At long last, the shed is enjoying a much-deserved resurgence in popularity. Typically considered dark, damp and spider-infested storage spaces, creative homeowners are finding increasingly radical ways to repurpose the humble garden shed as an extension of the house, transforming these unloved wooden boxes into office spaces, mini-gyms, secret bars and outdoor dining rooms.
Sales of sheds increased by 22 per cent last year, building on rapid growth in 2014 and 2015 spurred on by a sharp uptick in those looking to work from home. Former Conservative party leader – and apparent trendsetter when it comes to sheds – David Cameron led the charge earlier this year with his brand new £25,000 shed, which he says he will use to pen his ministerial memoirs. But he was hardly the first to take to working in the shed: Roald Dahl famously wrote from one at the bottom of his garden.
A place of profound solace and solitude, the restorative effects of the shed are well documented, and their capacity to raise productivity and contribute to general well-being is beyond question. “Workspaces with daylight, views of nature and natural ventilation have demonstrated higher levels of productivity, well-being, and comfort,” says environmental psychologist Lily Bernheimer. “People feel more removed from everyday stress in the garden as compared to indoors. They feel calm and relaxed, refreshed and revitalised, and more in control. Even looking at nature for just 40 seconds at a time has been proven to improve brain functioning and help people concentrate better.”
Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Cuprinol, oversees the UK’s annual Shed of the Year competition, so it’s safe to say she’s on the bleeding edge of the revolution in shed transformation. “Working outside can have a positive impact on your wellbeing,” she says, “and what’s wonderful is that anyone with a garden can design a space to inspire their creativity.”
“It’s clear that the humble garden shed is no longer just a space to store garden tools,” she continues. “People view it more as an extension of their home.”
Shed specialists Garden Hideouts offer a bespoke interior design service by Bayswater Interiors for its Garden Pod and The Arca sheds. The latter, which is far from the kind of rickety outhouse your old man would hide away in, is constructed from hand-oiled western red cedar tongue and groove cladding, yellow balau hardwood decking and precision-cut Finnish plywood.
The Pod, on the other hand, is designed to blend into the environment, and can be customised in a number of different ways: as an office, a playroom for the kids, or even a sauna. Fully heated, damp-proofed, plumbed and insulated with double glazing, these super-sheds can be used all year round, as guest rooms in the summer months and for toasty, quiet respite from the family in the winter.
Somewhat telling is the absence of the word “shed” in its marketing materials – the name still carries connotations of broken lawnmowers – but all that is set to change. There’s a new kind of shed on the horizon, one that’s less “emergency tetanus shot” and more “luxurious outdoor retreat”.