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Go to work in your garden - the humble shed is transformed!                                               Moonroom by Moonworks Alex Johnson Shedworking

Alex Johnson, author of a new book advocating an alternative way of working in your garden, takes a look at the transformation of the garden shed.

There have been shedlike structures in gardens for thousands of years.

In China, pavilions were built at least as early as the Zhou dynasty 1122 BC to 256 BC while follies, hermitages and temples were vitally important to the picturesque movement of the 18th century: keen gardener-philosophers such as Alexander Pope, Horace Walpole and Joseph Addison enthused over these examples of micro-architecture since they delivered ‘pleasing prospects’, offering lovely views without compromising the sense of shelter. And for those whose gardens can’t quite stretch to a temple, there have been sheds, pleasant retreats which house lawnmowers, pots and perhaps a shelf for cuttings.
Moonroom by Roomworks, right.
But now sheds have evolved. Today, growing numbers of people are working from home in garden offices, small ‘shedlike’ buildings in unused space in their back gardens.

These ‘sheds’ can now be insulated from the cold, fitted with their own electrics, and link you to anywhere in the world. Indeed, garden offices have become such a recognised garden accessory that some of our finest designers have acknowledged the necessity of including them in their work and are now starting to include garden offices in their show gardens. 
  The Orb by the Orb Alex johnson Shedworking

The Orb by The Orb, left

The first real indication that garden offices rather than merely attractively painted sheds were making a design impact on garden designers came when they began to make appearances at the trend-defining Chelsea Flower Show: at the 2003 show one of the most impressive show gardens was Help The Aged’s SoHo (Small office, Home office) garden put together by Mark Gregory.

To cut costs, you can try building a garden office yourself or, at the other end of the spectrum, hire an architect to design one for you. Both options have much to recommend them, but the most popular route is to buy an off-the-peg model from one of the many specialist suppliers around the country.                                                                                           

Some designs retain the feel of a traditional, shed-like atmosphere. Or for a really bucolic shedworking experience, opt for the increasingly popular choice of an office in a shepherd's hut.

Other garden offices make a more modern architectural statement; slick, highly refined, technologically advanced objects in the landscape with various enticing interior designs such as mezzanine chill-out pads, mini-kitchens, and shower pods. Shepherd's hut by Plankbridge, right.

The writer and artist John Ruskin argued that our buildings must mean something to their inhabitants, that their spiritual concerns are as important as the material ones. For Ruskin, buildings were not just bricks and mortar, they were embedded with emotion and certainly shedworking is as much a statement of intent as it is a piece of architecture: it is just plain more fun going to work in a garden office than commuting with the crowds to a ‘normal’ cubicle.

Shedworking adds a certain pizzazz to your working life.
Talking to shedworkers around the country, the one phrase that crops up constantly about their garden offices is ‘I love it’. I haven’t met anybody who regretted going to work at the end of their garden. How many people can say the same about their office environment?
Replica of Virginia Woolf's garden office by Scotts of Thrapston
Replica of Virginia Woolf's garden office by Scotts of Thrapston

The beauty of a garden office is that it combines a popular yearning for a pastoral ideal with the practicalities of technological development and guards our privacy in the way that a traditional office never can. I wrote my book Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution in my garden office in Hertfordshire.

While I wrote, I watched bluetits whizzing in and out of the birdbox next to my window, checked on the development of my onions, and videoconferenced on my laptop with business contacts in New York. Shedworking is simply a more human way of working – it makes you feel happier, work better, and get home quicker. It’s really rather pleasant.

Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution by Alex Johnson is published by Frances Lincoln, available from your local independent bookshop and Amazon. His blog Shedworking is updated daily at or you can follow him on Twitter at @shedworking. You can buy Alex's book at Amazon.


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