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Tiny Office – Design Phase

In August, when we sat down with our realtor, two of our “wish list” items were:

  1. We need an office or somewhere we can work since we work at home full-time.
  2. We need storage space for Cartel books.

The problem is three-fold:

  1. Most of San Diego, especially in the areas we were willing to move, was built in the 1940s to 1960s when very few people worked at home.
  2. Square footage is such a premium, selling for $400-$600 per square foot, that anything that looks like it could be an office has most likely already been converted to living space or a bedroom. Garage conversions are the norm.
  3. To keep density under control, especially where we live near San Diego State, zoning regulations are very prohibitive. Prior to some new ordinances lots of homes in our community were converted to “mini dorms” by developers, converting 3 bedroom homes into 10 bedroom homes while not increasing the square footage. (1300-1700 square feet is normal)

We looked at lots and lots of houses. Some met our needs but were not good deals for a variety of reasons. And then the house across the street became available… which met many of our needs, but not all, we decided we’d go ahead to buy it even though it didn’t have the storage space we needed and didn’t have the office space that I needed.

The Tiny Office

Before we closed on the house, Kristen and I started poking around at what it would look like to build a “tiny office” in the backyard. The tiny part is because of the zoning. While we could build something a little bigger, the total square footage of a “detached uninhabited accessory building” where we live is limited to 120 square foot of roof space.

There’s a lot of inspiration out there for this concept.

We have a budget for it that’s modest but enough to do a nice job.

With that– we’ve completed a few early steps.

Finish size is 8'x10' - This isn't what we'll ultimately do with interior design, just shown for scale
Finish size is 8’x12′ – This isn’t what we’ll ultimately do with interior design, just shown for scale
  1. We’ve mapped out our backyard and begun what will become our “master plan” for the backyard… transforming it from a big rectangle with bushes around the outside to a space that’s designed and functional for our family. See, while our house is 1400 square feet, in San Diego, you can extend your living space into the yard with outdoor space.
  2. We’ve landed on a design for the tiny office that we think will be both really functional for me and hopefully an inspiring place I’ll want to work. A key to making it not feel tiny on a small footprint is tall walls. We’ve spent a little more to get 8 foot sidewalls and the ceiling will vault up to have a 10 foot peak. We’ve also added a giant window and an all glass door to allow for natural light. (The window is 8 feet wide on a 12 foot wall!)
  3. We’ve selected a licensed contractor that specializes in this size of building. This concept is popular in Southern California right now. They aren’t the only contractor who does it but they have 5 full-time crews that only build “accessory buildings” like sheds, cottages, etc.

The next step is site preparation. I’ll do that over the next couple of weeks. The builders are scheduled to be on site in mid-January.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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