The big work out: Where better to start a small business than in a shed?

 

I'm feeling jealous. Dawn Fry has a chocolate-making factory in her garden. Hidden in her shed. Actually, it's more of a summer house, with pretty gingham curtains and proper lead flashings over the windows made by her blacksmith husband Joe. But it's a chocolate factory, all right. Jars full of cocoa solids line the dresser, while an electronic warmer keeps the mixture at exactly the right temperature for working. And the air is full of the scent of melty chocolate, which leaves us all in a bit of a trance. "It's very relaxing, that smell," explains Dawn. "People come here for the day, they start off and then they get all noddy, and start telling you all kinds of secrets."

I'm visiting today with Alex Johnson, who has appeared in these pages before as the editor of the blog Shedworking, that invaluable resource for anyone thinking of relocating their business to the garden. Now he's written an excellent book, Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution (Frances Lincoln, £16.99). It's full of tempting photos and ideas for people planning such a move. I've been eyeing it up for weeks, folding down pages and doing calculations on the backs of envelopes. As Joe the blacksmith points out as we have a cup of tea in the garden, "Now that houses cost so much, even an expensive shed is cheaper than moving."

Calling this new breed of garden offices "sheds" is probably a misnomer. These are sleek, well-designed buildings, insulated and warm, with lots of glass and wood, often with low-voltage downlighters. "They're cheaper than a loft conversion or a conservatory," Alex elaborates, "and they can be done very quickly. They're mostly built off site, then a group of guys will come to your garden, and it's assembled often in two days or so – they can even bring it in by crane.

"The cheapest way is to build it yourself out of reclaimed materials, but it really is possible to get one done for a few thousand pounds. Although, of course, you can spend tens of thousands if you wish." And I do wish, just at this moment.

Dawn's deliciously pretty shed is used mainly for running chocolate-making courses. "I would never have been able to run this business from the house," she explains. "There wouldn't be room, but up to eight adults can come here at once." They also wouldn't have quite such a nice view of a cherry-blossom tree in flower.

"At the risk of straying into dangerous generalising territory," says Alex, "I think women tend to decorate their sheds more – personalising them, installing curtains. Men look at it slightly more as an office, and are a bit more minimalist."

As we tuck into a little more chocolate, Dawn explains to us about the chemicals making us feel so contented. "One more reason for having all this located down the garden," says Alex. "Or you'd be tempted to eat chocolate all day long." What a terrible, terrible idea.

Dawn runs one-day chocolate-making workshops in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, costing £45 per person (makechocolates.co.uk).

Find Alex's blog at shedworking.co.uk

If you build it...

Alex Johnson's top three tips for those pondering a garden workspace...

1 Check out local council rules. There aren't national standards, and permission to build depends on many factors, such as whether you are in a conservation area.

2 There's a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Some people personalise their shed – I've seen pubs, snooker rooms and even a Roman temple. Probably best to avoid having a telly or a sofa if you want to work.

3 Insulation Factor it in or your building won't be usable all year. You don't want it as warm as a sitting-room – just a pleasant atmosphere that's conducive to working.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

HR Business Analyst, Bristol, £350-400pd

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried