.  I don’t know how much we really saved in the end by using Amazon.com but it was a LOT!

From Lowes:  My husband bought nearly all the construction materials from Lowe’s, including all lumber, ceiling lighting, fan, siding, low-e doors/screen, plexiglass for clerestory windows, Energy Star window unit air conditioner, HardiPlank siding, insulation, roofing, paint, and the floating bamboo floor.

The only things he bought from Home Depot were the “attic” vents.  Seems insignificant but Lowe’s didn’t have the style we wanted.  The roof needs airflow to prevent buildup of moisture so my husband checked to make sure he had proper venting designed in and the little vents he used were perfect for the job.

The “System”:  During construction we ran speaker wires for outside speakers and 5.1 surround sound inside the office.  He runs our audio through a Sony A/V receiver so we can switch between audio from any of the computers, over the air TV, and Internet TV very easily.  As I mentioned above, we also use the Visio as a monitor and have connections to my husband’s iMac, his Macbook, and my Macbook.  We have a “community” hook-up too for clients to tap in to, as well. Clients/guests use a guest wifi network through our Airport Extreme. Using the Visio has really upped the dynamic and functionality when working with clients.  Clients can see what my husband is doing (or, if they’re hooked up he can see what they are doing) and easily follow along. This system has worked really well and has really paid off when working with clients and partners.  We also added an Apple TV so we can use AirPlay Mirroring from our iPhones/iPads as we do in the house.  So far, even after a year of daily use and minor tweaks, the system rocks!

The office took a couple of months to build as my husband could only work on it nights and weekends.  We did hire a master electrician to do all the rough-in and a drywall guy.  While Dan can do basic electrical, and certainly drywall, we decided to call a pro for those.  I helped lay the bamboo flooring and pitched in on some painting help…and so did Dan’s ex-wife (we’re all friends…but that’s another post).  We also got some help hanging the doors from our friend Steve, but my husband did the bulk of the work himself. He says that he wishes he had more help with the roof and some of the framing, but otherwise it wasn’t too difficult a job.

It’s hard to express how truly happy we are with the results.  The office is a great place to work and lets us separate “work” from “home,” yet is only steps away from our back door.  Plus, everyone who sees it loves it.  We’ve even had a few tell us they were jealous!  It feels great to know we did it ourselves, and for the most part, on the cheap.

So I guess I’ll wrap this up by saying if you’re stuck in a rut with your work station or office, there are options. We’ve always been the DIY kind…but we both really learned a lot on this project.  We all need our own little “sanctuary” where we can get away and concentrate.  I guess I’m really lucky that my office is that place. When I’m not working in clients’ homes or businesses I have this great little office to come “home” to.  So, next time you see one of my videos from the office, or if you hire me to do some virtual organizing or consulting, you’ll have your own visit to our “World Shedquarters!”  And know this…you’re always welcome! That said, if you have any questions or comments on the project feel free to leave a comment below.

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