CABIN FEVER How a couple from County Wicklow turned their garden shed into cosy guest accommodation
Using recycled materials, Charlotte and John Douglas created a cosy home for guests packed full of creative flair
The old proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, applies perfectly to the County Wicklow home of Charlotte and John Douglas who, wanting somewhere for their guests to stay, came up with the clever idea of converting their garden shed. ‘It seemed to make sense to do it up and use the space for our friends and family,’ explains Charlotte, a teacher. ‘But as it didn’t even have a bathroom, kitchen or any heating, there was quite a lot of work involved to turn it into a liveable space.’
Despite the obstacles, the couple decided to give themselves just 10 weeks to turn the outbuilding and its plot into a comfortable and practical home. ‘ With a big family gathering coming up, we had a target to work to,’ says Charlotte. ‘John is an engineer, and is always very hands-on, so to keep costs down, he decided to do as much of the work as he could himself. He was also working full-time, while I was racing around trying to source furniture, paints
and fabrics on a shoestring budget, as well as looking after our children.’
The couple needed to work with something that would be cost effective and quick to construct. Looking to Pinterest for inspiration, they opted to build a steel and timber frame structure reminiscent of a farm building using as many recycled materials as possible. ‘ We knew that most of our budget would go on the heating, plumbing, electrics and insulation, so we kept the costs down by sourcing what we needed from salvage yards and using industrial materials,’ explains John.
In a matter of weeks, the new structure was completed. The layout was designed to be as open plan as possible, with two bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor, and a further two bedrooms upstairs. To make it cosy, the couple fitted insulation, underfloor heating and a woodburning stove, and installed French doors to bring in lots of natural light. These open onto a pretty courtyard, which provides an extra
area for entertaining in summer. On the ground level, polished concrete floors keeps the look industrial and raw, while sisal carpeting upstairs adds natural texture.
When it came to the decor, Charlotte and John chose a palette of earthy neutral tones, with colours that work perfectly alongside the corrugated iron and timber. Furnishings are rustic and simple, and some pieces didn’t cost them anything at all. The leather sofas were saved from a skip, and old wooden electrical cable spools have been given a new lease of life as side tables in the sitting room and bedrooms. ‘We wanted the place to feel spacious and uncluttered,’ explains Charlotte, ‘so we tried to keep everything quite understated, but, at the same time, a little bit unusual.’
A few years on, the couple have now decided to rent out their quirky pad from time to time. ‘There seems to be a real move towards the industrial style we love,’ says Charlotte. ‘ We hope our guests and friends will enjoy staying here as much as we do.’
sitting room this spacious area features salvaged sofas and furnishings in earthy hues. Kelim rug, £206, Ferm Living, is a close match. For knitted pouffes, try Homescapes, £60. Pooky sells similar green pendant lights, £125 each
Landing Charlotte and John have maximised every inch of space. sofa covered in Parquet, £51m, Harlequin. skold sheepskin rug, £130, Ikea
Bedroom To recreate a farmhouse feel, John used low-cost corrugated iron and wooden cladding. halden lamp base, £39, Made, has the same look. For details about renting the property email enquiries@ birchhillhouse.com
en suite a corrugated iron shower emphasises the rustic look. hamam towel, £18, Notonthehighstreet.com, is similar
master Bedroom With limited space, the couple used some clever storage ideas. similar throw, £75, tolly Mcrae