What Constitutes a Shed?

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George Bernard Shaw in his writing shed

Some of you may recall our post last week about the 2017 “Shed of the Year” contest.  For those of you who are new to the blog, I should probably warn you that I go through periods of my life in which I get obsessed with having a writing shed in my backyard.  I don’t have one yet, but a man can certainly dream!  (One time I actually tried to convince shed builders to build me one in exchange for free publicity at the blog.  By the way, that offer still stands. We have a lot of readers).

It seems like this year’s finalists for the coveted prize of “Shed of the Year” have drawn some criticism.  The folks in the U.K. take their sheds very seriously and some believe that the structures chosen to compete for this year’s award are not really sheds.

Here is a taste of an article at The Yorkshire Post titled “Is the term shed losing its meaning?

Andrew, who runs the phenomenally successful readersheds.co.uk, really needn’t have bothered as most of us don’t care about the semantics. Shed trips off the tongue far more easily than garden building and it sounds relaxed, while whispering “escape.” Yorkshire-based writer Sally Coulthard, author of best-selling books Shed Chic and Shed Decor, says: “When I was writing the books, there were lots of small buildings that we wanted to include that wouldn’t necessarily come under a tight definition of ‘shed’. I can think of shepherd’s huts, caravans, treehouses, railway carriages, tents, and showman’s wagons that all made the pages. We included them because the spirit of the shed was definitively in them, the idea of a small, portable or temporary structure that has been transformed into a useable space.

“For me, sheds are just as easily defined by what they are not. They are not supposed to be permanent living accommodation or a replacement for a home; sheds also can’t be built from permanent materials like brick or stone, they need to be materials that can be deconstructed or moved if necessary, like wood or metal sheeting. For me, a shed is a retreat, or an extra space, that enhances your home, somewhere you can express yourself or carve out a quiet corner. “

Designer maker and author of Granny Chic Rachelle Blondel, of Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales, agrees and invested in a 1980s Monza caravan six years ago. Known as “Maud”, it is now parked in her garden and serves as a retreat, guest suite and a playhouse for her daughter. “I got it for £350 from eBay, re-did the inside, put some electric in and painted the outside off-white. It was a cheap solution and because it is technically mobile, it isn’t a problem planning wise,” she says.

Alex Johnson, who runs shedworking.co.uk and writes on microarchitecture for The Idler magazine, is a former Shed of the Year judge and believes that the definition of a ‘shed’ is now notoriously tricky to pin down.

“I think most of us would agree that while some builds fall under the heading of ‘microarchitecture’, they are only shed-like at a considerable push. However, I wouldn’t like to see people discouraged from entering Shed of the Year because one of the great successes of the competition is that it has thrown up so many examples of incredible ingenuity within highly restricted spaces.”

He points to some of the builds he has shared on shedworking.co.uk. They include a 4m high boat pod constructed from the former bow section of a Cornish fishing trawler, a contemporary garden office clad in cork and the theatrical Flying Black House by Czech architects H3T. This shed is suspended in mid-air under the arch of an old railway bridge.

Read the entire piece here.