The perfect backyard office: my story

The perfect backyard office: my story

Creating my dream Tooncave

I’ve always craved my own space—a little hideaway from the world, a place to write and think and eat Crème Eggs without judgement. My very own Tooncave.

Recently I took the plunge and purchased a backyard cabin. 

In this post I’ll tell you the companies I used to make it happen, my budget, my challenges, and show you the end result.

 

How it all started

My husband and I both work from home and share an office. Sometimes it’s nice to have him with me all day. But generally we annoy the crap out of each other, and I often even find the sound of him breathing irritating.

I considered renting an office with my friend Adri, who runs a fabulous company called Adri’s Shop (and makes all my famous SEO cookies). But the ins and outs of council permits and the expense put me right off.

I considered buying a vintage caravan and parking it in the driveway. I considered converting the loft. (Wow, how expensive is that?) But in the end I decided a backyard office was the way to go..

 

Finding best backyard cabin company

I did a lot of research into backyard cabins, comparing quality, price and service. In the end I chose Cabin Kits Galore. Here’s why:

  • I liked how they were honest and upfront with their pricing. Pretty much everyone else made me jump through several hoops before they’d give me a price.
  • I was a little unnerved about them being so much cheaper than their competitors (to the tune of $2 – $3k). But after checking out the specs of the different cabins I realised they were essentially the same product.
  • A business chum had recently posted that she used them for a cabin build and had a great experience, which gave me the reassurance I needed.

TOON NOTE: I’m not affiliated with this company, and I don’t get any incentive for promoting them. I just like to give credit where credit is due. But if you do use them, mention my name and perhaps they’ll send me some crème eggs in the post.

 

Choosing the right home office

I chose a 4 x 3 sqm. cabin. I felt it was big enough to give me the space I needed without dominating the back garden.

Lucas from Cabin Kits reassured me that in NSW you don’t need council approval for backyard sheds up to 20 sqm. And it didn’t qualify as a habitable space because I wasn’t having a toilet installed.

 

Building my backyard office

The guys arrived bright and early at 7am, and by 3pm they were done.
The cabin is built on stilts rather than a concrete base, which sped everything up.

It came fully installed with fitted doors and windows, a deck, light sockets ready for fittings and an insulated Colorbond roof. It was even treated for bugs.

 

The fitout

My little office was now built. But it was really just a garden shed with raw untreated wood. Now came the hard work.

  • Painting: I received a quote to have the cabin painted for $3500, which was way more than I could afford. So I foolishly decided to do it myself.
    The painting alone took around 80 hours (I did it all myself), and at times it felt like I’d never finish. It’s not learn-copywriting-coursesperfect, but I’m proud of my hard work.
  • Electrics: The ceiling lights were provided, but had to be wired in.
    I used Umina Beach Electricians to install three sockets, a ceiling fan and an exterior light.
    Thankfully I already had a line running from the house so it wasn’t that big of a job. I’m yet to see whether there’s enough power to run a heater in the winter (or an air conditioner in the summer).
  • Flooring: I installed a floating laminate flooring using underlay, and all the bits were from Bunnings. It was quite a challenging job, but with tips from my Dad and a few YouTube videos I managed to do it.
  • Deck: The deck is a disaster. I used the wrong stuff, got paint on it and a monsoon started halfway through. I’ll fix it up later (or never).
  • Internet: I have wi-fi in the house from iiNet. I tried to get a booster to work and failed. But the wi-fi is working pretty well. Large downloads and uploads take a while, but for day-to-day stuff it’s fine.

 

The interior design

I’d been buying bits and bobs for my cubby for several weeks, but obviously a trip to IKEA was needed for the big bits (thanks Andrea). I tried to use local businesses wherever I could.

Some major purchases included:

  • Chairs: Both my comfy chair and swivel chair are from Freedom.
  • Desk: My desk is super important! I got one from IKEA, but it wasn’t right so that will be going back. I had a bad experience with one furniture company, but then found Jason L. The dude on the phone (Jamal) was super helpful, took time to make sure I’d ordered the right product, and it was delivered in two days. Big thumbs up.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.53.56 am

  • Computer: Since I was spending such a giant amount of cash, why not splash out on a new Mac and printer?

 

The budget

I decided to pass the cost of the cabin through my business, and was advised by my accountant that I may be liable for Capital Gains Tax. But since we don’t plan to sell the house for many years I feel okay about that.back-yard-home-office-window

There’s no denying it was an expensive venture. I’m a bit of an ‘Act now, think later’ type of girl, so I only looked at the cost of the cabin and didn’t really consider the rest.

Here’s a ballpark break down of my costs:

  • Cabin build: $9500 (with 20% deposit required up front)
  • Electrics: $800 (including labour)
  • Painting: $300 (not including labour)
  • Floor: $300 (not including labour)
  • Décor: $2500 (okay, I went a bit crazy)

Total cost:    $13400

 

The tax

I thought that I’d be able to claim my entire office in my tax return. But I couldn’t.
Instead I can only depreciate it over the next 25 years. Which means I have a big hole in this year’s budget.

Please check carefully with your accountant before you invest in something as big as this (I regret not doing this horribly!!)

The end result

I’m incredibly proud of the end result and the cabin or Tooncave as I’ve taken to calling it, really has become my happy place.

This was a big investment in me. But after five years of scrabbling around working in cafes, the kitchen and a cramped office I felt I deserved it. It feels like a celebration of my success to date.

The cabin has also added value to our house, which is a bonus. And one day I may give it up to my now five-year-old so he can have a teenage retreat.

My CFO (Chief Furry Officer) approves wholeheartedly of his new working environment.


And my husband and I are feeling the benefit of not working so closely together. It’s nice to commute across the lawn and meet him for dinner.

Over to you

Would you like a backyard cabin? What do you think of my efforts? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.

If you like some of the items in this post here are some links to help you find them:

Did you like this post?

confessions of a misfit entrepreneur with Kate Toon

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