Backyard Structures: The New Necessity

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Real Estate

Take a look at your current outdoor space. Maybe you have a terrace, patio, or deck. Maybe you have a table and chairs or some outdoor sports equipment. But what if you could put that space to really good use? What if you could use your backyard to create a space that adds value to your home’s equity—and to your everyday life? For many homeowners, the best new home improvement or addition isn’t connected to the home at all—it’s a specialty backyard structure.
Whether you’re looking for space for your new work from home lifestyle or you want to build more financial security into your life, a separate exterior space offers convenience, flexibility, and privacy. Here are some ideas for making that backyard space more useful than ever.

Guest House
For those with big families or a home located in a desirable resort area, a guest house is a great option for an upgraded backyard space. Keep in mind storage options for your guests’ luggage and include basic toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and shampoo. While you might not need a full kitchen in a guest house, a wet bar with an ice maker and small beverage refrigerator is a great option and a welcome addition to your guest house design.

Pool House
Long a staple of elegant luxury homes, the pool house is beginning to look like a necessity. Here you’ll find a great place to store pool toys and floats, with floor coverings and furnishings that can stand up to wet bathing suits and flipflops. Include a cabana bath for added convenience, and WiFi for quiet rest time when kids need to get out of the sun.

She-Shed or He-Shed
Whether it’s intended for the man of the house or the woman of the house, an outdoor structure can provide a place for peace and privacy. Create a football-themed media room for the ultimate backyard man-cave. Create a serene space for her to pursue her hobbies or just get away from the hustle and bustle inside the main house.

Granny Shed
If you have in-laws who frequently come over to help with the kids or are looking to integrate elderly parents into your household, the so-called Granny Shed is a great option. It preserves the privacy and autonomy of grandma and grandpa while providing the support that they may need as they age and mobility becomes more of an issue. The single-story design and smaller size will help with home upkeep and safety. Consider adding features like extra lighting, additional handrails, and grab bars to provide extra security and comfort for aging family members.

Fitness Studio
Whether you’re looking for a standalone home gym or a yoga studio, you’ll be more inspired to keep up with your daily workout routine when going to the gym is as easy as stepping out of your back door. Create a combination space with a variety of gym equipment, mirrors, and a barre so that the whole family can take part, from the smallest ballerina to the strongest weightlifter.

Homeschool Classroom
As COVID-19 shut down schools, many parents found themselves struggling with helping their students study at home. One of the reasons? Too many distractions. If your school district is planning to remain closed for part or all of the school day over the next year, or if you’re thinking of continuing to homeschool your children, it may be time to create a separate space devoted to study. 

A remote learning environment can help your child separate from their normal spaces, like a bedroom or playroom, and focus on schoolwork. Add bookshelves and tables as well as educational posters to create a stimulating learning environment. Include upgraded WiFi for fast access to the online classroom.

Home Office
As businesses decide to offer work from home as a permanent role for more and more of their workers, many two-income households find themselves struggling to create space for dueling Zoom meetings and uninterrupted work-time. A separate workspace creates the distance you need to be more productive while still remaining at home. Make your separate home office the dedicated workspace for one of you, or make it a rotational space for either person’s virtual meetings, phone calls, and work that requires undivided attention.

Rental Unit
Economic disruption caused by the pandemic has some people rethinking their financial planning. If you have the space, a separate structure may be a great option for conversion into a small rental unit. If you live in a college town or in an area with a large population of renters, you may want to use the space for long-term leases. If you live in a resort area, you may want to host short-term and vacation renters.

Remember to determine what structural elements are required for rental properties in your area and whether your HOA sets limits on rental properties in your community. In addition, consult with your CPA or financial advisor on the tax implications of a rental property, consult your lawyer on the legal liability associated with such a unit, and determine what adjustments you’ll need to make to your insurance coverage.

Design Options for Your Backyard Structure
One of the best features of your backyard structure is that it doesn’t have to conform to the style of your residence. In many cases, you can indulge your own individual design aesthetic and add a touch of whimsy with a fanciful guest house or other exterior space in a style totally different from that of the main home. Here too, be sure to check with your HOA to ensure that there are no restrictions governing the design or placement of your secondary structure.