Shed envy is a 21st century condition that affects many of us and Sally Coulthard had it bad. The author of the best-selling Shed Chic, a guide to planning sourcing and decorating a shed, and the equally successful Shed Decor, she had seen some of the finest examples in Britain and beyond and longed to have one of her own.
A cheap garden shed “too small, flimsy and cold to be a decent year-round room” was out of the question and her budget wouldn't stretch to a bells and whistles version made by someone else.
So, armed with a can-do attitude, she decided to have a go at building her own and the result is a stunning writer's retreat in the orchard next to her farmhouse home in North Yorkshire. It's also spawned another great book How to Build a Shed, published by Laurence King, £14.99.
It's aimed at DIY novices who, like her, are willing to “have a go” and it features very clear, easy-to-follow instructions, expert advice on sourcing tools and materials, along with detailed illustrations and instructions.
“I had always wanted a shed but want became a need as my three children got older and filled the house. There weren't any quiet corners where I could work. Writing at the kitchen table wasn't doing it. I needed somewhere and I needed it quick,” she says.
The cost was £3,000 with extra for the electrics and wood-burning stove, at least half the price of having someone else build it, and is not a cheap, flimsy shed. It is built to last and to withstand the weather.
Sally began with the design – a 2.4 x 3.6 m box with a sloping, mono-pitch roof, which looks contemporary and is also easier to build if you are new to joinery.
To keep things simple, there are no windows, just glazed doors at the front.
Tools, including a cordless drill, saws and spirit levels, are needed. “Some of the tools you might have to hire or borrow, others you might have sitting around in a toolbox but if you're serious about getting into DIY, it's worth investing in a few key power tools – without them the job becomes more arduous and less accurate. It's like trying to bake a cake with a hand whisk and an open fire.”
There are also skills to be learned and the first part of the book is devoted to teaching us everything from how to use a spirit level to making pilot holes and noggins. The project then begins with creating foundations and the book guides you through with Sally's instructions and splendid illustrations by Welsh artist Lee John Phillips.
Lee's grandad left him the contents of his shed and he decided to draw every single one of them – there are 100,000 objects and he has drawn 4,600 so far.
Sally used timber bearers to create a base but you can lay concrete. The frame was then constructed using softwood. This roof and floor are clad in plywood while the walls are insulated and clad in tongue and groove, which was then painted.
EPDM was used for the roof. It's a waterproof rubber membrane that has a life expectancy of 50 years.
“It's more expensive than roofing felt but cheaper than cedar shingles and I really like the look of it. It's a matt, slate grey, which looks like lead from a distance,” says Sally, who admits that while the project wasn't always easy, she completed it with help and advice from her “super-practical” dad and her friend, who is a joiner.
“You can't do it all by yourself as some of the lifting is a two-person job,” says Sally whose hands-on experience has fed into the book. “I wanted to demonstrate that anyone can design, build and decorate a useful and beautiful shed for a fraction of the cost of a “posh” garden retreat.
“It doesn't matter if you are new to DIY, the whole idea is that it is a map for construction, just take it step-by-step and there's no shame in asking for help.”
The end result is a beautiful and cosy garden building and she says: “I was struggling with interruptions before but locking myself away in here has made me much more productive work-wise It really is absolutely brilliant. I love my shed.”
How to Build a Shed by Sally Coulthard with illustrations by Lee Phillips is a step-by-step, illustrated guide. It is published on October 22 by Laurence King, £14.99.
The Shed Rules: Most sheds come under permitted development so there is usually no need for planning permission unless you live on designated land, which includes a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and conservation areas. Most planning authorities expect a shed to be no higher than 2.5m if it is less than two metres from a boundary.
It must not be used as self-contained living accommodation.