The Man Shed 2.0: How Home Extensions Have Grown Up


Modern outbuildings have evolved into sophisticated living spaces that enhance homeowners' lifestyles. Far more than simple sheds, these multifunctional havens provide an exciting new canvas for design experimentation using various materials, finishes and styles.

For architects and interior designers, the contemporary outbuilding represents an opportunity to push creative boundaries and craft innovative environments where people can live, work and play. Here are just some of the ways that home extensions have moved well beyond the humble man shed of yesteryear.


An outbuilding's exterior significantly impacts the overall aesthetic of the property. Styles using rustic brick, reclaimed wood or corrugated iron with a slick, modern façade create an eye-catching contrast against traditional backdrops.

Alternatively for cohesion, match external cladding, roofing, doors and windows to the main house. Living walls, climbing plants and complementary landscaping help the outbuilding settle into the surrounding outdoor space.

The Modern Man Cave

There is still a market for the man cave but it has been enhanced by improved interior design and a desire to separate at-home workspaces and leisure areas. The contemporary man cave features a sleek and minimalist design with industrial accents. Polished concrete floors, exposed brick walls, metal and reclaimed wood finishes are ideal for creating a stylish space dedicated to leisure and entertainment.

Smart Technology Integration

The Man Shed 2.0: How Home Extensions Have Grown Up

Smart home technology such as automated lighting, security systems with movement-activated cameras, wireless charging, built-in speakers and retractable power ports can be integrated into outbuildings for ultra-modern retreats. Strong WiFi coverage allows for a fully-functioning and hi-tech office or workshop, while smart glass tints add greater privacy and solar control.

A Life in the Round

circular-shaped outbuilding offers an interesting architectural feature and flow that suits multiple uses. With no hard edges, a circular space has a calming, harmonious ambience ideal for yoga or meditation studios.

The shape also works well for an entertaining or living space as radiating partitions, shelving and flooring maintain an open flow from the center outwards. While wrap-around seating, sofas or benches follow the curve of the walls.

Adaptable Living Spaces

An outbuilding used for multiple purposes incorporates movable partition walls, varied flooring (timber, concrete, rubber) and dimmable lighting to define separate activity zones that can easily transition from a yoga studio to gaming room or workshop. Durable, modular furniture enables quick reconfiguration.

Weatherproofed and well-insulated, the space remains comfortable whatever the season or activity while an open-plan space with generous glazing helps to blur the line between interior and exterior.

Outdoor Entertaining

The Man Shed 2.0: How Home Extensions Have Grown Up

Kloof Road House by Nico van der Meulen Architects

Extend cooking and dining spaces into the garden with an outdoor kitchen. These cooking spaces typically feature weather-proof cabinetry and countertops, stainless steel appliances like a BBQ, pizza oven, fridge and sink, as well as lounge and dining areas. Position the kitchen near the outbuilding for easy access and a seamless transition between the two spaces.

Dynamic Exteriors

Create an iconic piece of architecture with an angular, multi-sided, skewed or dynamic facade. Polygonal shapes provide more wall space for windows that flood the interior with light from multiple angles. The irregular exterior enhances visual interest and contrasts with typical rectangular outbuildings.

Acoustic Considerations

Soundproofing and noise control are especially important for outbuildings used as home offices, gyms or entertainment rooms as you can enjoy your activities in peace without disturbing the neighbors. Double-glazed windows, insulation, draft excluders and noise-reducing materials like rubber flooring or cork help reduce noise pollution from outside.

Sound-absorbing furnishings, wall panels and ceilings will help to minimize the echo within the outbuilding. For further privacy, install blinds, shutters or one-way mirrored glass, while a white noise machine or sound system provides background noise to mask unwanted sounds.

Sustainability and Sophistication

The Man Shed 2.0: How Home Extensions Have Grown Up

William Notman House by Sid Lee Architecture

An eco-friendly approach with green roofs, solar panels, rainwater harvesting and natural ventilation helps the outbuilding tread lightly. Triple or double glazing and additional insulation further improve energy efficiency. An environmentally-friendly outbuilding allows for sophisticated spaces with a lower carbon footprint and reduced running costs.

Custom Lighting

Carefully designed lighting enhances the outbuilding ambience and experience. Layers of natural, ambient and task lighting create zones for different purposes. Integrate skylights, clerestory windows, and solar tubes for natural light and use suspended pendants, wall sconces, floor and table lamps for ambient and task lighting.

Outdoor lighting helps extend time spent in the space during evenings. Mood lighting, dimmers, LEDs and smart controls enable transitions between different ambience.

Blending Design and Practicality

Adapt existing external structures and garages into stylish and practical areas to fit everything from EV charging points to bench worktops. Integrate a garage into a gym, workshop, playroom and entertaining spaces with automated doors, motion-activated lighting and a strong WiFi signal for smart tech. To maximize the opportunity to use your home gadgets, include power outlets, data ports, shelving and a workbench suited to different hobbies and DIY tasks. 

Durable flooring like concrete, stone or tile withstands high-traffic use and chemical spills. Meanwhile industrial units, used filing cabinets and steel fittings provide a contemporary look. For EV cars or electric bike storage, consider an automated lift system or wall-mounted racks to maximize floor space. Super-sized doors, at least 9 to 10 feet high and 8 feet wide allow for easy access and parking for large vehicles. Timber, steel or sectional roll-up doors blend the garage into surrounding architecture. Install charging stations in an area with good accessibility to the charging station, where it looks good and blends in with the garage's style. 

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