Sheds are an architectural phenomenon. Many architects have been playing with them lately, designing jazzy modern offices and yoga studios. But the great majority of them are DIY projects, labors of love by ordinary people. In the UK, where houses are smaller and often have lousy damp basements (and where there are long backyards leading to where the outhouse was) the garden shed is a very big deal. That's why the Shed of the Year competition is so fascinating; all kinds of people enter all kinds of sheds, from the very rough to the very fancy. The competition itself has grown like mad, now getting worldwide coverage for its founder Uncle Wilco and the ultimate winners.
When the shortlist of finalists came out, I was happy to see Marcus Shield's bike shed in the list; It is a wonderful green shed that I covered here. But I expected the pub shed to win and didn't look twice at Alex Holland's shed with the upside down boat as a roof. Frankly, it looked like a dump that some hippie might have built at Drop City.
In fact, it is a glorious dump, made entirely from found and recycled materials; Only the the solar power system is new. Alex describes it:
The shed roof is made from a clinker built boat that is 14ft long and 7ft wide at its widest point. It was an inshore fishing boat made between 1900 and 1910 from Cardigan Bay. It was placed on a frame of 4 telegraph poles with cross beams. Once in place (and the boat survived!) the walls were filled in using aluminium framed windows from a 1940s caravan and single glazed windows from our 400 year old farm house. Other walls are made of wattle and daub, a mixture of mud, clay, and straw stuck onto a woven frame. The rear of the shed is clad in old corrugated metal sheet painted in black bitumen. The roof (boat) is covered with sheeting stuck down with roofing felt adhesive and liberally dosed in bitumen paint and roofing paint. This is because clinker built boats retain their waterproof-ness by the wood expanding due to wetness.
Alex describes the utility of the shed:
We have discovered that the shed is an ideal space for middle aged women to get drunk and dance wildly under the stars and we intend to pursue this policy! It is also an ideal place for me to sit whilst our 3 dogs run around our field exercising themselves.
It may not look sophisticated, but the systems are:
It has a 20w solar panel trickle feeding a leisure battery which powers 3 pairs of ultra-brite L.E.D. lights and a 12v sound system. There is a 12v/gas refrigerator and a bottled gas cooker with 2 burners, a grill, and an oven. Also has a small 'Belfast sink' plumbed in. It is heated by a 19th century French enamel wood burning stove.
The winner, Welsh DJ Alex Holland, is as charming as his shed; he was interviewed by CBC's As It Happens (from whom I stole the "some like it hut" title). He says he is using the winnings to upgrade the size of his solar power system and the contents of his bar. More at We Heart Sheds and at the Shedblog