Outdoor structures

Top 10 tips for garden sheds

These days, garden sheds are expected to multi-task – playhouse, office, spare room – and look good, too. Here are some ideas if you’re planning a ‘shed-over’

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1. Playtime

Luring the kids away from screens and devices into the outdoors will be easier if you give them their own place to hang out. If converting an existing shed, ensure there is no exposed wiring and power points are covered. Check for nails and splintered wood. Bright colours inside and out are appealing to children. They also love using ladders, slides and climbing rails to access their playhouse and you could consider connecting a swing or sandpit to the outside.

2. Viewpoints

There’s no point in having a garden studio or playhouse if you can’t see the garden so make sure there are plenty of windows or openings to allow good views of its surroundings. Ideally you should be able to see the children in their playhouse from the house, whereas more seclusion might be the go for an office or studio.

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3. Paint job

Painting a plain little shed an attractive colour is an easy, low-cost way to improve its appearance. Remember, though, the brighter the colour, the more attention it will draw. To make an unattractive building less dominant, use green, grey or charcoal to help it merge into the foliage.

4. Go green

Other sustainable options include adding a green or planted roof; strengthen roof joists first to take the weight of the soil. Or you could harvest rainwater from the roof and channel it into a tank to use for garden irrigation. Solar panels on the roof could power the shed and/or outdoor lighting and water pumps.

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5. Garden room

If you’re keen to turn the shed into a home office, guest room or studio, your approach needs to be a little more sophisticated than it would be to convert it into a playhouse. Clients or guests need easy access, which means a well-made path or boardwalk, ideally with overhead protection for all-weather use. Also, outdoor lighting may be required so the building can be used at night.

6. Multi-functional

If space is tight, divide the shed into zones such as garden tools and potting, children’s play area, and storage for deckchairs, bikes or pool equipment. This requires clever planning but, as shown so beautifully on the British television show George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, it can be done.

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7. Tart up

Rather than a total rebuild a bit of titivating may be all your shed needs to justify its position in the garden. Try training a flowering climber to grow along its walls, or attach trellis, bamboo panels, perforated metal or a wire grille to the sides visible from the house. Covering walls with greenery also provides thermal insulation for a building.

8. Repurpose

Using recycled materials is a popular trend when building sheds, saving money and helping the planet. You may have stuff left over from a renovation or have friends who have just finished building. It’s amazing how many useful bits of timber are thrown away so check out skips, demolition and scrap yards and online auctions. Redundant shipping containers and industrial structures make very cool home studios, too.

9. Electricity, internet service, good lighting and bathroom plumbing

may need to be installed to make a shed suitable for an office or accommodation. And of course water tightness is vital

10. Integrate

Another approach is to use materials and/or colours that will help the shed connect visually with other structures such as garden walls and fences, pergolas and the architecture of the house, particularly any walls enclosing the garden. E.g, if the fence or house is cedar-clad, this timber would be an obvious choice for recladding the shed.

Photography by: Chris Warnes, Armelle Habib, Andreas Palmen, Prue Ruscoe/bauersyndication.com.au; Getty Images.

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