Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shedworking nominated for Little Blog Awards

Dorset Cereals little awards
We've been nominated in the lifestyle section of the Little Blog Awards run by Dorset Cereals (muesli with really vast quantities of raisins and sultanas in it). Please vote for us which you can do as easy as winking by clicking on the button above. The winner gets a special egg cup and every nominator is put in the virtual hat and could win vast quantities of Dorset Cereals.
Thursday posts are sponsored by Vivid Green, the low energy garden building specialists. Click here for more details

Garden office commute: Liz Bennett

Here's Liz Bennett's garden office commute. Please do keep sending your shedworking commutes in.
Thursday posts are sponsored by Vivid Green, the low energy garden building specialists. Click here for more details

Enterprise Nation - Niche shedworking

This week, Emma Jones from Enterprise Nation looks at the very shedworkingesque subject of niche businesses.
In his bestselling book ‘The Long Tail’ author Chris Anderson says the future of business does not lie in blockbuster hits but in niche products. Home businesses up and down the land are testimony to this. In the book he said:
"We are now a nation of niches. There are still blockbuster movies, hit TV shows and top-selling CDs but fewer events that capture the communal popular culture spirit. The action is elsewhere, with the country watching cable shows or reading blogs that play to a specific audience."

Niche is good

Anderson is right. Home businesses are starting up to cater for specific needs and a specific audience. This is good for three reasons:
* It keeps marketing costs low. In a niche business you know where your customers are and you know what they like to see and hear. No scattergun marketing; instead a personal and well-tailored approach.
* It increases income. You are a specialist/expert in your field and people will pay a margin for this.
* It strengthens customer loyalty. When you’re the only kid on the block providing a niche and specific service, you tend to keep customers as they have nowhere else to go. But no room for complacency - it’s still important to provide a good service!

Shining examples

Here are just a few examples of niche businesses. They show you can find your niche whether you’re in food, fashion or events.
* – using her own furry friends as models, Debbie Nelson started a business selling designer petwear. She’s gone on to develop her own line of parker coat for small dogs and is now planning a fashion show.
* Green Union - this is no ordinary wedding planner as Rosie Ames organizes ‘green weddings’ for couples who want to tie the knot in an eco-friendly fashion.
* The Cheese Shed (pictured top) - came about after founders Ian Wellens and James Mann asked themselves: “What if there was a website where people from far-flung parts of the country could buy fabulous westcountry cheese?” – they went on to create it, bringing joy to Westcountry cheese lovers everywhere.

If you’re starting a business, develop a specific product or idea that serves a specific audience and, if you’re growing your business, how about streamlining activity to focus on a niche end of the market.
Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’
Thursday posts are sponsored by Vivid Green, the low energy garden building specialists. Click here for more details

Rethinking the office chair

Design legend Niels Diffrient talks about his life in industrial design (and the reason he became a designer instead of a jet pilot). He details his quest to completely rethink the office chair starting from one fundamental data set: the human body. Diffrient is the creator of the Freedom Chair, a radical rethink of the way we sit today. Throughout his career, he's been a pioneer of ergonomic design -- studying the human body (in all its shapes and sizes) and how to make it comfortable.

Thursday posts are sponsored by Vivid Green, the low energy garden building specialists. Click here for more details

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When garden offices flood

I was anxious this morning after noticing via twitter that graphic designer and illustrator Jonathan Stamp's garden office was in trouble. Here's his tweet:
Flooded garden - office is now the ark!!
Happily, things have improved as the second tweet, and the pic above, indicate.
Receding flood waters and the attractive makeshift boardwalk!!! The Ark has landed!!
Below, is the inside of Jonathan's garden office in less worrying times.----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wednesday's posts are sponsored by The Garden Room Company®, the UK's premier supplier of garden offices and garden rooms. Click here.

Gordon 'Men and Sheds' Thorburn interview

There's an excellent interview with Gordon Thorburn who wrote the iconic Men and Sheds book over at secrets-of-shedbuilding. Pictured above are his two sheds and here's what he says about them:
"The 18th century shed pictured is therefore used as a garage, that is to say, to store tools, wood, workbench etc, plus a load of stuff that should be chucked out. The other is an orthodox garden shed. My wife wants me to convert the old shed into an office to get me out of the house, but I want to convert the attic. So I’ll probably stay where I am, in a corner of the dining room."
Do nip across and have a look (it also contains some additional insights into how the book was put together).
Wednesday's posts are sponsored by The Garden Room Company®, the UK's premier supplier of garden offices and garden rooms. Click here.

Case study: How Henley Offices solved a relocation issue

The need to retain essential workers and avoid additional employment costs has encouraged Bounty, the UK’s biggest parenting club and leading marketing channel for brands wanting to target new parents, to extend its home-based working practices using garden offices.

Following its acquisition in late 2007 by North American internet specialist Kaboose, Bounty needed to make changes to its operations. One of the most important was to consolidate office services into single premises in Welwyn Garden City where its sales, research, HR operations and principal management functions had been located for almost 15 years. It wasn’t an easy decision, because the main operational hub of the business had been located in the unlikely environs of Diss in Norfolk.

With website operations successfully established at Welwyn, the company planned to bring its key editorial and publishing team from Norfolk to the same office, a distance of some 85 miles. However, with established roots in the Diss area, including young families and other personal ties, three key individuals in the team – all of whom lived within an eight mile radius of each other - were not keen to relocate.

The individuals’ unique experience and detailed knowledge would have been a great loss to the company so Bounty management really didn’t want to consider employing a new publishing team at Welwyn.

Stephen Taylor HR Director of Bounty said: “Not only would new staff be more costly, but the business would have lost the unique experience and detailed knowledge of an existing team which liaises directly with health professional experts, government departments and specialist organisations over a range of sensitive issues such as babycare, infant nutrition and parenting policy. While in theory, broadband allows individuals to function and communicate with a degree of success from office locations anywhere in the world, we needed to achieve a better solution for the team, especially as departmental meetings between the three members of the team were always going to become more numerous and necessary.”

While home-based working was the obvious solution for all three members of the Diss-based publishing team, only the Designer could offer a viable work place within his own home. In the other two cases, an absence of available space and existing family demands made any internal office impractical. Fortunately, although their houses were unable to accommodate an office, both Publications Manager, and her assistant had small gardens with adequate spare space to accommodate one of the more compact garden office designs from Henley Offices (picture top).

The buildings selected for both employees were Henley’s ‘Compact Mini’ – a one person office offering an internal workspace of 4.4 sq metres.

“We selected Henley Offices for several reasons, says Stephen Taylor. “Whilst price was a critical issue, so too was the choice and attractiveness of their product range. At the end of the day we are asking the employee to give up some of their garden for a workspace, so it makes sense that the building should appeal to the employee and their family on an aesthetic level. We also knew the company by reputation and the fact that they had more than 450 satisfied customers around the UK gave us the reassurance we needed.”

Installation was trouble-free although one of the employee’s home in a conservation area required planning permission from South Norfolk District Council, a process which was managed by the Henley Customer Services Team at no extra charge.

Whilst the buildings belong to the company and they can be diss-assembled and removed in a few hours by one of Henley’s fitting teams should either employee leave the company, Stephen Taylor believes it is more likely that Bounty would eventually gift the building to the employee. “Henley showed us evidence that their buildings can add up to 4% to the value of a typical property, something that makes them a better asset for the householder than ourselves. After all, we’ve already covered the purchase price through cost savings.

"Indeed the combined cost of buying and equipping both buildings would be rather less than the recruitment cost of replacing three highly valued employees. As such, it is fair to say that the Henley garden offices paid for themselves immediately. We identified the cost of running a workplace in our head office is around £12k per annum, but as the publishing team is Mac-based the IT costs would have been proportionately higher, given the PC-led environment at Welwyn. So we’ve been able to contract the existing Mac specialist in South Norfolk to manage the team’s home-based computing needs without adding to our in-house IT operation at head office. Meanwhile all three have direct lines with a Welwyn STD code, or they’re accessed via our main switchboard, to aid continuity for external callers.”

Having evaluated the performance of the home-based team in Diss, Stephen Taylor is enthusiastic: “If anything, productivity has improved and our experience is encouraging us to allow more of our employees to work from home. Meanwhile, the team is still able to attend regular meetings at head office as and when required, without the need for overnight stays. So costs stay at a minimum.”

There are also positive domestic repercussions of an office in the garden. The Publications Assistant has a 13 year old son, and in the evening, the garden office is able to provide a warm, quiet and TV-free space for him to complete homework as well as serve a useful repository for mum’s own domestic paperwork.
Wednesday's posts are sponsored by The Garden Room Company®, the UK's premier supplier of garden offices and garden rooms. Click here.

Bernardine Kennedy: shedworker

Writer Bernardine Kennedy's latest novel, ‘Shattered Lives’ is published by Headline and is available now. She blogs at and, as she explains below, she is also a shedworker.
Because my office is halfway down the garden, was delivered in bits, built in a couple of hours and is made of wood I call it a shed or, if I’m feeling pretentious, then a summer house (it has a teeny balcony!) but it really is more than that. It’s a comfortable and cosy haven, a utilitarian office and I love it because it’s my personal space that I don’t have to share with anyone apart from the spiders.

It’s 10’X 8’, the size of a decent spare room, and fully insulated and painted The floor is carpeted and there are curtains and blinds at the windows but this isn’t to be girly, it’s so that I can shut the best and the worst of the British weather out. I’ve kitted it out with a large desk, an ill matching assortment of shelving, drawers and bookcases for my collection of ‘research’ books and news-cuttings and all the bits and bobs that don’t have a place indoors but suit my shed to perfection. It’s nice that I don’t have to explain or apologise for the naff ornaments and rude cards that I like to stick on the walls and notice board.I do have occasional wireless connection to the internet depending on waving trees and bushes but mostly I just go there to think and write away from the distractions of home. It feels more like going out to work and I enjoy that it is detached from the house and it takes a bit of effort for the other inhabitants of the house to get to, especially if the weather is lousy and it requires coat and shoes. So mostly they stay away.

The biggest downside is that it can be hard to work during the summer because the noise of barbeques, lawn-mowers, garden shredders and neighbouring children travels further over fences than through walls and windows. Not to mention the noise of the national obsession with building rooms in the roof. My husband, fed up with my whinging, has bought me some ear-plugs for this summer so we’ll see if that works.

One day I shall have one that is large enough for an inspiration inducing day-bed, an integral kitchen area, a heating/cooling system and maybe even an en-suite but for the moment I’m happy with my shed!
Wednesday's posts are sponsored by The Garden Room Company®, the UK's premier supplier of garden offices and garden rooms. Click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Four ways to bring the garden into the office

One of the joys of shedworking is that you can decorate and design your home office in any way you like. But while nobody's stopping you painting your floor black and your walls deep purple, maybe a nature theme would last the fashion test of time a little more successfully.

There are of course a whole host of nature-inspired gadgets from bamboo keyboards to artificial glass chairs, but why not start small with the Charging Station, above, from Kikkerland which hides all the cords from your mobiles, cameras, mp3 players, etc, within a rather pleasing grassish design. Similarly - though with more of a Blue Peter cut out feel to it - there's the Tree of Charge (arf, arf) from Radius Design, below, made from aluminium which doubles as a key rack and magnetic board.For a quick and easy method of adding a little bit of the outside world to your inside office, consider using wall stickers. Supernice stocks the very popular blik range of 'surface graphics' which can help you improve the look of your walls in seconds without sploshing paint around. Particularly pleasant is their Bamboo package, below. Another possibility is Wall Glamour whose Summer Garden range also provides attractive wall art.

Finally, a suggest from Anne Robert's excellent My Urban Garden Deco Guide from Smith & Hawken, a vertical garden which you can install wherever you like in your garden office.
A version of this article first appeared on Enterprise Nation

John Ketch's Bothy

We've mentioned before that twitter is a particularly good place to interact with other shedworkers, but it's also a great way of following new garden office builds. Recently, I've been keeping an eye on John Ketch's plans for a 'bothy' office which are starting to take shape as you can see from his tweets above.

Ingalls Street Studio - early sketches

Continuing our updates on Alan Bucknam's Ingalls Street Studio garden office, here are some early thoughts about the build by Alan.
"These were the initial sketches I did before engaging Liz, my architect and friend, to help me figure out what I really needed. But it gives you some context and insight into my thoughts and what I was originally envisioning. Before this, I had also thought about building a studio above the garage, which is attached to our 1957-era single-level suburban ranch house. After a while, I realized I wanted something that was apart from the home, to separate (at least a little bit) work from home-life."
You can see more sketches (with notes) at Alan's Flickr page.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Garden office commute: Christine Farmer

We're becoming accustomed to seeing garden offices in the landscape, but far less frequently get to enjoy the views of shedworkers' commute back home. Here, starting off a new regular-ish column on Shedworking, is Christine Farmer's arduous return journey after a hard day at the office. Please do email me your own shedworking commutes.

Monday's posts are sponsored by garden2office, the Swedish garden office specialists.Click here for more details.

A weekend of sheds

There was a bumper crop of articles in the national media over the weekend about garden offices and sheds. Apart from my piece in The Guardian (plus photo gallery), the same issue also had a nice piece by David Ward, literary consultant to Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Cumbria, about his zen hut. Here's what he says:
"The idea for a garden office emerged from two needs: extra space for books (it's a small house) and somewhere for me to work. I left a salaried job just over a year ago and now work for myself at home. My three part-time roles all tend to generate paper and when I was working in a bedroom the paper would spill from the desk, on to the floor and up the walls. I regarded it as an effective system; my wife regarded the paper and me as a mess."
And to top it off, there was a new poem called A Doddle from John 'Shedman' Davies too in what amounted to a mini garden office special.Elsewhere, Alison Cork in the Daily Telegraph profiled Vivid Green (above) and in The Times, Kate Muir wrote on why everyone should have a garden shed.

Monday's posts are sponsored by garden2office, the Swedish garden office specialists.Click here for more details.


The rather lovely aerieLOFT from Martin Leifhebber of Canadian green design specialists Breathe Architects is a 17ft cabin built with Eastern white cedar which would make a smashing shedworking atmosphere. As well as solar panels (among its other ecofriendlinesses) it comes with a wood stove and a marvellous composting outhouse shed which also collects rainwater (you can see it in the picture above, just behind the main building). You can get the plans and make it yourself or buy it in kit from (they will assemble if you want). Here's the philosophy behind aeriLOFT:And here's what Martin says about architecture in general.
"It’s all about everything – it’s about living, it’s about construction and it’s about making our environment. So I took a real interest in having the environment that I create to be as good as it can be from a health perspective and a pollution perspective, all kinds of things. I wanted to have buildings that run on solar energy, buildings that take rainwater, and take water that we use, like sewage, and clean it up so that we see architecture and cities not as a continued burden on our way of living but we see it as something that actually fixes the environment."
Via Treehugger where there is also a video of Martin talking about the design

Monday's posts are sponsored by garden2office, the Swedish garden office specialists.Click here for more details.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Name That Shed

A tricky one today, shown only at a distance. These two sheds/huts are historic and can also be rented for holidays... Can you 'Name That Shed'?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shedworking in The Guardian

There's a big piece by me about shedworking on the front of the Work section in today's issue of The Guardian, a quick introduction to the subject plus a look at some current trends in the garden office industry. Do take a look.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Chuck Robinson's Man Cave

The Man Cave.

My Shed Office.

A Fortress Of Solitude.

A Hack Shack.

Whatever it's called, I soon hope to call it a work of industrial art.
Photos at Chuck's Flickr site.

Choosing a shed - Work Shacks

The family-run Work Shacks has a wide range of log cabins in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire ranging from the Hytti (5.20m²) up to the whopping Helsinki (50.40m²). They claim that the process from start to finish - ordering to sitting down working in your garden office - can be as little as a month which is some boast. Work Shacks also offer a renovation service. There is a blog and also a Facebook page.

Last week for Shed of the Year 2009 entries

If you haven't entered the third National Shed of the Year competition - and you'd like to do so - you've got just one week left. Closing date for entries is a minute before midnight on May 3.More details at Shedblog
Photo courtesy Benchmark Designs (Timber Buildings)

SketchUp: Simon Rumble

Continuing the SketchUp theme, Simon Rumble commented on yesterday's post that he was designing his own 'lair' and here it is pictured above. Here's what he says:
"I'm planning an office/shed in the garden of our house, to provide an office for me and storage for the household. I've been mulling over the design for quite a while and now need to finalise it and get plans into council. Above is my first draft which has windows in the space between horizontal and the sloping roof. The actual space looks like this photo and we're looking at dimensions of about six metres by four metres. I hope to have a wall down the middle to separate the "office" and "shed" parts of my lair."
What I particularly like is that he's also posted a gallery of his inspiration, pictured below. If you have any thoughts on his design or your own SketchUps, or any shedworking inspirations, please leave a comment.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SketchUp: garden offices

SketchUp is a nifty little designing tool from Google which helps you to create, modify and share 3D models. Here's an example from Eddie Miller, a half glass 15 square metre garden office with full length glass sliding doors. If you've used SketchUp (or indeed anything similar) please do get in touch.
Thursday posts are sponsored by Vivid Green, the low energy garden building specialists. Click here for more details

Shed Chic winners + special Shedworking offer

Congratulations to the winners of our competition to win copies of Shed Chic by Sally Coulthard. Copies will be winging their way to Laura Fortune (quite a long wing that one) and Vicki Garlan who correctly identified the colour of Shedworking HQ (greenish).

But don't despair if you're not Laura or Vicki. Readers of Shedworking can order the book at the discounted price of £15.99 (rrp.£20) with free p&p if you call 01903 828503 quoting ref JS 218.
Thursday posts are sponsored by Vivid Green, the low energy garden building specialists. Click here for more details

Design a Dogs Trust dog shed for National Shed Week

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and official charity of National Shed Week 2009 has teamed up with for a special competition. Entrants are asked to design a special shed for dogs and encouraged to be as creative as possible. Closing date for entries is June 1. The Shed Week judges (including me) will pick the winner which will them be built and go on display at Dogs Trust in Bridgend. More details at Shedblog
Thursday posts are sponsored by Vivid Green, the low energy garden building specialists. Click here for more details

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cloud Bar for Earth Day

Shedworking is celebrating Earth Day today in the same way we celebrate all big events - with a mildly appropriate shed. Pictured above is the Cloud Bar on the beach at Anderby Creek in Lincolnshire which opened earlier this month for business (well, for pleasure actually). According to The Cloud Appreciation Society it is the world’s first ‘Official Cloudspotting Area’. The concept of the Cloud Bar shed came from Michael Trainor, the artist behind the marvellous Bathing Beauties Beach Hut Festival and general bonanza. On the top viewing platform are special cloud identification 'menus' with mirrors to help with your cloudspotting.
Wednesday's posts are sponsored by The Garden Room Company®, the UK's premier supplier of garden offices and garden rooms. Click here.

Shedworking on the radio/podcast

The radio/podcast that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago is now up and running on BlogTalkRadio and dsmBuzz. If you want to hear a whole half hour of me talking about shedworking, then this is your chance. Just click the links and it should start buffering you up straightaway. Here's how the host Sherry Borzo introduces it:
When our two children were young and space was limited, I worked out of a home office for a company as a salesperson. Even with a 3-bedroom house that had two solariums, along with the standard rooms, we could not accommodate a separate space for me. Ultimately, for 6 years, (6 LONG years) I took over the living room during the work week. After a tirade or two from interruptions and my own sloppy filing habits that made for a constant mess, I became so desperate for a separation of "work and life" that I placed duct tape around my desk to create "office boundaries."

Faced with work-space limitations Alex Johnson, journalist and owner of of Shedworking came up with a far superior solution to his need for work-away-from-home environs. In this interview, find out how Alex has turned his own great idea into creating a resource for others who have either made the garden office leap or desire to do so.
Wednesday's posts are sponsored by The Garden Room Company®, the UK's premier supplier of garden offices and garden rooms. Click here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remote Worker Awards launched

A new award, launched by Remote Employment, will highlight how remote working, homeworking and shedworking benefits the environment, business productivity and employees' quality of work life - and Shedworking will be among the judges.

The Remote Worker Awards
come at a time when companies across the UK are faced with downsizing their workforce. The awards aims to raise awareness for remote and home working as an alternate solution to redundancy and the traditional nine to five office routine.The Remote Employer Award will honour the winning Remote Employer that demonstrates how remote working and home working has made a beneficial impact on their business.

Employees who work remotely or work from home will be given the chance to impress their employer and work colleagues by winning The Remote Worker and Home Worker Awards. All freelancers, self employed consultants and project contractors are invited to enter The Freelance Consultant Award. These workers, who already enjoy the benefits of a flexible employment solution, will be given the chance to show traditionalists why more companies should be recruiting this way. And they will walk away with thousands of pounds in prizes, including a fabulous luxury weekend at a von Essen hotel.

Paula Wynne, organiser of the awards and co-founder of Remote Employment, a specialist online recruitment service expects to unearth an abundance of inventive pioneers who champion flexibility with remote working solutions. “The Remote Worker Awards will feature the winners in a Remote Worker E-Book to help other companies to implement a flexible and remote working program,” she said.

The Remote Worker Awards has lined up a prestigious panel of judges including serial entrepreneur, Karen Darby, founder of SimplySwitch, Cath Roan from Careershifters, Diana Robertson from Business Link London, Tony Corbin of MATiSSE and Jackie Brennan of FreshIdeas Events, Jeff Zbar (founder of the US-based Chief Home Officer site), and me.

For more information or any other enquiry about the Remote Worker Awards, call 0844 800 8355 or 020 8133 6329 or browse

Justin Knopp/Typoretum: shedworker

Here's a garden office setup which I know will get many of you drooling: Typoretum (a lovely web site) is an artisan printed letterpress greeting cards and social stationery business run by Justin Knopp in Coggeshall, Colchester. Inside his shed, he hand prints, in limited quantities, from antique wooden and metal letterpress type, decorative borders and printers’ fleurons using vegetable-based inks and on paper made from 100% cotton fibre (linter). Here's how he describes the garden office:
"It's only about a quarter of the size I need but it's as big as the Council would allow us to build at the end of our garden! I really need a barn. The remainder of my collection is elsewhere, including my 1888 Wharfedale press that weighs 4-ton on its own.I designed my shed myself and, since we are in a Conservation Area, I made it look like a small barn with a hipped roof. We dug deep and specified reclaimed slates rather than the bland composite type or bizarrely coloured Chinese slates at tuppence a throw. The structure is studwork with 75mm foam insulation, concrete base and reclaimed floorboards that I bought on eBay.
There is also a Typoretum blog . I can't recommend the site too highly. Please do nip along and explore it (and buy something).