No longer for rusty tools and forgotten bikes, a fancy shed is the new must-have for any garden. You just need to decide which family member gets the monopoly on its use.

Ham & High: Shed of Dreams, Warwickshire, winner of cabin and summerhouse section, Cuprinol Shed of the Year competition, 2016. PA Photo/HandoutShed of Dreams, Warwickshire, winner of cabin and summerhouse section, Cuprinol Shed of the Year competition, 2016. PA Photo/Handout (Image: Archant)

No, not your home – this beautifully equipped sanctuary is now just as likely to be your garden retreat.

While most homeowners have a basic shed, that traditional structure so beloved by the British - and just to prove it, the Cuprinol Shed of the Year contest attracted nearly 3,000 entries, a record, this year – there’s a growing trend for converting these spaces into stylish hideaways, rather than reserving them for spiders and grubby garden tools.

“Year on year, we’re blown away by the amazing creativity and hard work of ‘sheddies’ in the UK. It’s clear the humble garden shed is no longer just a space to store tools,” says Katie Taylor, brand manager at Cuprinol.

“Our overall winner, the wonderful ‘West Wing’, was made from recycled materials, with a bed in a loft space, an area for relaxing and a bookcase disguising a secret playroom, as well as a workshop. It has so much more than the word ‘shed’ implies, and proves there’s no limit to people’s imaginations or resourcefulness in creating a space in their garden to suit them.

Ham & High: A Garden pod, from £16,750, available from Garden Hideouts. PA Photo/HandoutA Garden pod, from £16,750, available from Garden Hideouts. PA Photo/Handout (Image: Archant)

“Our budget winner was a summerhouse transformed by into a colourful hideaway, and the cabin winner was aptly called ‘Shed of Dreams’, which has an extraordinary Gothic-style arch.”

So while many of us just want to sit and enjoy a hobby, or escape the kids, in nothing more pretentious than a wooden box with a roof, others obviously have Grand Designs-style in mind. They’re discovering that the bottom of the garden has never been so well catered for with buildings for every taste, from retro to modern.

Fancy perking up your plot with a shepherd hut, log cabin or chalet, or even an ultra-indulgent contemporary garden suite or state-of-the-art pod? Here’s how to rustle up the backyard boutique of your dreams...

Ham & High: A Lumley shiplap timber summerhouse, from £342, available from B&Q. PA Photo/HandoutA Lumley shiplap timber summerhouse, from £342, available from B&Q. PA Photo/Handout (Image: Archant)


Although traditionally seen as a man’s retreat, recent research by garden buildings specialist Waltons found that more than 50% of sheds bought this year were snapped up by women, mainly in the 25-44 age group.

“We’re seeing the growing emergence of the ‘she-shed’ – an area of backyard bliss – where people can get some headspace and have a special zone for themselves. A well-furnished shed can be a perfect little oasis of calm,” says Sophie Robinson, a presenter on BBC Two’s The Great Interior Design Challenge, who’s styled a she-shed for blinds specialists, Hillarys.

“This is somewhere where you can be wildly creative with design. I painted this one black inside for a cocooning effect, with added blocks of bold colour and eye-popping neon accessories. I love mixing patterns, and chose contrasting floral geometric blinds and an abstract floral oilcloth.

Ham & High: Shepherds hut, from £28,950, Garden Hideouts. PA Photo/HandoutShepherds hut, from £28,950, Garden Hideouts. PA Photo/Handout (Image: Archant)

“As it’s a workspace, it had to be practical, so I fitted a central light and wire shelving, sprayed in neon bright colours. I upcycled an old junk shop chair by painting it turquoise, and added a pegboard organiser.”

Think hard about how you’re going to use the space. If you plan to use it all year round, full insulation would be sensible. Harmonise your shed’s interior with the outside by using weathered woods, and natural fabrics such as cotton, wool and linen, in soft, earthy colours which will blend with the view.

If you’re after a basic shed that you can spruce up with some simple DIY and TLC, stores such as B&Q have great ranges. Its Lumley Shiplap Timber Summerhouse, from £342 unpainted, is attractive.

If you’re truly hooked on shed chic, the Posh Shed Company has a desirable range, including its handsome Potting Shed, from £2,500, while Garden Affairs has an elegant California Log Cabin, from £6,000 for a self-build kit, and a Burghley Summerhouse, starting from £6,100 for the basic kit (assembly and optional fittings/furnishing extra).

Transform your simple shed by painting it inside and out. Cuprinol’s extensive outdoor range starts from £23.49 for 2.5L.

Habitat has lovely pieces which could work well, including an Oken Folding Side Table, £35, and Edric Multi-coloured Wool And Silk Throw, £80. An Aldsworth Shelf Ladder, £160, Garden Trading, could be handy for storage. Enjoy a brew in a suitably floral Wild & Wolf William Morris Enamel Mug, £9.95, Bloomsbury.

Beyond the shed

Today’s state-of-the-art garden rooms boast every modern comfort and convenience for those who want to ‘live outdoors’.

“People are looking to maximise their personal space, add value to their property and enhance their lifestyle,” says Chris Hill, managing director at Garden Hideouts, whose range includes a Shepherd Hut, from £28,950, a Garden Pod, from £16,750, and the Arca Garden Room from £31,950.

“They’re looking for a ‘home away from home’ that’s only a walk away. There’s a big retro trend, and our Shepherd Hut offers the nostalgic appeal of a traditional exterior. Our streamlined timber clad Pod can be used for everything from an office to a gym or games room, while our luxurious Garden Rooms can be interior designed to evoke the style of a library in a country home, the luxury of a boutique hotel suite, the stripped-back look of a loft apartment, or equipped and decorated to resemble an entertainment hub which is pure South Beach, Miami.

“Our structures are completely weatherproof and superior insulation means they’re toasty warm in winter and cool in summer, and offer total peace and quiet.”

Junior des res

Little people also love their own homes, where they can play house and let their imaginations run wild.

“One of the most popular choices are our bespoke, scaled-down versions of a family home, but we also make tree houses, castles and palaces,” says Bernadette Day at Flights of Fantasy, specialists in bespoke luxury play equipment.

“We go to enormous lengths to make dreams come true, and create everything from magical to practical settings for youngsters, rightly regarded as future family heirlooms. We’ve created lavish homes with six bedrooms, large enough so adults can enter - only ‘by invitation’ from the owners, obviously!

“Or we can conjure jungle-style tree houses on stilts; one we built in Ireland was accessible by climbing and balancing, so it was an activity centre as well. It’s totally up to the client and their inspiration.

“People are increasingly conscious of using their outdoor space well, so it encourages children to play outdoors, but knowing they’re in a safe and secure area where they’re on hand. As the children grow up, the ‘homes’ can be turned into teenage dens, hobby rooms or home offices. They’re very adaptable.”

Flights of Fantasy’s one-up/one-down Tudor House starts from £18,000, while large homes, complete with essentials such as heating, lighting and internet connection, can cost as much as £150,000. If that’s beyond the budget, B&Q has a Cottage Playhouse with five windows including a dormer, which starts from £892 for the unpainted kit (assembled: £1,476).