Thursday, 9 August 2012

Converting the Potting Sheds into an Office

The Man Shack
For the past ten years my husband has been working from offices in town.  I practically threw him out of the house ten years ago just before our daughter was born when he mentioned that I might have to shush a crying baby if he was on a call. It's amusing to think that pre children we thought that a baby might be shushed! 

Things have changed and three children later we realized that our time with them is so short. They are growing up at such a pace we decided that they should have as much childhood as possible.  We both wanted them to climb trees, run, laugh and play outside and have the chance to have an old fashioned way of growing up.  With a postage stamp of a garden that we had it just wasn’t possible. We needed a bigger house and garden. 

The sink unit was given to me by my fabulous hairdresser John Billington
 When worked out our budget we realised quite quickly that the rent and travel costs Alastair paid would go a long way to paying towards making it happen, so when the opportunity came up to buy a house I had always wanted to live in came up we went for it, especially when we saw that the potting sheds were tucked away quietly by what would become my kitchen garden at the side of the house and could be renovated. We couldn’t have afforded the house had it been done up, although most of our family and friends thought we’d taken on a mad project and looked on in utter horror at our purchase!

So for the past six months we have been project managing a renovation. Its so good for Al to have his own space to work in, he moved in last week and it's as though he's always been there. The house is full of my cookery things and the children's toys and books.. this is his space and now his commute is a stumble via the laundry door into the kitchen garden and he's at work.  It's already making a big difference to family life, he works very long hours and he saved enough time to take a half day last Friday and came out to Oxford for the afternoon to picnic in the park. It was the first time he's ever taken an afternoon off work to enjoy some family time. It was magical. 

Painting with Farrow and Ball paints. 
It has been a good six months to get the sheds converted and I really recommend if you are going to undertake a project to write down the quotes from builders, plumbers, decorators, plasterers and carpenters.  Do NOT get estimates .. get written quotes.  It might sound obvious reading this now, but trust me;  if forget what was agreed months later you can refer back to it. 

The outside light I rescued from being chucked in the skip!
I'd also say to use the best paint to finish. There is no point skimping on the bit you will see day in day out and I love Farrow and Ball paint, not only because of the luscious finish but because I care about the ingredients that are used and Farrow and Ball paint is made in a really positive way using natural pigments. It's the right thing to use if you care about the impact you have on the world.  I once used a cheaper copy and had a long time to regret it. 

I used three colours.  Castle Grey on the doors, All White on the windows and ceiling, which gave it a fresh clean vibrancy and then inside calming, almost serene Cornforth White, and it looks beautiful 

Enjoying the space. 

 I don't ugh like buying new things.  I tend to rescue, recycle, renovate and reuse. Partially because my budget doesn't allow me to just splurge, but mainly because I love the imperfect. I like things to look as though they have always been that way.  I think though that with a new space it is good to invest in some key pieces and the room will come together.  I’m a huge fan of Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture and adding  the Warrington Console and a large squishy chair the whole room just came together as though it had always been there.  Pascale, from the London Rachel Ashwell Shop came over and helped me put it all tougher right from the start.  It seems a bit surreal now remembering standing in a shell with no roof deciding what paint colour to use. 

The stable doors are painted Castle Grey by Farrow and Ball
You can imagine the looks we got from friends and family as we showed them around.


  1. Stunning, we are thinking of moving so will be using your tips over next year!

  2. Vanessa, apart from the fact that this renovation is simply stunning - really, really incredible - from the structural work, to the choice of furniture, lighting, fittings and accessories; what really touches me is that your story is so similar to my own! Now, if ONLY I could find a way to get my own husband to abandon his daily commute and move to the garage! (Although, I have to admit that I do have my own eyes on that particular 'girl cave'-in-waiting!)
    Always an inspiration Vanessa and great images!
    Best wishes,
    Paula xxx

  3. Aaahhh - I want one for myself - very beautiful.

  4. Hey there Vanessa, that was such a very great make over! You've sure turned everything so well and fabulous. Who would have thought that a shed could turn out this pleasant. I'm really attracted with sheds and barns, they just look amazing to me, especially when these are done creatively.


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