In the post-lockdown world, finding new sources of income might be high on the agenda. Your home could well be a good place to start, particularly if you have an outbuilding such as a garage you’re not currently using to its full advantage. According to recent research, only a third of people who own a garage actually use it for their car – for the majority of the rest it’s just a dumping ground. Yet it could be an opportunity to turn wasted space into something that will add value to your property.
For interiors blogger and stylist Lisa Dawson, converting the garage at her house near York into a self-contained guest annexe was something she’d dreamt of since she, her husband Joe and their three children moved in five years ago, and a plan that came to fruition earlier this year.
‘We have lots of family and they all live in the south, so although we already had a guest room, we needed more space for when they come to visit,’ says Dawson. The opportunity to rent it out for a few nights a month on Airbnb was a bonus. The work was completed just before lockdown started, so as yet it has not housed any guests, but once staycations become possible again, she plans to charge around £160 a night.
The garage, originally a barn, had already been converted into a basic two-storey space by the previous owner, with storage at the bottom and a gym at the top. ‘It had been approved as accommodation, but it was basically just two rooms, with no heating,’ she says. ‘We’d cleared the top floor out and made it into a hangout room for the children [now aged 18, 16 and 10], but they wouldn’t go there unless they were having parties, because it was freezing.’
As well as insulating the building, replacing windows and installing heating, Dawson started by adding stud walls to divide both floors into rooms. On the ground floor, half of the space has been sectioned off for the family to keep as storage.
The double front doors now open on to an entrance hall, with a desk area, built-in shelving under the stairs, a shower room at the back, and a laundry room with a washing machine and tumble dryer. Upstairs, the space has been divided in half, with a living area and kitchenette with a fridge, kettle and toaster. ‘I didn’t want to put in a full kitchen,’ says Dawson, ‘mostly because I didn’t really want people cooking there; it’s somewhere people will stay for one or two nights. Also, from a fire-safety perspective, I’d have needed to add a hallway separating the kitchen from the bedroom, which I didn’t want to do.’
From here, glazed metal sliding doors from B&Q open into the bedroom, where the standout feature is a cast-iron four-poster bed from Rockett St George. The look here is inspired by a favourite hotel of Dawson’s. ‘I’ve slept in that bed at an Artist Residence, and I knew that if I ever did anything like this I wanted to have it,’ she says. ‘I took that as my starting point and also found the idea of using old tea trunks as bedside tables in that hotel. I love the mix of old and new, so I’ve bought vintage and second-hand pieces, and repurposed things I already had. I wanted to make it as interesting and full of character as possible.’
Also adding character are the artworks hung throughout, provided via a partnership with the Art of Protest Gallery in York, which is run by a friend of Dawson’s. Her plan is to use the space as a mini gallery and rotate the artworks every few months to support local artists (guests will be able to buy the art).
On a bookcase that Dawson’s builder built into the banister at the top of the stairs (a clever use of space that she had spotted on Pinterest) is a collection of Penguin paperbacks, bought at a Sue Ryder sale. As well as providing reading material for guests, they add a pop of colour that connects the upstairs room with the orange-tiled shower room on the ground floor, which Dawson used to experiment with some bold looks. ‘I’ve never wanted to be an interior designer,’ she says, ‘but I loved being able to try new ideas that I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do in my own house.’
Throughout, she and her builder employed budget-saving tricks, such as building the worktop in the shower room from MDF and tiling it; buying a basic interior door and having a glazier cut a fluted-panel to fit; building a vertical banister from wood slats, and upgrading inexpensive kitchen cabinets with chic handles. The result is a dream guest room, a gallery space, and, in future, a nice little earner.
How to Airbnb your home
To sign up to Airbnb, you create an account with an email address and payment details, specify what you are offering and upload pictures. You will not be inspected, but you must comply with fire-safety regulations (check on gov.uk).
How much can you make?
How much you can expect to earn depends on your location and what you’re renting, but tends to vary from around £30 a night for a room to £150 for a one-bedroom apartment in London (Airbnb will take a three per cent cut of this), plus cleaning and service fees.
Is the income taxable?
Money earned from renting out part of your home is a taxable income that you’ll need to include on your tax return, but under the government’s Rent a Room Scheme, you can earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free.
How many days can I rent for?
You can rent out part of your home via Airbnb for a maximum of 140 days a year, or 90 days If you live in London. Check that your mortgage provider is happy, and that your insurer will cover you: Airbnb has a ‘host guarantee’ to cover damage up to around £800,000, but it doesn’t cover everything.
The total cost for building works on this project came to around £26,000.
Planning permission If you want to convert a garage – or any garden room – into living accommodation, you will need to obtain planning permission (visit your local council’s website for information on how to submit documents and photographs during lockdown).
Safety requirements Once you have permission and an idea of how you want to design the space, contact your local building control department to check that your plans will meet safety requirements. For example, as well as obvious things such as installing smoke alarms and adding the banister to the stairs, Dawson needed to ensure that the log burner in the living area was a certain distance from the velux window in the bedroom. Do this before starting work to avoid having to make costly changes later on.