Working from home: From shed to office in three weeks with €2,000
Civil servant Alan Byrne says having an office in the garden separates work from family life
Alan Byrne in his home office, which he converted from a stable in just three weeks. Photograph: Laura Hutton
Like many people, Alan Byrne spent much of last year trying to adapt to working from home.
Having set up a portable office in one corner of the house, as the various lockdowns were enforced, he found himself moving from room to room to find the peace to work and to give his wife, Valerie, and 15-year-old twin daughters, Polly and Sophie, the space they also needed to get on with their own work.
So, when the latest restrictions were announced, he decided to take matters into his own hands and renovate an outhouse in his one-acre garden in Ballacolla, Co Laois.
It sounds a lot more decadent than it is, but there was an old stable building outside, which wasn’t being used, and my father convinced me it could be renovated as an office
“I had toyed with the idea of building a small extension or buying a prefab-type building to use as an office. But, whilst it sounds a lot more decadent than it is, there was an old stable building outside, which wasn’t being used, and my father convinced me that it could be renovated and used as an office.
“It just needed to be insulated and a new door and window installed. There wasn’t much else happening over the holiday period, so on Christmas Eve the two of us drew up a plan of what we needed to do to turn the shed into an office.”
The outbuilding had previously been used to house the usual “clutter and rubbish”, so Byrne began the task of clearing the space before work could be started on renovating.
“I did all the renovating work on our house when we moved back here from Portlaoise town in 2015,” says Byrne, who is originally from Ballacolla. That work involved laying new floors, installing new bathrooms, as well as painting and decorating, so he had some experience when it came to doing up the shed. He also had the help of his dad, Mick (who lives next door). “He really knew what he was doing – he became the foreman and I was his labourer, if I’m honest.”
Working together, the pair insulated the walls with plasterboard before plastering them. Then they added a layer of insulation onto the concrete floor before laying down a wooden floor. They also had to cut out a hole in the wall to create a window space and then install a new window and door, both of which they bought second hand online.
“Over the course of the Christmas holidays, we fully insulated the ceiling, walls and floor, installed a radiator and wifi, which is wired from the house,” says Byrne, who works as a civil servant. “I did the painting and decorating myself and thankfully we were able to get all the material we needed from local hardware shops.”
“It took just three weeks from start to finish and because it was mainly just me and my dad (they hired someone to plaster the walls), we weren’t affected by any restrictions and could just get on with it. The whole project cost about €2,000, which is far less than I would have spent in the year on travelling into Dublin every day to work.”
Prior to the pandemic, Byrne had a two-hour commute to the capital every morning and then home again in the evening. Having the office in the garden has allowed him to separate work from family life and introduce a very short commute.
“It’s great to be able to close the door in the evening and leave it behind until the following day. It is also good to leave the house in the morning and feel like I am actually going to work.” If he has one piece of advice for anyone looking to create a home office? “I would say look closely at what you already have. And an old shed, which is structurally sound, would be a great place to start.”