Think sheds are only a refuge for men? These women built their own backyard havens
Crafty way to escape
Caroline Counsell, 42, is a sales assistant who lives in Redhill, Surrey, with husband Darren, 45, a mechanic, and their two sons. The shed is my escape from a house in which I am outnumbered by men. I love arts and crafts, so I spend hours with scraps of fabric and ribbon, making cards and bunting for friends and family as gifts. It’s 8ft by 10ft and is filled with colourful containers and piled with knick-knacks. I have a desk, chair and computer — and I painted fluffy white clouds on the ceiling. Though the shed is my corner of girliness, there is one male who is allowed over the threshold, though — my Jack Russell, Mylo!
Manjit Sidhu, 37, a police officer, lives in Solihull with her 16-year-old daughter. Not many sheds have multi-coloured chandeliers, rose print wallpaper and a lime-green printed armchair by the French windows, but I wanted mine to be special. I built it two years ago, and I had no idea how big a part of my life it would become. When I need to forget work, I pop down to my little sewing shed, which is pistachio green and sits under a cherry tree strewn with lanterns — it’s absolutely beautiful. I spent £5,000, but it’s worth every penny. I’m part of a sewing club and the ‘she-shed’ came into being when I ran out of space in the house for my sewing materials. Sometimes my daughter sits with me to chat or work on her own craft projects. The shed is where we have spent some of our happiest times.
Quaint: Manjit Sidhu, 37, a police officer, lives in Solihull with her 16-year-old daughter. She uses her ‘she’ shed when she needs to forget about work
Storage: She spent £5,000 on building the tent when she ran out of room in her house for her sewing equipment
My stained glass glory
Tatiana Hardisty, an English teacher, lives with her retired husband John, 65, in Newcastle. My shed was a labour of love — John, who makes stained glass windows, slaved over it for months and did everything. He fitted it with panes designed to resemble the art nouveau windows of the main thoroughfare in St Petersburg, Russia, where I grew up. The roof is made from green, yellow and brown tiles that John broke up and pieced together in a mosaic — inspired by architect Antoni Gaudi’s designs in Barcelona. The effect is stunning. He did the same with shiny white tiles on the inside: it means the roof keeps the shed very warm — like a big duvet cover. He built the main frame from old bricks and broken-up concrete blocks and the lighting is built into the walls with a dimmer switch for change of mood. I filled it with matching wicker furniture and I enjoy inviting my friends around for a cup of tea and a gossip. John has his own workshop, of course, so now we’re both in the garden in sheds of our own.
Inspiration: Tatiana Hardisty, an English teacher, fitted panes designed to resemble the art nouveau windows of the main thoroughfare in St Petersburg, Russia, where she grew up
Host: Her husband built the shed while Mrs Hardisty filled it with matching wicker furniture. She enjoys inviting her friends around for a cup of tea and a gossip
Fifties tribute to mum and dad
Ann Bate, 46, lives in St Helens, Merseyside, with her husband Ian, 48. They own a launderette and have two adult daughters. My parents loved the Fifties, and three years ago I decided to buy and decorate this shed in tribute to them. I miss my late parents desperately and creating the perfect Fifties diner has made me feel still close to them. I know they would have loved it. I’ve spent £10,000 on it, including buying a working jukebox, popcorn maker, retro fridge, original Fifties radio, phone and light-up petrol pump, which was used at Silverstone race course. We had the inside of the shed plastered and insulated so it stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and bright spotlights fitted to the outside and inside. I’ve also had a special plaque made with my parents’ names on it, which I’ve hung above the door. I find most of the things for the shed at old car boot sales and I’ve been given bits and pieces by friends, who think the Fifties-themed parties I throw there are brilliant (though our neighbours don’t tend to agree). We had one recently where everyone came dressed up as teddy boys, Buddy Holly or characters from Grease. If my parents could have seen us, they would have smiled.
Ann Bate, 46, lives in St Helens, Merseyside, with her husband Ian, 48. She spent £10,000 on her ‘she’ shed, which is a tribute to her late parents who loved the Fifties
Diner: The mother-of-two bought a working jukebox, popcorn maker, retro fridge, original Fifties radio, phone and light-up petrol pump, which was used at Silverstone race course
A sweet shop good enough to eat
Belinda Brown, 43, lives with husband Andrew, 47, and their two children in Epsom, Surrey, where she runs a business from home. When we moved into our house ten years ago, the shed at the end of the garden was rather ramshackle. I had always wanted to turn it into something special, but it was only a couple of years ago that it became my duck egg blue ‘girl’s pad’. You won’t find any filthy trowels. Instead there are cushions, strawberry-print curtains, bunting and fairy lights. The children decided to call it the Sweet Shop — not because it’s full of toffees and bonbons, but because it looks good enough to eat. The shed has helped me to build my own business, making replica wooden blue plaques, like the ones you see on historic buildings. I wanted one for my shed, but couldn’t find anything suitable so made my own and it’s gone from there. I’m down here most days, making plaques or having a potter around. And I can keep an eye on the children playing in the garden.
Treat: Belinda Brown, 43, from Epsom, Surrey, turned the ramshackle shed at the bottom of their garden into a my duck egg blue ‘girl’s pad’
Decorations: There are cushions, strawberry-print curtains, bunting and fairy lights. Her children decided to call it the Sweet Shop – not because it’s full of toffees and bonbons, but because it looks good enough to eat
It’s a seaside sanctuary
Lindsay Bowring Coombe, 49, an NHS worker, lives in Bredhurst, Kent, with husband Steve, 53. I sit in my shed in my striped armchair and transport myself back to idyllic childhood seaside holidays. We’ve always had sheds in our back garden. A few years ago, I decided to make one of my own. I sent out Steve to buy some subtle duck egg blue stain for the outer walls and he came back with an eye-watering Hawaiian blue. Luckily, I got used to it. It’s only 4ft by 6ft, but I have everything I need, including original watercolours. I even have a ‘sounds of the sea’ CD, which I play on a portable player. I’m writing my first book and love nothing better than sitting in my armchair with my laptop and our two cats curled up next to me. I’ve called it the Happy Days beach hut, after one I remember from childhood — and because sitting in it makes me so happy.
Lindsay Bowring Coombe, 49who lives in Bredhurst, Kent, sits in the striped armchair inside her ‘she’ shed and transports herself back to to idyllic childhood seaside holidays