Saturday, May 31, 2008

George Bernard Shaw's writing hut

Shaw's writing hut is featured in The Guardian's Writers' Rooms series. Michael Holroyd points out that this was Shaw's secret lair where he came to hide from people. We all know it rotates but it was also steeped in the white heat of technology. As Holroyd says:
"There was an electric heater, a typewriter, a bunk for Napoleonic naps and a telephone to the house which could be used for emergencies such as lunch: surely everything a writer could need."

Monticello pavilion

There are many outbuildings at Monticello, the house and gardens near Charlottesville, Virginia, owned and designed by President Thomas Jefferson, but this vegetable garden pavilion is arguably the most pleasant. It has double-sash windows, an attractive railing and a pyramid roof and was used by Jefferson as a quiet retreat where he could read in the evening. Destroyed in the early 19th century, it was rebuilt in 1984 using Jefferson's own notes.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cabanes de Jardin - part 2

As part of the exhibition we posted about earlier today, etcher Francois Houtin contributed a dozen engravings exploring the theme of 'Cabane De Jardinier'. Here's what Sir Roy Strong has to say about his work:
"Sinister, witty, fantastic, romantic, surreal, all of these words can be applied to the garden pictures of François Houtin. These are strange and haunting horticultural visions, their hallucinatory character heightened by the artist's use of monochrome. Houtin is above all a superb technician, never more so than in the subtle cadences of his etchings. Here is an eye and a mind from which allusions seem to tumble from Arcimboldo to Dali, from Desiderio Monzu to Le Doux, from Hieronymus Bosch to Schinkel. Here too are echoes of things seen in the great garden design and festival books of the past, extravagant pavilions, bizarre fountains and a world in which nature is subjected to almost savage contortions."
Well worth a browse.

Around the shedworld

The deadline for entry to this year's Shed of the Year competition has been extended to 8 June (voting starts on 9 June)... Put your home business on the Enterprise Nation map (Shedworking's there already)... Dwell blog has a great roundup of prefab backhouses... Shed and Shelter's Structure of the Month is a great tentworking structure from Exclusive Tents (above)... HomeWorker magazine is almost ready to hit the streets... Trendhunter focuses on an eco laptop pillow (below)...Home Office Warrior is talking about making friends... Chief Home Officer looks at misperceptions about a home office dad... Bookshelf continues to highlight some great bookshelves and bookcases... The Christian Science Monitor reports on how bambook is helping China rebuild post-quake...

Cabanes de Jardin - part 1

There are some lovely imaginative examples of cabanes de jardin (French sheds) from an exhibition at the Parc de Bagatelle, as detailed at L'Atelier Vert - Everything French Gardening who argue that:
"there simply is no exact English translation for the French cabane. "Cabin" has a different connotation in English. "Garden shed"--with its overtones of dusty storage--just doesn't do justice to the esprit of the French cabane, which is part get-away, part nature-hideout, part playhouse--but especially a place with a sense of secrecy and even magic, a place to fantasize and dream."
Pictured above, a nice twist on a classic look with glass roof panels, and below the cabane secrète, built from moss and branches. L'Atelier Vert continues:
"The exhibit does a good job of leading you to reflect on the roles the garden cabane plays with respect to the human spirit. Rooms are dedicated to "refinding oneself," shelter, the desire to build, the desire to escape, to dream, and to tell a story."
Well worth a browse, as is the rest of the site, especially those of you with a particular interest in France.A Bill Kratz spot

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday Outhouses - Outhouses of Baja

Outhouses of Baja is an excellent collection of photos by John O Burns taken during a 2,000 mile offroad motorcycle trip through Baja, Mexico, ranging from the artistic (above) to the most basic structure (below). He has also put together a great selection of outhouses in the Western United States.


One of the keys to a successful shedworking setup is the ability to have a siesta to recharge your batteries. The Nappak means you don't need to settle uncomfortably into your work chair nor nip back into the house. Merely inflate and lie down. It rolls into a small tube for easy storage.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Choosing a shed - Sanctuary Garden Offices

Devon-based Sanctuary Garden Offices is one of the longer-established garden office specialists, building each shedworking atmosphere from scratch from their own workshops. The general appearance is quite traditional and the general spec is:
• External cedar cladding – natural or painted
• Wooden joinery – single or double glazed
• Full choice of roof finishes – slate, cedar, clay
• Lead flashings
• Full insulation to British Standards
• Full wiring loom incorporating heating, power, lighting and communications.
Options include real slate or clay tile roof, painted or waney edge exterior cladding, decked verandah, vaulted ceilings, Velux windows, lead finials, and hardwood flooring.

Their sister company is Sanctuary Summerhouses which have a wide range of other shedlike structures which would be suitable for less allround shedworking but are equally as attractive.

Employers still resisting flexible working

As reported in various places (including Personnel Today), a whopping seven out of every 10 employers admit they 'never or occasionally' accept requests to work from home. The new Labour Market Outlook survey of 735 UK employers was released by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Gerwyn Davies, policy adviser at the CIPD, said: "Inflexible approaches to homeworking risk restricting the competitiveness and growth of UK organisations if employer and managerial mindsets do not change." Of those employers in the survey offering homeworking, just 8% felt homeworkers were less productive than colleagues in traditional offices, just under a third said they were more productive, and just under two-thirds that there was no difference.

Frans van der Ven's studio

Sculptor Frans van der Ven's studio in Almere, Holland, is a wooden box clad in chipboard inside a steel one which has white plastered walls and measures 12.60 x 9.60 × 6.6m. There's storage and workspace on the ground floor, and office space and more storage on the first floor. Via 70F and Judit Bellostes

William Atkins' Retreat

The idea of a floating shed is a very appealing one. Here's a design which is shedlike rather than deliberately sheddish, the Retreat by William Atkins. Here's how the site describes it:
"There is an entrance each end. The forward, or main cabin, is fitted with a coal burning yacht's range, sink, and ice box one side; comfortable upholstered seat, drop leaf table, shelves and lockers the other side. There will be an additional shelf over the sink and ample room under the forward deck for stowage as well as room for a good sized water tank. The sleeping cabin is fitted with single berth; chest of drawers; lockers; hanging locker; and W. C. located beneath the seat which forms a step at the after entrance."
There are lots more simple but attemptable small boat designs to browse around on the site.
Via materialicious

Shedworking on the go

Robin Hamman, blogmeister at the BBC (among much else) runs an excellent blog about Shedworking's home town of St Albans. He has also put together an excellent list of free wi-fi spots in the city. I know there are various sites which also provide this type of list, but they always seem to be a bit hit and miss. If you know of similar ventures to Robin's (i.e. properly detailed free wi-fi spots) around the country, please let me know and we'll start up a list.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The £13,000 shedbuild challenge

The Daily Mail's Tom Rawstorne was handed the challenge to put together a £13,000 flatpack shed from Argos and turn the field of timber above into the natty shedworking structure below... Did somebody mention planning permission? Well worth a browse.Via Shedblog

Shedshow (1, 2 and 3)

Another item for the Sheds As Art folder, the three Shedshows which were held in 2005 and 2006 at various UK venues asked artists, photographers, designers, modelmakers and illustrators to design their ideal shed and/or fill it with artwork. Initially inspired by William Morris’s novel News from Nowhere, the three shows (click here for 1, here for 2, and here for 3), grew increasingly large and the final show featured sheds by staff and students from the Visual Communication Department at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and included drawings, models, tightly scribbled plans, cages and collections of bottled memorabilia.Well worth a long browse.
Photos (of the first Shedshow) by Brian Whitehead

Beach Hut Tuesday - Life's A Beach Hut

"This is a kind of 'memorial' to the beach huts that used to occupy spaces along the length of the beach in Barcelona, Spain. I don't know the whole story but basically they were done away with and this monument marks as some sort of respect to what was once there. I never seen it at night, but from what I can see it can light up. Must look great."
By toxicdesign

National Shed Week - official poet appointed

Rogan Whitenails has been appointed the official poet of National Shed Week 2008. "I hope his wonderful musings can add some wossname to the world of sheds," says Uncle Wilco, organiser of National Shed Week. Here's Rogan's first offering:
The Rhyme-Botherer’s Garden Shed

Shedspla! my shed:
Just once, let me find shortbread
In the shortbread tin, not screws;
Let the bolts in the jam jars bruise
Is white spirit as mild as the moisty
Mizzle of morn, when supped
From the gowpen of two hands cupped;
As scant in the mouth, as faint,
Ill-equipped to thin paint,
Though it thins the thirst well enough?

Shed on wheels - final update

We've been following Laura Geary's shed on wheels project from her initial thoughts through to the finished product. Here are the final pictures showing the interior of the marvellous build.
Via Garden Offices (Facebook group)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Business Week searching for shedworkers

Business Week is on the lookout for photos of interesting home-based businesses. Mildly insultingly they say they want to hear from members of the "pajama workforce" and are asking them to send in a brief description of their workspace along with one digital image. They will "feature a selection of outstanding work spaces in an upcoming special report in photo-essay format and ask readers to vote on their favorites".

Heritage hut

As reported in the Journal by Tony Henderson, Judi Hill's 100-year-old former ferryman's hut is probably the smallest heritage centre in the North East of England. The 9ft x 7ft hut, used as storage for the last few decades, has been given a wash and brush up and turned into a titchy museum celebrating the life of local historic ferrymen and fishermen. “I am a bit of a hut person," she told Henderson. "It isn’t just about men and their huts, there are also women and their huts."
Via Shedblog

Rooftop shed in Manhattan

It doesn't look like it from this angle, but according to Joseph Giovannini in Architectural Digest, this penthouse/retreat pictured above was originally a "humble, metal-clad storage shed that anyone else would have called a teardown" before it was turned into something very nice indeed by Robert A.M. Stern. As Giovannini says:
"Stern is a busy man leading three professional lives—architect, historian and dean of Yale’s architecture school—and in his practice, he found that his time and concentration were being nibbled away as associates approached him in his office asking him for “just a minute.” Stern needed a quiet place for working with two writing colleagues as well as a getaway of his own....“I wanted to create a magic relationship between inside and outside, with gigantic doors that folded open to an outside deck on the same level,” he says."
I particularly like this final quote from the piece from Stern.
“People know that if they’re to come up here to the shed, it has to be a crisis. It’s a great advantage to be a little hard to get to.”
The article is well worth a browse.Photography by Peter Aaron/Esto and courtesy Robert A. M. Stern Architects

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Garden office growth

Mary is back to continue her excellent Greened House Building Adventure, but look what's happened to the build (above) while she's been away (below...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Writers' rooms: Roald Dahl's shed

The Guardian's excellent Writers' Rooms series features one of the most famous shedworkers of recent times, Roald Dahl. Illustrator Quentin Blake describes his experiences of the writing hut at Gipsy House in Great Missenden which he points out he actually wasn't allowed into very often "because the whole point of it as far as Roald was concerned was that it was private, a sanctuary where he could work where no one interrupted him." He continues:
"He wrote in the shed as long as I knew him - we worked together for 15 years from 1975 to 1990 and I illustrated a dozen of his books. I would take my drawings down to Gipsy House for him to look at while sitting on the sofa in the dining room. I don't think he let anybody in the shed."
Well worth a browse.

I recently visited the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden with Mrs Shedworking and the three little Shedworkings. Not only is it a marvellous place for children, it has a recreation of Dahl's study, complete with slightly battered chair which you can sit in. The actual shed is at Gipsy House, a little further down the road. Gipsy House is only open a few times a year usually as part of the National Gardens Scheme charity. The next dates are 11 June and 17 July (2-5pm), and as well as the writing shed there is a small wild garden where you can see Danny The Champion of the World's caravan under a tree house.

Friday, May 23, 2008

LIght-emitting glass

If you loved the light-emitting wallpaper, imagine the possibilities of this light-emitting glass from Saazs, especially considering how much window space is built into the normal garden office. At the moment it's only being used in tables and shelves, but they're working on something a bit bigger.

Around the shedworld

World Shelter's U-Dome (above) is attracting lots of attention at the Milan Triennale (lots more photos at designboom)... Chief Home Officer catalogues his friends and discusses the cult(ure) of the homeworker... Home Office Warrior has some twittering advice... Jetson Green highlights the awardwinning Abōd (below), designed as a low cost and high quality home in a box, but equally a shedworking structure in a box...A star at this year's Chelsea Flower Show was Real Life by Brett (below) designed by Geoffry Whiten, a beautiful retreat inspired by George Bernard Shaw's rotating writing hut (I know, I know, I missed another one...)And another was Midori No Tobira - The Green Door, built mainly out of moss (below)...Go and hear Enterprise Nation's girl of the moment Emma Jones speak at Waterstones on May 28 in London... and don't forget to go and share your shed...

National Shed Week - the countdown begins...

The race is on to win the coveted Shed of the Year title which will be held this summer as part of the second National Shed Week. Organised by the internationally famous, National Shed Week (which runs from July 7 until July 13 2008) will celebrate one of the cornerstones of British culture, the not so humble Garden Shed.

Can this year's sheddies beat the wonderful and unique sheds that we showcased in the inaugural Shed Week last year, including the amazing Shed of the Year 2007 which was a Roman Temple built by Tony Rogers? (pictured above). This year's judges are property guru Sarah Beeny, wind-up radio inventor Trevor Baylis, Professor of beach huts Kathryn Ferry, Treehugger's eco-architect Lloyd Alter, Uncle Wilco from, and me.

Sheddies still have time to "Share their Sheds" at the site and can enter their buildings on the website ready for the judging in late June.

This year we are very pleased to announce that one of the UK's leading online garden building companies, Garden Buildings Direct will be the official sponsor and shed partner for this year's Shed Week and will be providing the prize for the Shed of the Year Competition. The grand prize will total £500 and the winner will be able to choose products from Garden Buildings Direct or products from one of their sister websites selling extensive ranges of garden furniture, outdoor toys, fitness equipment and BBQ's.

This is the second year we have run the competition which pits wooden sheds against TARDISes, and garden offices against beach huts in a battle royal to win the title of Shed of the Year 2008.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Sarah Wigglesworth has featured on Shedworking before, but here's another helping of her fine work, the G-Box. She defines it as a modular building system for small self-contained structures. It's fully insulated, pre-wired clad in plywood and designed for all year shedworking, coming as a flat-pack or ready-to-go structure which is craned in. A G-Box website is promised.Thanks to the eagle-eyed Bill Kratz.

Grain silo

A converted grain silo which would be ideal for some shedworking. Photo by web designerBrian Warren. Via OffBeatHomes

Allotment Shed, Khutwa, Oman - National Shed Week photo competition

As I mentioned yesterday, there's more to National Shed Week than the prestigious Shed of the Year competition - there's also a photo competition. And here's another great example, by Rachel and Hugh, of how they shed up in Oman. It's simple to enter the competition - all you need to do is upload your shed or shed-related photo to the Shed Week 2008 pool and you could be a winner.

Thursday Outhouses - solar powered privies

Two examples of solar-powered composting outhouses today. First, above, a privy on the Mt. Whitney Trail which was removed in spring 2007 (photo by Jeff Brewer). And below, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (photo by David Metsky).

Chelsea Flower Show - A Journey to Work

In my scathing roundup of the lack of garden offices at Chelsea this year, I missed the Simmons & Simmons Garden – A Journey to Work (doubly embarrassing since the designers Growing Ambition, an all-female group of eight enthusiastic gardeners who have spent the last two years studying garden design at Oaklands College, are based in my home town of St Albans). Here's their description of their garden which won a prestigious Silver:
"The intention was to create a garden for a solicitor whose firm is looking for innovative ways to encourage flexible working. As a result the client works from home a few days a week in an office which has been built in a barn at the bottom of his garden. Access to the office will be via a sweeping path leading to a stainless steel curving staircase in the corner of the garden. The concept is to design a garden in the area around the staircase which leads up to the barn to create a dramatic and exciting ‘journey to work’."
The garden was sponsored by law firm Simmons & Simmons whose managing partner Mark Dawkins says: “We support different ways of working and are proud to sponsor this garden as an example of how effective and amenable remote working can be.”
Thanks to The Garden Monkey for the alert.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Retreat - Shed Week 2008 Photo Competition

I'll be posting more about this year's National Shed Week on Friday so do drop by for that, but in the meantime don't forget that as well as the Shed of the Year competition, there's also a photo competition. And here's a lovely example, self-taught "mosaiker"StJohnsGypsy's Retreat, the kind of shedlike structure that brings out plenty of oohs and aahs. It's simple to enter the competition - all you need to do is upload your shed or shed-related photo to the Shed Week 2008 pool and you could be a winner.

Work Wise UK Summit - (long-ish) roundup

The Work Wise UK Summit took place today at the QEII Conference Centre in London with speeches from the Rt Hon. Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, plus Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC and Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association. The theme was the environmental impacts of work and how the wider adoption of smarter working practices could make a major contribution to solving the environmental catastrophe predicted by many.

Dr Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: "The world is definitely getting warmer, and it is very likely that this is due to our ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. To slow down climate change, we will need to reduce our emissions - smarter working could make an important contribution to this."

David Lennan, chairman of Work Wise UK, said; “More and more organisations are realising that they have a moral and social obligation to consider, and mitigate, their activities’ impact upon the environment in which they operate. There are a myriad of ways in which organisations can introduce smarter working practices, even where it is not immediatly apparent. There are various forms of smarter working, including regular or occasional home working, various forms of flexible working, remote and mobile working.”

One of the key benefits of smarter working is that it reduces the overall need to travel. Edmund King, AA president said:
“Three hundred AA employees are saving 90,000 litres of fuel or 620,000 miles commuting each year by working from home. The AA and our employees benefit in many ways. Homeworkers can do a split shift which covers the busiest times on the road in the morning and evening peak. In transport terms home working cuts out the commute, reduces congestion and carbon emissions. Hopefully other companies will follow the AA lead to put more workers on the superhighway rather than the actual highway now that the technology is much more affordable.”
Ben Plowden, director, smarter travel unit, at Transport for London said: “Smarter working is a concept that fits perfectly with smarter travel programmes. By offering people flexibility in when and where they work, as well as how they get there, we can all benefit – economically, environmentally and socially.”

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
“Real progress has been made in persuading more employers to offer innovative flexible working practices. Those employers that take the plunge report back benefits to their business, including improved productivity, reduced costs, and better staff recruitment, retention and motivation. What a shame then that all we ever seem to hear from the business lobby is continued negativity towards flexible working. Last week’s all-so-predictable bleating around extending the right to request was a case in point.

“But despite the good news on flexible working, over the last year there have been worrying signs of a long hours cultural renaissance. An increasing number of employees are expected to work more than 48 hours a week and put in extra hours for free. We must all work to ensure that these are temporary blips and not developing trends. As we enter a period of economic uncertainty, it’s tempting for employers to retreat from innovative working practices and instead work existing staff harder and longer. But the need for increased productivity is greater than ever, which makes this the perfect time for companies to introduce smarter working practices. Those employers who are keen to make flexible working work for their business and staff will find willing accomplices in trade unions.”

Solardome for sale

Solardome SD2B for sale
4.52m Diameter
3m High
5 Window Vents
Locking Door
Check out for full spec. Currently being used in new Channel 4 programme shooting near Longcross, Surrey. Will be available to dismantle / collect from 7th June 2008. Red adhesive material easily removable from lower panes.
Cost £6,549.00 new. Enquiries/serious offers to

Mahler's Heavenly Retreats: upcoming events

Mahler's Heavenly Retreats is a real labour of love by architect and Mahler enthusiast Keith James Clarke. Keith also has a series of talks coming up about Mahler and his shedlike structures in which he worked which promise to be fascinating. The next one is:
Encounters with the master's Composing Houses.
This pre-concert talk will consider the building, its surroundings and associations where Mahler created his 8th Symphony in E flat major. This work will be performed later in the evening at St Paul's Cathedral. No reservations required for the lecture, but tickets for the concert are available from the City of London Festival.
Venue: Gresham College, Barnard's Inn Hall, Holborn, London, EC1N 2HH
Date: Wednesday 9th July 2008
Time: Talk 18.00-19.00 at Barnard's Inn Hall and will be followed by a reception