‘I built a luxe shed in two weeks – and so can you’

The se­crets to cre­at­ing a struc­ture with a wood stove and even a bed for just £3,500 are shared in a new book, its au­thor tells Anna Tyzack

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - GARDENING -

Sally Coulthard did not set out to build her own shed. She browsed gar­den cen­tres near her home in York­shire for a wooden struc­ture with enough space for a desk, a book­shelf and a wood­burn­ing stove. “I wanted a de­cent shed to write my books in all year round, not just a sum­mer house,” says Coulthard, au­thor of Shed Chic, a guide to the world’s most stylish sheds. “But I didn’t want to spend a for­tune and I didn’t want the whole process to take too long.” When she re­ceived a quote for an eye-wa­ter­ing £20,000, how­ever, she re­solved to save money and build it her­self. “I’ve al­ways been quite prac­ti­cal; I’ve re­stored pe­riod prop­er­ties and built a shep­herd hut for my daugh­ters,” she says. “The only thing that wor­ried me was the phys­i­cal­ity.”

Her de­sign would be at­trac­tive yet sturdy and, most im­por­tantly, she’d en­sure it was straight­for­ward to build. It would also, she de­cided, be her next book. “I found my­self think­ing, ‘what if it was so easy to make that any­one else could do it, too?’” she says. How to Build A Shed, out this week, is a stepby-step guide to build­ing a shed, the pro­to­type of which now stands in her gar­den – a struc­ture that cost £3,500 and took Coulthard and her friend Scott just two weeks to build.

“It demon­strates that any­one can de­sign, build and dec­o­rate a use­ful and beau­ti­ful gar­den struc­ture at a frac­tion of the cost of a ‘posh’ gar­den re­treat,” she says.

Coulthard painted her shed black with a cream in­te­rior and fur­nished it with sisal car­pets and a sofa bed as well as her desk. The same shed, how­ever, could be used as a work­shop, oc­ca­sional bed­room, art stu­dio or – as her friend Abby Owens has demon­strated in her gar­den nearby – a glo­ri­fied pot­ting shed.

With its mono pitch rub­ber roof and glazed dou­ble doors, the de­sign was born out of lazi­ness, Coulthard ad­mits. “Pitched roofs in­volve more com­plex join­ery and if you com­bine doors with win­dows you make life eas­ier,” she says. “Be­sides, if you have fewer win­dows, you have more wall space.” The di­men­sions – 12ft by 8ft – al­low space for a dou­ble bed with­out the shed be­ing so large it re­quires plan­ning per­mis­sion. “Those need­ing a smaller struc­ture could sim­ply scale it down,” she says.

In many ways, the plan­ning stage is the most chal­leng­ing part of the pro­ject, par­tic­u­larly if you are fol­low­ing her il­lus­trated in­struc­tions, she says. She ag­o­nised over where to place her shed to en­sure it would not be bat­tered by the wind or too hot dur­ing the sum­mer. “Sit­ing is so cru­cial – mine is in an or­chard about 30 yards from the house, slightly hid­den by trees to give me pri­vacy yet close enough for me to hear the post­man,” she says.

Then there was the ques­tion of what to build it on: Coulthard weighed up the pros and cons of var­i­ous foun­da­tions, from tim­ber bear­ers to con­crete, be­fore set­tling on a Quick­JACK Pro base sys­tem with ad­justable plates. When cedar shin­gles proved too ex­pen­sive for the roof, she dis­cov­ered EDPM rub­ber, an af­ford­able and ecofriendly al­ter­na­tive, favoured by ar­chi­tects.


En­ter­tain­ing in the gar­den has a more fes­tive vibe. I’d sug­gest in­clud­ing a large ta­ble and chairs for din­ner par­ties, ta­ble lamps for soft light­ing and a wood-burn­ing stove to keep you and your guests cosy in win­ter.


Fill your space with a three-seater sofa bed, sur­round-sound speak­ers A shed is a haven for cre­ativ­ity. Sur­round your­self with swatches, sketches, and other artists’ work for in­spi­ra­tion, plus a desk and mo­du­lar stor­age to keep it tidy. All these con­sid­er­a­tions are de­tailed in the book, along with lists of tools and the ex­act size and shape of ev­ery piece of tim­ber.

Un­less a shed is only to be used as a pot­ting shed or sum­mer­house, Coulthard ad­vises in­su­lat­ing it – this way it will be more use­ful. If there is any chance you will use it to work or sleep, she also sug­gests fit­ting a stove.

“My tiny Sala­man­der stove is the best thing about my shed,” she says. “In win­ter it is a daily rit­ual to stoke it up be­fore I sit down at my desk. The shed heats up re­ally quickly and it’s so cosy.” She also in­stalled elec­tric­ity and light­ing and was re­lieved to find she could use the Wi-Fi from the house.

In pre­vi­ous DIY projects – con­struct­ing a chicken coop, for ex­am­ple – Coulthard used trial and er­ror, fudg­ing any mis­takes she made along the way. When it came to her pro­to­type shed, how­ever, ev­ery as­pect had to be per­fect. “It was by far the most com­pli­cated book I’ve ever writ­ten,” she says. “It has paid off, though. If you fol­low the in­struc­tions, you’ll have a shed at the end.”

Re­al­is­ti­cally, though, can some­one with lim­ited DIY ex­pe­ri­ence ex­pect to con­struct such a large build­ing? The process re­quires a mitre saw, predrilled pilot holes and “nog­gings” to stiffen the struc­ture. Coulthard in­sists that any­one can do it, so long as you have some­one to help with the lift­ing and car­ry­ing. “Most shed skills are quite ba­sic,” she says. “I’m not hugely com­pe­tent my­self. It’s about putting to­gether sim­ple tim­ber frames and then screw­ing sheet ma­te­ri­als on top.” Tech­ni­cal ad­di­tions such as elec­tric­ity and light­ing, mean­while, must be left

THE SHED THAT SALLY BUILTSally Coulthard, main, shows off the shed she built in just two weeks in her gar­den

BY THE BOOKSally Coulthard has writ­ten a step-by-step guide to build­ing a shed like hers

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