Work in progress – how new uses were found for the shed
The shed has evolved from humble shack to sophisticated stand-alone room. Sharon Dale finds out what is at the bottom of the garden.
MEN and their sheds have been the butt of many jokes, but they’re having the last laugh now that the rest of us have woken up to how wonderful a garden building can be.
There has been a shed explosion over the past five years fuelled by a need for extra space and the desire for a peaceful retreat that taps into your innerchild’s love of Wendy Houses and dens.
The basic wooden cabin is still a best-seller but there is a host of new designs from Swiss chalets to contemporary glazed affairs and eco huts with green roofs.
The cost and the quality vary but you usually get what you pay for. A small 10 ft by 8ft building starts at about £7,000, while a larger guest annexe costs from £20,000 to £40,000 upwards.
Creating a stand-alone room in the garden is generally a lot cheaper than having an extension to your house, but make sure you get a quality building from a reputable expert.
You will need a good solid base and damp proof membrane to avoid “shed rot” and insulation is essential to prevent the building being too cold in winter and too hot in summer. You will also need good foundations and an electrician who can install power and lighting points.
“Getting the right building is essential or you’ll find it is un- work. It might only be a very short commute up the garden path, but shutting the door on the office and coming back home is psychologically good,” says Alex, who adds: “I got my shed because I had a growing family and no space in the house for an office. To move house to get an extra room would’ve cost me £80,000. Getting a shed was so much cheaper.”
He is “between sheds” at the moment having just moved house, but he looking for a new one.
“There’s an amazing amount of choice now compared to five years ago when I first started working in a shed and a lot of the new contemporary ones look marvellous, but I prefer the old-fashioned shed look. I just think it fits into the garden better.”
While homeworkers beaver away at the bottom of the garden, others have found more creative uses for sheds.
Simon Chandler, of Barnsleybased Regency Garden Rooms, says: “It never ceases to amaze me what people use them for. They are very popular as music rooms, where people can play their pianos and trumpets without disturbing other members of the household.
“We’ve built them for artists and potters and we did a job down in Devon recently where we built one for the husband and one for his wife.
“One of our most successful was a garden room for a boy who needs kidney dialysis.
“He has a bed and all his equipment in one side and a kitchen in the other side. Rather than being stuck in a bedroom looking at four walls, he has a view of the garden and his own place.”
Another popular use is for home youth clubs.
“We’re seeing a growth in parents buying them for their teenagers. The youngsters can invite their friends round and be separate from the house, but they’re still in a safe environment and the parents know where they are,” says Simon.
Demand for sheds is still increasing and they’re the only sector of the property market to escape the effects of the recession.
As design guru Terence Conran once said: “A shed’s enduring appeal is its separateness – where else can you escape from the house without travelling more than a few metres.”
Alex Johnson puts it another way: “Talking to shedworkers around the country about their garden offices, one phrase cropped up constantly: “I love it”. How many people can say the same about their office environment?”
ALL MOD CONS: Complete with double-glazed windows and cedar roof shingles, one of the offerings from Regency Garden Rooms.
ECO FRIENDLY: An office at £12,900 from Podspace of Huddersfield.
THE FUTURE: The Orb garden office, the brainchild of designer Philip Simpson and architect David Miller.
WRITING ROOM: Dylan Thomas’s hut in Wales.