Meet the women who have their own ‘shedquarters’ to work from during the coronavirus lockdown 

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With millions of us working from home, kitchen and dining tables across the country are groaning under the weight of laptops and paperwork — with the continuing family life going on around these ‘desks’ leaving tempers frayed. 

But for some lucky workers, their existing garden rooms are proving to be a lifeline. 

Here, Sadie Nicholas meets four women thanking their lucky lockdown stars for their ‘shedquarters’…

I kicked my husband out of my lovely £5k cabin

Claire Winter, 44, is a content marketing strategist and coach. She lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire, with her husband, who is an animator, and three children. 

She says: 

Affectionately known as my ‘shedquarters’, I’ve been working from my garden office for ten years.

When I had my first daughter 17 years ago I got a job in local government, before buying a family magazine when my twins, who are now 12, were one. 

Suddenly, I had to work from home but there was nowhere suitable inside the Victorian semi where we still live.

Claire Winter, 44, is a content marketing strategist and coach. She lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire, with her husband, who is an animator, and three children

We’d seen log cabins in a garden centre and decided that this one, measuring 5m by 6m and costing £5,000, would do the trick. 

We painted the outside blue-green, and the inside white. It’s insulated and has electric heating but can get chilly in the winter — I wear a woolly hat and gloves!

At the start of lockdown my husband worked here too. But his calls and Zoom meetings were too distracting, so he’s retreated to the house.

I’d find it hard to work from anywhere else now. All that’s changed is we can’t nip to the pub at the end of the day.

We painted the outside blue-green, and the inside white. It’s insulated and has electric heating but can get chilly in the winter — I wear a woolly hat and gloves!

We painted the outside blue-green, and the inside white. It’s insulated and has electric heating but can get chilly in the winter — I wear a woolly hat and gloves!

Our pod has saved our sanity!

Jess Marriner, 37, is a social worker and lives in Bristol with her husband Stuart, 40, a solicitor, her daughter Freya, eight, and Stuart’s daughter Grace, seven. Jess says:

When we paid £10,000 for our garden pod last summer we could never have imagined what a lifeline it would become. 

Now that Stuart and I have been thrown into working from home during lockdown, plus home schooling, it’s saved our sanity!

The main living space of our grade II-listed home is open- plan, which isn’t conducive to daily work calls and Zoom meetings. What we’d have done without being able to take it in turns to retreat to the pod I have no idea.

Originally, we bought it in lieu of extending the house as somewhere else to hang out as a family or spend time as a couple or alone.

Jess Marriner, 37, is a social worker and lives in Bristol with her husband Stuart, 40, a solicitor, her daughter Freya, eight, and Stuart’s daughter Grace, seven

Jess Marriner, 37, is a social worker and lives in Bristol with her husband Stuart, 40, a solicitor, her daughter Freya, eight, and Stuart’s daughter Grace, seven

We came up with the idea after seeing one on display in a department store in Bristol. Whenever we walked past I’d sit in it and tell Stuart: ‘This could be the answer to those times you need to work from home!’ I didn’t know how true my words would prove to be.

Measuring 3m wide and 2.5m deep, it has heating and electricity, which means we can plug in laptops and phone chargers. The pod is completely weatherproof and the tinted, slanting windows mean it’s surprisingly private.

I worried it would heat up like a greenhouse, but the clever stainless steel roof provides shade and reflects heat.

Currently, Stuart tends to use the pod in the mornings to make conference calls, and when he’s finished I steal my own quiet moments.

The floor space might be no bigger than a picnic table, but the space it’s provided to our work and family lives is immeasurable.

Luxury treehouse is my sanctuary

Jennifer Irvine, 44, is founder of a wellness empire (jenniferirvine.org) including food delivery company Balance Box. 

She lives in Virginia Water, Surrey, with her husband and their four daughters aged five to 14. She says:

Although I have an office in London, when I need peace to concentrate and be creative, my treehouse is where I go. And it has come into its own during lockdown.

Accessed via a long rope bridge, it’s within shouting distance of our main house, but keeps me away from the endless interruptions and distractions of a busy home.

Jennifer Irvine, 44, is founder of a wellness empire ( jenniferirvine.org ) including food delivery company Balance Box

Jennifer Irvine, 44, is founder of a wellness empire ( jenniferirvine.org ) including food delivery company Balance Box

It’s about 3m off the ground, and around 6m wide inside with a vaulted roof. We had it built — and two others like it for the children — seven years ago. It cost us tens of thousands of pounds and I liken it to childbirth — painful at the time but soon forgotten!

Inside my treehouse there’s a table that comfortably seats eight for dinner or a meeting, and a kitchen, plus a bathroom.

It’s primarily made from pressurised soft wood, meaning it has the strength and look of hardwood but is more environmentally friendly. There’s underfloor heating, and a firepit.

Even on days when it’s raining, frosty or snowy, I just wrap up warm, and head off over the rope bridge to get down to business.

Inside my treehouse there’s a table that comfortably seats eight for dinner or a meeting, and a kitchen, plus a bathroom. It’s primarily made from pressurised soft wood, meaning it has the strength and look of hardwood but is more environmentally friendly

Inside my treehouse there’s a table that comfortably seats eight for dinner or a meeting, and a kitchen, plus a bathroom. It’s primarily made from pressurised soft wood, meaning it has the strength and look of hardwood but is more environmentally friendly

My £45k pad has a pizza oven! 

Sarah Bradley, 51, runs her family’s property management business and lives in Loughton, Essex, with her husband Martin, 55, an architect, and their three sons aged 23, 20 and 16. She says:

The beauty of my garden headquarters is that you can’t see it from the house — and vice versa — so when I’m curled up in there on the sofa with my laptop I feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere.

Every day since lockdown started, I’ve retreated there to do my work in blessed solitude.

Three years ago, my husband designed it as a space where we could both work when we needed to and where the whole family could relax.

Sarah Bradley, 51, runs her family’s property management business and lives in Loughton, Essex, with her husband Martin, 55, an architect, and their three sons aged 23, 20 and 16

Sarah Bradley, 51, runs her family’s property management business and lives in Loughton, Essex, with her husband Martin, 55, an architect, and their three sons aged 23, 20 and 16

Our four-bedroom 1920s house isn’t particularly big but we have a lovely garden with a brook running through the centre of it and a little bridge. We wanted to utilise the land on the other side of it, and this was the perfect opportunity.

The garden room cost around £45,000 because it’s a proper building which required foundations and a brick base, and it also has a wood burner and pizza oven.

Measuring 4.2m by 6.4m, it’s built from recycled wood, including the flooring, which is formed from old scaffolding boards. My twin sister, who’s an interior stylist, helped me to source comfortable sofas and furnishings in luxuriously textured fabrics and bright shades.

They include a chaise longue bought for £110 on eBay, which I then paid to have reupholstered in a mustard velvet. I had cushions and lampshades handmade by a furniture designer in Shoreditch.

There’s enough seating in there for ten of us to eat pizza from the oven on our knees!

During this lovely spring weather, I’ve been taking regular breaks from work to do Pilates or yoga on the external decking.

The garden room cost around £45,000 because it’s a proper building which required foundations and a brick base, and it also has a wood burner and pizza oven

The garden room cost around £45,000 because it’s a proper building which required foundations and a brick base, and it also has a wood burner and pizza oven

Pictures: Murray Sanders 

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