The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

08th March 2018

Gill Heriz meets three women who've created a space to write, grow, think, and escape to. Photography by Nicolette Hallet

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

08th March 2018

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

08th March 2018

SHEDS FOR WORKING

Jenny is outnumbered. Her north Norfolk house is full of males… her partner and their three sons, to be precise. Her shed, on the other hand, is a man-free zone, and it’s the only place where she can leave her work on her desk without it being moved around, or put down a pen knowing that it will still be there at the end of the day.

After leaving the teaching profession, Jenny now works as a plantswoman. Her tidy desk looks out onto the vegetable garden surrounded by leafy trees, creating a magical place to be and to work. But her shed is not just a workspace. It’s also a bar, a shrine, a retreat, but, above all, a woman’s space. It has an old-fashioned cottage feel about it, with its pale green and white walls almost covered by various treasures, from vintage plates and platters to pictures and photographs. Even the back of the door is decorated with bunches of herbs, dried leaves, and the odd postcard or two. There is a small bar in the corner, with her choice of tipple, and glasses at the ready on top of a shelf.

Jenny makes effective use of mirrors, in the vegetable garden as well as in her shed. Inside, they serve to increase the sense of space and introduce an air of mystery. Dotted around the garden, they reflect light and colour, and the two on the outside of the door, together with the painting, turn the tiny veranda into an outdoor room.

Strings of fir cones and shells from the beach festoon the veranda, where two mismatching rustic chairs bid visitors welcome, to sit down with Jenny and, perhaps, relax with one of her favorite tipples.

SHEDS FOR LIVING

Hidden behind sand dunes, this friendly community of black wooden beach huts faces the North Sea, on the outskirts of the Suffolk village of Walberswick. In summer, and for a few glorious months, their owners open their doors and windows, and tea kettles are put on stoves to boil water for tea or coffee. Cakes and cookies appear on small tables outside to share with beach hut neighbours and daytrippers.

The village has all the amenities that the beach hut owners could need, including a smattering of pubs, a small food store, and public toilets. There’s also a rowing boat ferry that takes them to buy freshly caught fish from the local fishmonger on the river estuary. This is living at its simplest.

Jen has had her beach hut for about 28 years. She has decked it out exactly to suit herself, with everything she could need for passing the time of day at peace by the sea. She’s made simple blue-and-white checked curtains for the windows and for covering the underneath of the worktop. There’s a small wood-burning stove to sit around when it’s cold and damp. From the bed, with its vintage quilt, she can gaze out over the fields to the dunes.

The hut is filled with beach treasures and curios. Around the stove is a collection of stones with holes in them. According to folklore, these fairy stones ward off evil spirits and protect fishermen, and it’s believed that they even help sleep. Simple hooks in the walls and ceilings are useful storage for the paraphernalia of living. Even the back of the stable door is put to good use, storing frying pans, mugs, and a hot-water bottle.

For Jen, her hut is her refuge. Although quite basic, it is domestic and comfortable, and she can fully experience the elements, the seasons, and the roar of the sea. Such is the sea’s power that one year the tide came in so high that a number of sheds were shifted several feet. And every year, like her neighbours, Jen has to give her hut a new coat of black tar varnish to protect it from the wind and salty air.

SHEDS FOR PAINTERS

With railroad tracks running at the bottom of her garden, Sarah’s wooden shed, designed specifically in the shape of a small train carriage, suits its setting perfectly. It has a curved “living” grass roof, and when viewed from the house above, this patch of green can be seen as part of the surrounding landscape.

Sarah’s shed was her gift to herself on her sixtieth birthday. However, it wasn’t just the gift of a building but also of the space and time to be the artist she had always intended to be that came with it. For a long time, Sarah had promised herself that when she was “properly grown up,” she would return to her art, which she had deserted for health and financial reasons for many years. To that end, she wanted a beautiful sculpted form in the garden, where she could paint, make a mess, or simply sit and do nothing. In short, a studio—somewhere warm, dry, and light, where she would not have to tidy away her paintings or clay busts and figures. More important, it is a place where she can truly be herself.

Reached by stone steps leading down from the house, the shed is set up with all the conveniences of running water, electricity, and a woodburning stove, so Susan can remain here for most of the day, even in winter, if she chooses. The green roof is not only attractive, but it also helps to insulate the shed. Adjustable wooden shelving blends in with the paneled walls and is filled with boxes and baskets of the equipment that Sarah needs for her work.

MORE INSPIRATION

READ A Woman’s Shed by Gill Heriz (£19.99 Ryland Peters and Small)

EXPLORE Gill’s pinterest boards at pinterest.com/gillhedgehog/pins. Shedspiration!

This article was fist published in The Green Parent magazine. Subscribe here and save 25% off the cover price! >

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