Part functional space, part relaxing retreat, a garden hut is the clever way to extend your home.
An artist’s escape
London-based interior designer and abstract artist Hannah Portman lives with her husband Richard and children Ollie, nine, and Hettie, four.
SHED STYLE: A purpose-built garden building that combines functionality with design flourishes. Multitasks as a painting studio, shoot location and social hub.
‘I loved the opportunity of designing a garden building for myself, just the way I wanted it,’ says Hannah. ‘Juggling family and work, I really appreciate the extra space and now I have the freedom to paint, create client design proposals or just enjoy a glass of wine with my girlfriends when the kids have gone to bed.
‘I wanted to create something light and airy, yet cosy and practical,’ she says. The design process for the 5 x 4 metre structure was focused mainly on maximising the space. ‘A height restriction of 2.4 metres meant that standard doors would have almost reached the ceiling, so I reduced their height to keep them in proportion and create an illusion of a taller building. It’s perfect for me as I’m not that tall and the space opens up as you enter,’ says Hannah.
Inside, each of the three internal walls is painted in the calming neutral shade Double Bone, Shell & Quill by Atelier Ellis (atelierellis.co.uk) on to a mixture of wood panelling, peg rails and painted plaster to provide different backdrops. This variety is important as the space is also used as a location venue.
For flooring, Hannah used inexpensive pine boards which were treated with lye – a primer that prevents wood from yellowing – to remove their orangey hue then brushed with white oil for a cool Scandinavian feel. ‘They will get even paler over time,’ she says.
A lot of the furniture, such as the plywood daybeds and tables, was handmade by Hannah. Her desk was assembled from a piece of bespoke douglas fir wood and trestle legs from Ikea. The pared-down look is punctuated with vintage pieces, plants and Hannah’s paintings.
Outside, the shed is surrounded by lush greenery, with the vintage theme extending to Hannah’s collection of antique planters. Festoon lights create a soft ambience at night, when the space also comes into its own for parties.
‘It is a true escape and one that I think is genuinely great for my mental wellbeing,’ says Hannah.
For more information, visit portmanstudio.co.uk
A horticultural haven
Stylist and photographer Clare Nolan lives in a cottage in Oxfordshire with her husband Jonathan and their two-year-old twins, William and Alexander.
SHED STYLE A bespoke vaulted structure, cocooned by copper beech trees and surrounded by flower cutting beds. It functions as a writing space and workshop and provides endless garden inspiration.
‘Leaving publishing to bring up my twin boys and start my own business coincided with a move to the country,’ says Clare. ‘We swapped our townhouse in Henley-on-Thames for a rural cottage and my dream of creating a cutting garden and vegetable patch became a reality. The cottage is small, and while we are saving to extend it, I needed an overflow work space.’
An outdoor studio provided the answer, as well as an all-important connection to Clare’s garden. ‘I wanted a space to call mine, where I could focus on writing my book, host garden workshops and hold styling and photography sessions with clients,’ she says.
Clare designed the insulated and soundproofed 6 x 4 metre structure. Its lofty three-metre height creates a light, airy feel – think more tiny house than garden shed. Wood-framed windows look on to the garden and surrounding landscape, and soft light is filtered through a canopy of trees. ‘In summer the space is cool, in winter the Esse wood-burner is very welcome,’ says Clare.
Inside, the walls are covered in raw plaster, save for a striking blue-black one, against which sits Clare’s display cupboard (a bargain charity shop find). These neutral backdrops work perfectly against Clare’s vibrant floral displays and colourful tear sheets, and the atmosphere is tranquil. ‘My daily commute has gone from four hours on the train to a two-minute stroll; away from the chaos of everyday life,’ she says.
For more information or to book a workshop, visit clarenolan.com
A rustic retreat
Interior designer and co-founder of Hove-based store I Gigi, Zoe Ellison lives in a seafront flat with her partner Fabio and son Otis, two.
SHED STYLE A converted shed with a cosy rustic interior. Serves as guest accommodation and additional dining space.
‘I lived in a one-bedroom flat on the first floor of a building and my sister owned the basement flat and garden below. I had always coveted her massage shed at the end of the garden and when she decided to sell, I bought her out and the shed became my dream project,’ says Zoe.
She reroofed the building with cedar shingles then decorated it in her signature I Gigi style. Think heavy antique linen blinds and upholstery, bespoke cushions, old pots, urns and foraged foliage. She then added a selection of one-off finds. ‘I invested money to get the place right, but I didn’t over-think the design,’ she says. ‘For me, just filling the space with beautiful things makes it feel like a luxurious retreat, and over time the natural finishes will just get better and better – like a favourite pair of handmade shoes.’ In winter, a simple oil heater keeps the space warm. The 5 x 4 metre space is small but flexible – the bed converts into a sofa and the outdoor decking creates a wonderful additional space for lunch or sundowners. ‘I have a philosophy that everything inside can live outside too – the weather and sun create a wonderful bleached patina to the wood,’ says Zoe.
The place also came in handy when Zoe wanted to take some time out after the birth of her son Otis. ‘We decided to intermittently rent out the garden studio and basement flat as Airbnb accommodation to generate another income,’ she says.
And it is the perfect showcase for her work as an interior designer. ‘The shop has allowed me to indulge my love of sourcing and the studio is one of many interior design projects that we have completed. It’s a reflection of how I choose to live and work and is something to be enjoyed.’
Shop the chic shed look
Zinc planter, £36.99, trouva.com
Copper trowel, £34, the futurekept.com
Table, £2,300, conranshop.co.uk
Secateurs, £65, conranshop.co.uk.
Mirror, £199, westelm.co.uk.
Twine, £20, woodandmeadow.com.
Seeds, £2.50, petershamnurseries.com
Cushion, £63, amara.com
Report by Ali Heath