The founder of the All In One group, based in Colchester, deconstructs a recent unique project that saw them making full use of outdoor space (by Chris Carroll)
The first thing the client for this project asked was: “Do we spend our money on our bathroom, or is a better investment a home studio?” The answer was simple: a home studio will always add value to your property, especially under the current climate.
After this decision was made, the fun part began of bouncing thoughts and ideas between us, keeping in mind how the client needed the space to function. We had to ask questions such as, “Will it only be an office? Can they use it sociably? Will it be big enough to use as gym?” Once this was all clear, we were ready for the next step.
Under local authority rules, there are area and height restrictions, depending on the location of the building. Is it too close to a boundary? Will it obscure a neighbours right of way? Are you in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? Knowing the area and location, it was clear we could construct a 10m2 building at a height of 2.5m from ground level. There were no plans, no measurements, no layouts; just requirements.
This is what we came up with – an office and studio space with a built-in desk area and shelving, as well as a flexible open area to use however the client pleases. A hard-wearing floor, electrics and internet supply were essential. We went for as much glazing as possible, ensuring warmth in the winter and keeping it cool in the summer, including a sky light providing more natural light as well as bonus viewpoint. A wood burner brings a feel of home into the space, and sets a cosy ambience during cooler months, and it’s size is unobtrusive, leaving a generous space as you walk in. It’s the perfect modern take on a wood cabin.
From the brief we knew it had to be a Scandinavian style studio, meaning using timber everywhere we could, which determined the products available. Internally we suggested a ply finish, but there are many to choose from. After using a Birch faced ply when constructing and installing a bespoke handmade kitchen, we noticed the continuity of quality throughout the product and the finish it gave, so to utilise this finish once again was a good decision. When cutting around openings, you will always see the edge of the ply; showing off the honest material and having this extra detail to complete the overall look – the clients loved it.
Externally, we had to take into consideration many factors. Firstly appearance: it had to be aesthetically pleasing to the customer and the neighbours, who were not only either side, but behind too. The product had to be very low maintenance, but not a man-made product, still keeping in mind a timber finish. There were trees to the side and behind, so the timber had to be sensitive and site specific. The best and only product that came to mind was Cedar. It has amazing colour variants and a beautiful grain that runs through it. Our client is Canadian, so when she saw this, she was delighted to be seeing the timber she had grown up with all around her, now in her garden in full view. Cedar has its own defence mechanism, that when it silvers over eventually, it has protected itself from rain and sun damage. To work with it is just as beautiful, and the scent it emanates when cutting will take you straight back to the school classroom when sharpening your pencil.
Other than the restrictions that are stipulated by the local authority, the rest was down to location. How to get a supply to the location, how best to construct when close to trees and the general logistics of bringing in materials, operating when constructing, and waste disposal. This studio was built on a one-way street, with parking restrictions and minimal space. When you don’t have the luxury of an open area to store materials and waste, you have to work methodically, and that all comes down to timings and efficiency. The weather plays a big factor as it is all outdoor work, so temporary coverings are a big help in these situations. Currently, building materials are getting harder to get hold of and the cost of materials have nearly doubled across the board in 2021. It was vital for us to be proactively up to date when purchasing materials and working within timeframes. In construction there are so many moving parts – when obstacles occur, you have to be ready to adjust and re-evaluate.
allinone.group (Photographer: Hugh Metcalf, Stylist: Portia Carroll)