Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scottish sheds


Elspeth Thompson has recently been holidaying in Scotland and writes:
"I saw quite a few nifty sheds including some sweet little sheds built right on the beach at Applecross with little decks for watching the sunset - not beach huts, real kit sheds - very sweet and one or two very nicely done."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shedworking is on holiday

Even Shedworking has to have a holiday for a bit. Don't worry, the posts will still continue, but just one a day during August and regular slots (The Shedworker's Bookshelf, Around the Shedworld, etc) will also have a little break. Please do keep chatting via the comments section though and the entire staff will be back all lovely and refreshed in September. Look out in particular for the post on August 16 which is the smallest shedworking structure I've ever come across...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Garden office businesses

While Shedworking is as much about homeworking as about garden offices (ok, nearly as much), we sometimes have a tendency to get carried away with the architectural side of shedworking as opposed to the actual business side of it. Enterprise Nation, which does a cracking job of supporting home businesses around the UK and generally promoting the home business cause, has a couple of very interesting interviews with very successful companies operating from their back garden shed.

Firstly, there's Mantra Magazines, run from a garden office (pictured above) by Nikki Relffe-Arnold, her cousin Matthew and her niece Nadine (though they are doing so well they are thinking of moving out to a 'traditional' office - don't do it!). Read more about Mantra here. Secondly, there's Each Property Med (pictured above) owned by Sarah Child which sells homes in Italy from her garden office. Here's how she describes her shedworking atmosphere:
"Building our office was one of our best decisions ever. The build was smooth and Paul, the carpenter, fell in love with Saffron Walden and our garden in the process. Timber framed, double glazed wooden windows, oak floors and oceans of lambs wool insulating us..it really is the business! The space is fantastic to work in . Light, bright, warm, a view from every window…sometime I wonder if we are watching the wildlife, or if they are watching us and dreaming of a second home in warmer climes. We have space for visiting developers and sub-agents to work on their flying visits- but for the most part we are lucky enough to have this office all to ourselves."
Find out more about Each Property Med here.

360: shedworking without a shed

We've covered lots of booths and home office pods for use inside the home rather than as a strictly garden office - here's another, the rotating (we love it already) 360 from FAK3. It was built for a client who wanted a multifunctional central space for eating, working and having fun. So it houses a keyboard as well as a desk and a television. Apparently the industrial strength bearings can support up to two tonnes and you can make the whole thing revolve at the touch of a button.As FAK3 say: "Its off-centred axis means as the cabinet moves, its content and form shifts the room’s perceived spatial configuration to give each zone its own character." Lovely.
Via Yanko Design

Congratulations to our 1,000th subscriber!

I'd like to say a big thank you to all our subscribers, especially to those who have been with us for a while (in some cases years) and missed out on the chance to win a prize in the recent subscriber competition - I'm hoping to be able to offer you all something next year as a little token of gratitude and will let you know once I've sorted it all out. In the meantime, welcome to all the new subscribers who have joined in recent weeks and pushed Shedworking above the thousand mark for the first time. Above is an artist's impression of me congratulating Ian MacLeod on his fine achievement of being number 1,000. The box of sheddish books will be winging its way to him soon.

Shedworking at 10 Downing Street?

Those of you who Twitter may be aware that the Prime Minister's folk at 10 Downing Street provide updates via the site about life at Number 10. Yesterday they wrote:
"The house is eerily quiet. Lots of staff are on holiday, but the gardener is here doing magnificent work"
and I felt duty bound to press them on a key question (see above)...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sue Guiney's Writing Shack

Sue Guiney happily splits her time between London and Martha’s Vineyard: her poetry play, Dreams of May, was premiered in London’s Pentameters Theatre and her first novel, Tangled Roots, was published in May by bluechrome. She blogs and she is also a shedworker. Sue very kindly agreed to write about her shedworking atmosphere in Martha's Vineyard.
About seven years ago, my husband and I built a house in a wooded clearing on Martha’s Vineyard where we have been spending summers for decades. It is our dream house, and surrounding it after years of work and planning (and help!) are our dream gardens. That parenthetical help comes from a terrific group of gardeners, all of whom are, for some reason, young, tan, blonde, beautiful women. A few years back, the chief beautiful woman looked at my husband with her gorgeous green eyes and said, “It would be great if we could have a garden shed.” Immediately, he set to work. But when I heard about his plans, I had the only possible reaction, namely to say “What am I? Mashed potatoes?

The shed was due to be a 10-‘x10’ one room building, with a sloped roof that matches the house, and two front windows. But instead there is now a huge difference. We dropped a wall down the middle of the single room, creating two equal 5’x10’ spaces – one for them, one for me.

This is my “Writing Shack” – the most simple, easy, basic space possible, and I love it. Against one wall is a built-in desk (actually, a tabletop without drawers). On another wall is a bookshelf (although any books I leave in there become mildewy and gross). There is electricity and a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. I like to think of it as simple and elegant.

But I have filled it with rocks and shells and pieces of driftwood from the local beaches. A bud vase, a model of a reclining Buddha, a desk chair, a small rocker with a fish-shaped foot stool, and a side table. On the wall are two paintings by a local artist called Kara Taylor, each of which has reminded me of the novel I have written/am writing in this very space.Summer is a very busy time for us here. There are often dinners for twelve, guests coming and going, dogs barking, children slamming doors, cars pulling up and driving away. But when I go into my “shack” I am transported to wherever I need to be, happily alone in my head, full of words and, if I’m lucky, the occasional line of poetry.

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Honeycomb garden retreat


We featured Superblue's honeycomb shed a while back and Annick Collins has been in touch with news of their new garden retreat.
"This garden building was developed for a new house in Hampstead. The retreat uses the honeycomb panels on three sides and sits within a green oak deck. The structure is a green oak pegged frame which is very durable and will last for many years, ageing to a silver grey finish."
Very nice.

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Home Offices in Architectural Digest

There's a great selection of home offices in the August issue of Architectural Digest. Sadly, no garden offices are included but there are some tip top designs and the slideshow is well worth a browse. My two favourites are the Florida study (above) which has 360-degree views and a pyramid roof from architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen and Kelly and Stephen Mack’s office in their apartment which has rather splendid views of Central Park, designed by Jennifer Post who put the home office room and the master suite at opposite ends of the apartment “to make sure the clients walked the entire space daily.”
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Farrar and June Burn - trailblazing mobile shedworkers

We've admired Laura Geary's shed on wheels from beginning to end, but here's something of interest from Shorpy, the 100 Year Old Photo Blog, writers Farrar and June Burn, pictured in 1929, with their sons North and South. Now that's the way to travel.
Thanks to Jeff Nigrelli for the alert.

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The Incubator

The Design Institution has announced the results of its 2008 International Designer's Workstation competition. There were some marvellous entries which are well worth a browse but the most intriguing (along similar lines to the Cave) is The Incubator by Honfay Lui from Singapore (although Honfay anticipates it being used in a cubicle arrangement, it would be perfect for somebody working from home too).Via dvice

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Shed - issue 15 available in lovely new format

The new issue of The Shed - number 15 - is now out. But times have changed and The Shed has changed with them. No longer simply available as a pdf, it is now a fully online e-mag (though there are one or two things to sort out before the next issue emerges) which you can read by simply clicking here. Navigation is pretty easy - click on a page to bring it into focus, click to the side of a page to move pages, or on the corner. If you have any problems, do contact me and I'll sort it all out.

It's a great issue too with writer Clare Dudman featuring in the My Shed slot, Sarah Salway continuing her shed serial, Felix Bennett's marvellous View From A Shed and a new slot featuring readers' shed stories. You can read it online, download it as a pdf, and email a friend directly from the site to tell them all about it. Happy reading!

New report suggests shedworking should be made easier

Liberal Democrat Matthew Taylor MP (Truro & St Austell) has put together a new report for the Government - Living Working Countryside - which calls for "a fundamental shake up of planning and affordable housing policy to breathe new life and prosperity into rural communities". He makes several suggestions but the most important is this one:
New policy should support a more flexible approach to work-based extensions to homes to encourage home-based working and in particular start up businesses in the countryside to grow and take on their first employees
You can read the whole report here.
Via Enterprise Nation

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Garden office concert halls


Normally when we think of garden offices we have a smallish building in mind. But of course size is no obstacle when it comes to running a business from your back garden. Christopher Middleton in The Guardian takes a look at music lovers who have big enough back gardens that they have built little concert halls in them. David and Mary Bowerman (pictured above) have a 160-seat concert hall 20m from their living room at their Champs Hill bungalow and recent headlining artists have included Dame Felicity Lott, Julian Lloyd Webber, and Sir Thomas Allen. Admirably, they ask for donations rather than charge for tickets. The article also features Douglas Paterson who built his 200-seater for just £50,000 and the Old Granary Studio (pictured below) run by Jill and Andrew Giller. Well worth a browse.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Shedworker's Bookshelf - Hints on Ornamental Gardening by John Buonarotti Papworth

First an admission. I don't actually own this book, largely on the basis of price since the cheapest copy on Abebooks of Hints on Ornamental Gardening: Consisting of A Series of Designs for Garden Buildings, Useful and Decorative Gates, Fences, Railings by John Buonarotti Papworth costs £800 and the most expensive docks in at £2,600. But it (or rather 'they', as it's really a two box set) sounds like a treat (a plate from the book is pictured above).

Abebooks describes it thus:
"This is the rarest of Papworth's works following on the success of "Rural Residences". Within the context of Regency landscape architecture, Papworth proposes a variety of rural improvements which led to the "Picturesque" style of garden design, for which the English became famous."
First published in 1818, it features 27 handcoloured aquatints and some marvellous designs including small cottages for estate workers with a garden, so that the "uncultivated mind of the husbandman" is kept occupied and out of the local "village alehouse", a fishing lodge, and an ice house. Papworth himself (1775-1847) was a busy British architect, landscape designer, artist, and furniture designer who also laid out the Montpellier and Lansdowne Estates of Cheltenham.

A guide for the mobile shedworker

Jeff Zbar has had a great time on the road this summer as part of his Home Office Highway trip (although maybe we should ask the other Zbars exactly how well it went...) and proved that mobile shedworking is within everybody's reach. It's well worth looking through all his postings about the trip on Home Office Highway but of particular interest is a post he has also put up at his main Chief Home Officer site explaining exactly which tools he used to work efficiently while on four wheels. Above is a photo of his mobile home office and the key is:
1. Office Depot Foray Mobile Workmate
2. Targus Flare backpack
3. HP Compaq 2710p Ultra-Light Tablet Notebook PC
4. Verizon Voyager wireless phone
5. The HP OfficeJet 470 portable printer
6. Office Depot storage bins
Not pictured are his Verizon Wireless’s BroadbandAccess USB wireless Internet service and a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10 8.1 megapixel digital camera

As Jeff says:
"Each item on this list is off-the-shelf. Nothing fancy. No steep learning curve. No fancy bells and whistles to get in the way of reaching near peak productivity from jumpstreet. With so much to learn about business and living from aboard an RV, the last thing we needed was to learn a bunch of new technology."
If Shedworking had an internet moment of the week slot, this post of Jeff's would be it. Well worth a browse for all the extra details.

Around the shedworld

The Wetherby News reports that brothers admit shed theft bid... Now there's an easy way to own a Free Spirit Sphere (and go on holiday) thanks to Ourplanet Retreats... the first UK Menshed operation is underway says the BBC... Enterprise Nation want to know if you ever shedwork in the pub... Reclaimed Home has some interesting notes about a green roof in Brooklyn... Kits and Mortar say insulation isn't everything... and is doing a great job getting to grips with codes and guidelines...readersheds.co.uk has a lively micro summerhouse (below) Treehugger on the whole likes the Foldoub trailer (below) which could be useful for on the road shedworking...... please help to support Shedworking - which is closing in on its 1,000th subscriber - by clicking on the button below and making a small pledge

Click here to lend your support to: Shedworking and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !

Garconnière shedworking - 1

We mentioned the Garconnière at Houmas House in Darrow, Louisiana, some time ago but now Bill Alger from Houmas has sent in some more detailed and up to date photos. The garconierre we featured has been transformed into an office for the Houmas House historian, with a wing attached. The photos show the downstairs living room and the upstairs office.The conversion, carried out in 2007, also includes a bedroom, kitchen, dining area and bathroom. Tomorrow we'll feature a second garconierre on the property that has been transformed into a bar.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big prizes for our 1,000th subscriber

Shedworking is fast approaching that magic mark of 1,000 subscribers (our baby sibling Bookshelf is a little over halfway there) so to celebrate we're offering a bumper pack of goodies to the 1,000th person to sign up to our RSS or email feed. Maybe you visit regularly but haven't signed up yet. Maybe you would like to recommend to friends that they try a daily dose of shedworking. As you're all keen readers, it's an old media book-based prize consisting of:

* Walden by Henry David Thoreau, the book that started it all
* Men and Sheds by Gordon Thorburn, the 20th century's iconic shed book
* Using natural finishes by Adam Weismann and Katy Bryce, the last word in natural finishes
* The Organic Garden by Allan Shepherd, a classic guide to green gardening
* A Child's Garden by Molly Dannemaier, smashing suggestions to encourage the little ones to enjoy the garden

We can send the winner every title or if you'd prefer mail them to individual addresses as presents with a pleasant card inside informing the lucky recipient of your benefaction.
Many thanks to Emma Townshend for donating several of these prizes.

Was your garden office denied planning permission?

If so, please email me as there's a nice person from a national UK newspaper who would like a word for an article she is writing on just this subject. The same person is also after a case study of someone who is growing their home business from kitchen table to garden office, ideally with a good photograph to go with it.

Les-cabanes.com

It's not exactly the French version of Shedworking, but for anybody who enjoys this site, I'll bet my bottom Euro that you'll spend several happy hours whizzing around Les Cabanes, Le site spécialiste des cabanes en France. It obviously helps if your French is up to scratch but even if you're still stumped by the gender of a kitchen there are many, many fabulous shedlike atmospheres and photos liberally scattered around the site. If you do know the gender of a garden, then head for the forums or the sections on the environment, books and DIY. Along the way you'll find treehouses, yurts, beach huts and naturally lots of cabins, huts and sheds. Best place to go first is the cabanes section where you'll find, for example, La gentilhommière du Bois Adam pictured above. An English version is under construction.
Thanks to Annie Leymarie for the alert.

Permanent Camping catches judges' attention

The always interesting Audrey Tempelsman from Dwell Blog asks why we like sheds so much. "Is it," she asks, "because they embody the no-more-than-you-need lifestyle that Blackberry-bound urbanites and eco-minded modernists long for?" That's certainly one answer. Her ponderings are aroused by the announcement of the results of the Australian Institute of Architects Small Project award. Among the commended projects was the rather attractive Permanent Camping, a 3x3m prefab by Casey Brown with copper-clad siding to fight off brush fires and lousy weather. It has two folding sides, a sleeping loft, kitchen and a copper-clad outhouse.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Steve Bell - shedworker?

Judging from a piece by Phill Jupitus in The Guardian, cartoonist (a title which doesn't do him any justice at all) Steve Bell is also a shedworker. Here's what Jupitus says:
"Steve Bell works in a funky, cluttered studio, which seems precariously bolted to the side of his home in Brighton. Splashes of ink and vibrant watercolours decorate every surface. The wall in front of his workspace is papered with dozens of photographs of world leaders, celebrities and headline makers."
Pictured above is the only shedlike cartoon I could find of Bell's

Tiny Circus - airstream trailers coming along nicely

If you're wondering where Shedworking's literary editor Sarah Salway has vanished off to, wonder no more. We mentioned the Tiny Circus project last month (a community arts project travelling around the USA in airstream trailers which you can donate a little something to here). Well, she's joined them for a bit and we'll be carrying a report of her experiences here on Shedworking when she returns. In the meantime, hop along to their blog to see some great photos of the airstreams being customised (such as the ones above and below, Greta doing some riveting).

$100,000 a year and lives in a shed

Our living in a shed theme this week is on a roll...
Orangeburg, N.Y. - A New York state report says a maintenance man who earned $100,000 last year working at a psychiatric center has been living for free in a paint shed on company grounds and even had his mail delivered there.

A report issued Monday by the inspector general's office says the worker lived on the grounds of the Rockland Psychiatric Center in New York City's northern suburbs for three years. It says he stayed in a back room of the shed and had a couch, microwave and refrigerator.

The center's executive director told inspectors he didn't know the worker was living in the shed.

The worker is being charged $2,500 for the time he lived there. Now he's living with his wife at a home in Pearl River, about 3 miles away.
From AP but reported everywhere. Pictured above is the Thomas Clarke house shed by Denis Gobo.

Disco Shed

One of the stars of this year's Latitude Festival according to shedworker Nikki Spencer was the Disco Shed. A garden office atmosphere that's truly individual, it is the brainchild of
club promoters and keen festival goers Patrick 'Peepshow Paddy' Bickerton and Aidan 'Count Skylarkin' Larkin who were inspired by parties in their own shed. The Disco Shed is a converted 8 x 6 ft Billy Oh garden shed which is completely mobile and as the chaps say:
"takes the best elements of modern clubbing but disguises it amongst all the stuff you‘d find in your Dad’s old shed, to make a truly unique entertainment space and novel curiosity, guaranteed to intrigue & interest, amuse & amaze at all times. By day, chill out and enjoy the good-time garden party vibe, with classic garden games, and Jane Fonda workouts. Then dance the night away to top quality DJ sets, with a full light show and live visuals on the shed's giant rooftop screen."
They'll next be performing at The Big Chill August 1, 2 and 3. Have a look around in the video below as Patrick is interviewed by Rufus Hound from BBC3 at the Reading Festival.And a quick search reveals that, naturally, it's also on readersheds.co.uk.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The importance of planning permission

More proof, if proof were needed, that planning permission is vital when building any kind of shedlike structure comes from Vancouver. In brief, this 45 square foot wooden pirate ship tree house was built by an architect for his young sons. A neighbour complained (on grounds of privacy and outlook), a local planning officer agreed and, more importantly, earlier this week so did a judge who has ordered it must be taken down within 90 days. The whole thing has taken two years to sort out. More details in the Toronto Star and CBC Radio Canada: comments on the latter site are particularly worth reading.
Thanks to Annie MacTavish for the alert.

Shanty in the woods - Tiny House Blog

The Tiny House Blog is an absolute must for anybody interested in garden offices: though, as it says on the tin, Kent Griswold who runs the site concentrates on tiny houses, many of them have distinct shedlike tendencies. Here's a perfect recent example, pictured above, a shanty in North Carolina which follows on nicely from today's earlier post about living in your shed. Built by Jeff, it's a mere 64 square feet though they've managed to squeeze in a lavatory and a Queen size bed.

Could you live in your garden office?

Apparently that's what increasing numbers of cash-strapped young couples are now doing in the UK according to the Metro newspaper who claim that "glorified sheds are new affordable homes". Here's what they say:
"It used to be just fairies that lived at the bottom of the garden but it seems the credit crunch has put paid even to that. Young couples unable to afford their own place are setting up home in glorified sheds in their parents' back gardens instead."
Bill Allen from Custom Timber Build (whose models are pictured above) is quoted as saying that sales in the chalets are booming among twentysomethings and that he anticipates a return to 1950s-style living when several generations of a family lived on a single plot of land.

Urban shepherds' huts?

Karen Dugdale reports in The Guardian on the rise of the urban shepherd and in particular the growing number of volunteer shepherds being recruited by Brighton and Hove City Council as part of an project to reintroduce grazing to its urban parks (pictured are sheep being herded through the centre of Madrid, an annual event). As well as a 'feelgood factor' for residents there are other advantages:
"The idea is that the sheep's idiosyncratic grazing patterns - some nibble bushes while others prefer chomping coarse terrain - will re-establish different levels of grass (good breeding ground for rare species), gradually replacing the aggressive approach of industrial mowing."
But of course what Shedworking wants to know is this - will we also be seeing the introduction of urban shepherds' huts too?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Walden: a personal view

Jeff Zbar is the Chief Home Officer and creator of Home Office Highway. On his three-week "workation" this summer, he toured the American East to reveal how one entrepreneur can work and play in that place where Vocation Meets Vacation on the open road (learn more at www.homeofficehighway.com). He also found time to visit Walden - he is pictured above journaling on the commemorative rock pile beside the place where Thoreau's cabin once stood - and send his thoughts about his time there to Shedworking:
Almost all writers are work-at-homers. Some, like me, write from an erstwhile bedroom-turned-home office. Others write from "alternative" spaces like garages, sheds, cabanas or other detached structures. Even teleworkers have their workspace.

Henry David Thoreau took shedworking to a different place. Much as he may bemoan the complexity of a phrase that defines a simple workplace, consider him the father of the "alternative office." The 17th Century American poet, essayist and naturalist did some of his best writing from a cabin deep in the Central Massachusetts woods outside Concord. There, for two years, two months and two days, Thoreau essayed on the nature of the environment, civilization, and man's place amid the quickening pace of society.

Visiting Walden Pond this month as part of Home Office Highway, I truly was moved by the path Thoreau trod (or sauntered, as he came to call his walks and which his followers in The Thoreau Society are fond of proclaiming), and how much my tour followed his lessons.

The most striking observation I can offer from my last three weeks on the road conjure both the likeness and juxtaposition between my mobile RV office and Thoreau's cabin. Both provided about the same square footage of "working" space, though mine has been shared with family. Each offered exactly what the scribe needs to ply his trade. Thoreau had a desk, chair and writing instrument (pencil, I presume, given pencil making was the family business). I have the dinette table and bench, my HP tablet notebook and Verizon broadband access card, and "cloud-based" software apps like Gmail and Twitter and Flickr that enable me to work from anywhere.

Yet as we struggle and sweat to amass more stuff, Thoreau's words resound ever louder. "Simplify, simplify." If Thoreau's life's work can be summarized in a comment, it would be this. All that clamoring about 21-inch displays and uber-fast desktop workstations and Herman Miller Aeron chairs is all well and good. But as any deft writer or other professional will attest, tools don't make the tradesman. They may facilitate the process, but give me an RV, or a hotel room or a picnic table deep in the woods, and I have that place I need to work.

All Thoreau needed was his cabin. And while only the replica remains, and sits about 500 yards from the original pond-front setting where Thoreau spent two of his 44 years, it remains an exalted lesson in the theory of simplicity, of efficiency, or the ability to do more, much more, with much more meaning – and with less. Not because you have to, but because you want to, you feel the need to, and because you can.

"The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure."

That passage was written by Thoreau in the 1840s on the shores of Walden Pond. They live true today, whether your "cabin in the woods" is a shed in the backyard, a gazebo in a meadow, or an RV touring the American countryside.

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