IN ENGLAND THESE DAYS, “working in the garden” has new meaning. Apparently it’s very popular there for people who work at home — a growing number of them — to set themselves up with a separate little office in the backyard. These can take the form of quaint cottages, modernistic pods, Victorian gazebos, Airstream trailers… the possibilities are endless, as they say in the real estate ads.
There’s a longstanding website about the movement, founded by Alex Johnson, a freelance journalist, who has also written a new book, Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution, to be published this June by Frances Lincoln. Naturally, it was written in a little green wooden office in the author’s Hertfordshire garden, pictured on page 19. “I can watch blue tits whizzing in and out of the bird box next to my window, check on the development of my onions, and then start up a video conference on my laptop with a business contact in upstate New York,” he writes. Who wouldn’t prefer that to commuting?
The main point, I suppose, is the simple phrase that kept cropping up as Johnson interviewed shedworkers around Britain about their garden offices: ‘I love it.’
There’s something exciting about the open-ended design possibilities of a 10’x10′ building that larger structures, with their greater functional demands, cannot provide, and this book is chock-full of inspiring images.
My favorite part of the book is the chapter on historic sheds, most used by famous writers and artists as places to work undisturbed. There are pictures of Mark Twain’s 1874 octagonal garden office in Elmira, N.Y., Edvard Grieg’s composing hut in Norway, Dylan Thomas’ clifftop writing shed in Wales, and the revolving office where George Bernard Shaw wrote his masterworks. There’s also a comprehensive guide at the back to suppliers of pre-fab sheds here and in the UK.
Shedworking, to the office-bound, must be an irresistible concept. I actually have plenty of room in my garden for such a shed. But my kitchen table is pleasant enough for now, with its view into the woods, and I can’t help thinking that if I had a garden shed, I would use it…as a garden shed.