A tour of my garden studio (Part One) and musings on when a dream comes true

Updated: Aug 25, 2019

I'd held a vision for a long time of a beautiful black shed at the bottom of my garden nestled beneath our copper beech

It would be a place to write and photograph my books, hold workshops and courses and develop a new business - there was a lot riding on this space. Hours spent on Pinterest yielded stunning images of architect designed barns with fully glazed gables, rustic charred oak cabins in the forests of Sweden and swanky jet black wooden-clad additions to upstate New York weekend homes. All stunning to the eye, but none of it available here in the UK anywhere near my price range.

After MONTHS of research, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I designed my dream building and commissioned a local builder to make it for me. The process was not an easy one. There were costly mistakes and lots of lessons learnt. One day, when it's all a little less raw, perhaps I'll share them with you. I have to say though, it was completely worthwhile and I am utterly thrilled with the result. It's given me such an amazing space to work from - I still have to pinch myself when I'm down there working as I look out the French doors onto my flower beds with the dog lying at my feet.

Building the studio has given me so much more than just an overflow space from the house, more than the extra square feet we have gained. It has become more valuable than the physical building itself- it's enabled my vision for my new business to become a reality. It's helped my ideal work-life balance come true. It's given me the space (in every way) to begin to make my dreams a reality at long last - and you can't put a price on that.

That's why I'm always talking about home being the start of things - that if you get your home right, if you nourish it, then it begins to support you, nourishing you in return - so you're much more able to make the things you really want to do with your life happen. It's something I've seen work in practise again and again for so many different people. I'm hoping it will for me for the foreseeable, I'll be down in my studio with a big cheesy grin, feeling very much like I'm living my dream.

Now let's talk about paint & flooring and the pretty stuff

The paint: Decorating a space with so much natural light made EVERY ONE of my go-to colours appear several shades lighter.

  • We all know about light and the effect it has on colour right? I must have written about that a hundred times, but this was my first time decorating a garden building with a whole 6 metre length of window and even though I knew it would make everything lighter, but I wasn't prepared for just how much. Farrow & Ball's 'De Nimes' appeared so much lighter that I needed to add at least 25% of 'Railings' to get it to where I wanted it. Without the added deep blue/black of 'Railings' it wasn't giving me the depth of colour I needed to anchor the back wall of the space.

  • On one of the end gable walls, I created a paint effect that I'm going to call 'aged palazzo plaster' - I'll admit it's still looking a tad Changing Rooms circa early 90s' so there's still work to be done there, but it's heading in the right direction and it's been looking good in my shoots so far. Don't judge me just yet on it....its not quite finished. If you are interested in recreating it - it's very simply done by 'washing' diluted emulsion over whitewashed walls (about 30:70 paint to water). Start by using a big brush, then go over it again with a dry cloth to soften the edges and lift some of the paint off.

  • The rest of the walls are in Little Greene's 'French Grey Mid' which is my usual off-white/light grey neutral - just the right amount of grey and warmth without it becoming too taupe whilst remaining light and reading as off-white.

The floor: I spent FOREVER trying to track down a floor that I loved at the right price.

  • It had to be wood from a style point of view. I'd be using the space as a film/photography studio and it needed to look the part. I was going for a 'modern rustic country/industrial' vibe. Herringbone/chevron/parquet were out because the risk of movement was just too great in this setting and I'm not completely nuts. So plank it was.

  • I wanted something with a bit of texture as a contrast to the clean lines of the building and door design - to soften things a little and bring some warmth, but it needed to be engineered T & G so that I had some hope of the floor not moving and curving up like a banana. The ideal would have been an engineered board with reclaimed oak spliced on top. Not a goer for me in terms of budget- the ones I swooned over cost a minimum of £150 per m2. I looked at laminate, it's come along way, but as I'd be using the space for a studio it needed to be the real thing. The oak floors that came closest to reclaimed look I loved all had one thing in common - they had all been 'deep brushed' and oiled rather than varnished so that the finish was relatively matt. I didn't want so much distressing that it looked what I call 'Disney', but needed enough to give it interest. Texture and finish finally was sorted.

  • Next I had to get the colour right. My starting point was that beautiful weathered silver/grey colour of those reclaimed floors I loved so much - created over a hundred or so years' worth of ageing. It was a hard one to mimic. Many floors looked too 'grey' and cold, not enough of the natural wood colour. Others had been given a lime wash effect that just sat on the top of the wood and looked fake. You know I'm picky right? So, after months of looking and MILLIONS of samples. I finally found it at £65 per metre. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but it was exactly what I was looking for; Havwoods 'Napo' from their Henley range.

Then there's that cabinet....I need to tell you about that cabinet

BUT...I'm not going to right now. This is already getting too long. I'll do a separate piece about it because it deserves a whole lot of glory on its own. All I'll say is that it cost just me £20 from a charity shop.....and it makes the space for me.

So as you can see, it's not a full tour, more a kind of half-tour as it's not quite finished. My husband would throttle me if he thought it needed even more money spent on it. So when I say it's not finished, I mean it needs some finishing touches; the interior panelling on one gable and one of the long walls hasn't even been added yet, neither has the deck outside and I haven't made a start on the landscaping. There are only so many hours and so many ££££ and my dreams for this area of the garden are anything but small.

As this is one of my first posts, I'd love to know what you think. Is there anything you'd like to hear/see more of? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks.