‘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
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.
THE HOME OFFICE GARDEN DINING ROOM
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