It’s finally happening! Before Amy and I even made an offer on our mid-century Orlando bungalow a couple years ago, there were two big improvements we knew we wanted to make. The first was to remodel and expand the kitchen, and the other was to build an air-conditioned, office and guest space next to the pool in the backyard.
We started kitchen demolition on closing day and were able to finish that project before moving in. At 1,382 square feet, this is definitely a “cozy” home for a family of four. I was already working remote when we started house hunting, so a dedicated office space seemed like a high priority at the time. Once we moved in though, I was able to set up a workstation in our master bedroom. That was never an ideal long-term solution, but it allowed us to put our dreams of a detached backyard office on hold.
Then the pandemic hit.
With Amy and I both working from home with 2 elementary students returning to virtual school for the 2020-2021 school year, we realized that we had pushed the limits of our current living space and really needed another room that could function as a closable office.
When we started looking for prefab inspiration, there were a few modern solutions that we really liked. You’ll see a lot of architectural similarities here.
Kanga Room Systems – Modern Kwik Room
We love the look and configuration options of Kanga’s Modern Kwik Room buildings. The company is based in Texas and distributes their DIY kits nationwide. Unfortunately though, builds requiring permitting are not available in California, Nevada, or here in Florida.
Studio Shed – Signature Series
Studio Shed has, by far, the most advanced online configuration tool of the options we looked at. The large eaves, wide range of window options, and modern fiber cement siding made Studio Shed’s Signature Series a visual favorite. They have a nationwide network of installers and offer DIY kits, but their pricing was quite a bit higher than other options we considered.
Autonomous – Zen Work Pod
I didn’t expect a trendy office furniture company to add accessory structures to their product lineup, but this is 2020 after all. Autonomous announced their Zen Work Pod in June, and the aesthetic is unlike anything else we’d seen in our search. They’re still in pre-order mode, and given the very vertical design, I doubt that it’ll pass Florida’s wind resistance requirements.
Sheds Unlimited – Urban 360 Modern Shed
While we love the look of their Urban 360 Modern Sheds, Sheds Unlimited was another prefab structure vendor that doesn’t serve the state of Florida. Based in Pennsylvania, they deliver and install in most of the NE states.
Historic Shed – MiMo Shed
The only Florida-based prefab company we found with an option we liked was Historic Shed. The MiMo Shed design looked like a great fit for our Mid-Century home, but Orlando was the edge of the service area for this small, Brooksville company, so we weren’t able to get a quote from them.
Enter Tuff Shed
While their nationwide partnership with Home Depot says a lot about Tuff Shed’s ability to deliver at scale, I didn’t initially think of them as we were looking for modern accessory structure options. If you take a look at Tuff Shed’s Premier Pro Studio line though, the design has many of the features seen in the photos above. Their online builder tool isn’t as nice as Studio Shed’s but for the same size structure, the installed price was less than most competitor DIY kits.
After a lot of consideration, we decided to go with a 10′ × 16′ Premiere Pro Studio Shed. We chose the size based on the 5′ side and rear property line setback requirements listed in City of Orlando Accessory Structure Planner (pdf). We ended up finding out on our initial install day that the minimum distance from the side was actually 7.5′ for our zoning. That was a huge surprise given the tiny size of our lot. It was also a surprise when we learned that the crew didn’t have everything they needed to complete the job, as they were still waiting on delivery for half of the transom windows. Given those two factors, we asked to delay our installation. In the end, we decided that the location change wasn’t a big enough issue to justify applying for a variance. We rescheduled our install for the next week, ensured that the crew had all of the materials on hand when the arrived, and they assembled most of the shell in a single day.
I captured that timelapse on one of our $25 Wyze Cams. I wish that I had turned off the person detection feature (green rectangles) before starting the recording, but it’s still fun to watch 10 hours of construction go by in six and a half minutes. With the structure installed, there’s still a lot more work to do. We have an electrician lined up next week to run power and rough in our outlets, switches, and recessed lights. Once that’s done, we’ll be able to install a wall HVAC unit, insulation, drywall and flooring. Then it’s just trim, interior and exterior paint.
When the finish work is done, the image above shows how we’re thinking about using the new space. Moving clockwise around this quick Urban Barn Room Planner layout we have a desk on the top right, a bookcase, a TV and media cabinet. On the top left is a rug, lamp, and futon which will allow the space to function as a guest bedroom as well. It’ll still be a while before we can start moving furniture in, but we’re glad to finally have the project moving along.