A couple of years ago my daughter started high school and we thought she might need a room of her own. I gave up my home studio (the biggest room in the house) and we all shuffled rooms so that my two daughters each had their own space. I had long daydreamed about building a new studio and this was the time. I managed to work through all the council requirements and submitted my plans – a beautiful shed, as high as possible and with
a balance between keeping outdoor space and useful working area.
Of course, they were rejected, and I needed to re-work my design. I spent a couple of years sulking about my plan rejection and dithering on the redesign, renting a studio space in an old warehouse. By November I realised that I could not face a second summer in that place, so I bit the bullet and paid someone to finish my studio plans.
We broke ground on the studio in February. The engineering plans called for 2m deep pylons, and if Grand Designs has taught me anything it is that groundworks are always complicated and cost more than expected. Ours went smoothly though – no rocks, no collapses, no underground rivers. The concrete was poured, and all looked good until I came out to find our yard was a lake of sewage.
I called the plumber and it seemed that the drilling had cracked the old ceramic pipe. The emergency plumbers trenched down around 3m across the yard to replace all the pipes. The digging had raised the soil level of the whole yard by about 300mm. I called the shed builder to see if we could lift the base of the shed to clear the new ground level. I worried whether raising the height of the shed would breach planning, but the builder thought it was “probably fine”.
In the week that Covid-19 lockdown started the materials arrived. I was unsure if we would be able to progress, but the builder was absolutely unconcerned, declaring that Covid-19 was “all bullshit”. Luckily, the shed went up very fast – in about two days. Unluckily it was built backwards – the shed has a large roller door, and that was at the wrong end. The builder was sure that he checked that with me, but he definitely didn’t because I do know which way the shed is supposed to face. He might have asked me in a way that I didn’t understand.
We managed to resolve it (they moved the door to right end) and with the shell erected, I needed to get the building inspector to sign off before I started the fit-out. This was a tense time for me since I got it into my head that increasing the height of the shed meant it was not built according to the approved plans. The inspector missed two appointments, and then stopped returning my calls. To manage my anxiety, I started work on paving the sides of the shed a little. Getting the pavers up to the edge of the shed was a little tricky due to the different soil heights and one of my bricks slipped under the edge of the shed wall. I reached down to retrieve it but lost my grip, so my arm jerked back up...and into the bottom of the shed. Which is to say that the shed went into my arm. I called Emma to tell her “I’ve done it again” and then basically fainted. Luckily due to Covid19 stopping people from playing sport or going out drinking, the hospital emergency department was completely empty. A few stitches and some slight nerve damage, but this was my non-painting arm, so no problem!
The inspector finally came and spent less than a minute glancing at the shed before saying “Yep, all good”. I expected the fit out to take a few days. A couple of weeks maybe. With homeschooling underway I developed new routine: get up at 4am to paint, homeschool with
my daughters from 9am until 2pm. Then from 2pm until sunset work on fitting out the shed. It turned out to take longer than I thought to do the fit out. I wanted to make sure I got the details right, after the warehouse I wanted to get the insulation right, so I spent some extra time on that. Nice high walls are great for a studio, but it is hard to get up there to patch and fill, and it was pretty scary being up that high installing the ceiling and lights too.
I have broken my brain with the 4am starts and now I am in that habit even though I don’t have to do home- schooling. Luckily in the shed I can fire up the hi-fi even before dawn and thanks to my excellent work insulating it is barely audible outside. Having a purpose built space is an absolute luxury, I am loving it!
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