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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Support - Helpdesk Analyst

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a customer focu...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Learning & Development Manager - North London - £53,000

£45000 - £53000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Learning & Develo...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - Magazines

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's largest regional newspaper pub...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn