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
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones