A growing number of artists and artisans are opting for ‘shedworking’, setting up light, warm and airy studios conveniently sited in their gardens. Georgette McCready visits local garden buildings specialists Garden Affairs to find out how some are achieving a better work/life balance.
Would you like an elegant summerhouse where you can sit with a cup of tea to enjoy the sight of your garden in full bloom? Or perhaps you hanker after a log cabin with plenty of space and natural light where you can fully develop your career, away from the clutter and bustle of family life? Imagine if the only commute to work were a few strides across the lawn, or where you could easily pop back to your desk in the evening to complete a project.
West country-based family-run business Garden Affairs helps people achieve their homeworking dreams by consulting with them to design bespoke studios. Each cabin is as unique as its owner and people are free to create their own world inside, adding shelves, desks and blinds, as they choose. A home office is a more economic option than moving house or adding an extension and there’s the guarantee of somewhere peaceful to work. Shedworking is nothing new, of course. Tourists still flock to the wood cabins used by Welsh writer Dylan Thomas and sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Roald Dahl famously retreated to his writing shed to dream up the amazingly vivid characters of his much-loved children’s books. Contemporary high-profile garden room enthusiasts include artist Damien Hirst and property guru Kirstie Allsopp, who has said that her wooden garden room reminded her fondly of the tree houses her father built for her as a child. But canny Kirstie also points out that having an extra room at your property will also enhance its value.
The Garden Affairs team, based just outside Bath in Trowbridge, has been able to help all kinds of creative people set up their own space in their gardens. The design team can advise on everything from the position and size of the garden room to supplying electricity and lighting, as well as whether your home project will need planning permission. The latest generation of wooden cabins is eco-friendly, well insulated and designed to retain warmth in winter and stay cool on hot summer days. There is an option to plant a sedum roof to encourage wildlife and to add a water butt to collect rainwater from the guttering.
“Roald Dahl famously retreated to his writing shed to dream up the amazingly vivid characters of his much-loved children’s books.”
You can also choose as many power sockets as you like for your cabin, as Garden Affairs managing director Richard Squire says: “Nobody ever thinks they have too many sockets, you can always find a use for them.”
An artist’s studio
Max Ryan wanted a studio where she could run art classes and operate her picture framing and photography business. She didn’t want the expense and hassle of having to rent a studio, which she would have to commute to, so talked to Garden Affairs about installing a large log cabin in her garden in Frome. Max chose a substantial cabin, nine metres wide and four metres deep, with windows and three additional skylights. Inside, along with the main studio space, two smaller rooms were created for a cloakroom and a private office.
Max’s business Studio 61 is now well established and she says she relishes the short commute and the fact that she can take Howard her dog to work with her. The studio is so warm and comfortable that she has even been able to run life-drawing classes for her students.
A world for woolly creatures
Craftswoman Karin Celestine had dreamed about working in a little red Swedish house, where she could make the charming needle-felted woollen creatures who feature in her children’s books. Now her Shed of Glory, as she has dubbed it, has pride of place in her Monmouthshire garden and, true to her vision, she has painted the exterior Swedish red. Inside her Shed of Glory the creatures of the fictional world she has created, Celestine and the Hare, get up to all sorts of adventures in the warm and dry.
Lizzie wanted a space she could devote to her passion for pottery. Garden Affairs helped her design a 3.5 metre by 2.5 metre workshop, into which Lizzie has introduced her home kiln, which is run by electricity. She also arranged for a plumber to supply water to the workshop, for a handy sink, and opted for a bee-friendly living sedum roof.
Freelance journalist Maggie wanted a room of her own away from the washing machine, the front doorbell and all the other intrusions of domestic life. She says: “I got fed up sitting in the spare bedroom trying to work and having to clear everything away when family came to stay.” Maggie chose a Linea garden room, three and a half metres by three metres, for her town garden. The design is ultra modern and has very little roof overhang so it can be placed very near to a boundary. She’s very happy with her home office and has installed a sofa alongside her desk where she can indulge in what she claims are power naps to boost her creativity.