Dezeen Magazine

The Garden Studio by Michael Dillon of AOMD

Michael Dillon creates his own low-cost garden studio in Kent

British architect Michael Dillon has designed and built his own low-cost garden studio in southeast England using low-carbon materials that include wood-fibre board and hemp.

Located in Kent, the 14-square-metre building provides a part-time workspace for Dillon, who recently launched his own architecture studio called AOMD.

The design centres around natural and recycled materials, and minimises the use of concrete, toxins, plastics and glues.

Picture window of home office by Michael Dillon of AOMD
The garden studio has walls of blue-oiled Douglas fir

"The Garden Studio was an exercise for me in self-building from scratch, and testing how easy it is to source alternative, recycled and local materials," Dillon told Dezeen.

"It isn't just an architect’s studio, it's also a continuing experiment into how buildings can be made without so much waste and carbon. All this to better inform my emerging practice," he said.

The architect was able to keep costs down to £4,500. He did this by carefully planning the build in advance and minimising material wastage.

Garden studio with in-built red desk, lamp and plant
The interior is lined with a wood-fibre board made without glue

"A large amount of time was spent researching suppliers to get the right materials and grouping together deliveries," said Dillon.

"Drawing the project up in detail and working to standard panel sizing allowed for me to cut down wastage and keep over-ordering to a minimum."

Rear view of home office by Michael Dillon of AOMD
The building has windows on two sides. Photo is by Michael Dillon

The building is simple in form but features contemporary details including blue-oiled Douglas fir cladding, a slender low-pitched gable roof and a large picture window.

It has a modular timber framework designed for easy self-assembly. Hemp insulation infills the stud walls, while the interior is lined with the wood-fibre board known as ESB.

Dillon chose ESB, rather than OSB or plywood, as it is made from wood pulp without any glue. His aim was to create a "fully breathable" structure.

For the same reason, he chose chalk-based paint and Marmoleum lino for the internal wall and floor finishes.

The structure sits on foundations of timber and recycled plastic matting. This meant it could be installed without planning permission, under permitted development rights.

Aerial view of home office in Kent by Michael Dillon of AOMD
The walls are insulated with hemp. Photo is by Michael Dillon

Before setting up his own practice, Dillon was an associate for London studio Mae Architects working on projects including the Stirling Prize-shortlisted Sands End Arts and Community Centre.

The architect now uses the garden studio as his workspace three or four days a week and commutes into London the rest of the time.

Featuring a built-in desk, the dual-aspect space offers Dillon a view of a valley and woodland while he works.

"It seemed a far more inspiring alternative to a traditional office in a more urban location," he said.

"It is a calm place to draw and to be creative, with ample space for making models at 1:10 scale and photographing them."

Exterior of garden studio in Kent
The picture window frames a view over a valley and woodland

The architect doesn't currently have plans to turn the design into a self-assembly product, although he expects to repurpose some of the details for future bespoke studio designs.

Other recent examples of garden studios include one in Dublin built from recycled aluminium and red-stained beech and one in Maine featuring barn-style doors.

The photography is by Rory Gaylor unless otherwise indicated.

More images and plans

Floor plan, The Garden Studio by Michael Dillon of AOMD
Floor plan
Cross section, The Garden Studio by Michael Dillon of AOMD
Cross section