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Why did I decide to build my own garden studio?
So how did I end up deciding to build my own garden studio?

Well, my starting point was quite different. Plan A was connected to the development plans for our house. The plan was to move a downstairs bathroom upstairs and use the space created to build me a small soundproofed studio in the centre of the house with a lovely glass roof (parts are single storey).  That was before we were introduced to architects, planning officers and conservation officers. 3 years later and we are yet to break ground.

Right now I am working in the smallest bedroom which is less than ideal for a number of reasons:

  • it's about 7' x 10' and as such is a little cramped without a realistic way to appropriately position the monitors (audio) and my ears and the monitors (visuo) and my eyes.
  • It is pretty proximate to where my partner sleeps, so when I need to do a late/all nighter I have to mix using headphones and tiptoe about when I need to go downstairs for coffee. Added to the fun, we have 3 dogs - and I am incapable of tiptoing quietly enough to evade their attentions, and when their attentions are aroused, tiptoe is not a word recognised by the league of canine adventurers.
  • working in the house you and your family live in makes it difficult to get any kind of work/life balance, and as a result, the quality of both tends to suffer.

I therefore started considering the possibility of a 'shed' solution about 12 months ago. As it happens we have 3 sheds dotted about the garden already, and the conservation officer suggested that they wouldn't like to see that number increase (I guess it is maybe clear by now we live in a listed building in a conservation area). One of these sheds has power already and is on a concrete base. It also has a dodgy roof and leaks at the back where it is too close to a wall to have been regularly painted.

So, it wasn't really feasible to 'patch up' the old shed, and cogniscent of the feelings of the conservation officer, the plan was to replace this shed with something that looked like it, but inside was sufficiently 'posh' to not feel uncomfortable doing a spotting session with a client in it.

I then set about finding and briefing 3 local joiners to construct just such a shed, looks like a shed on the outside, looks like a studio on the inside.

There were obviously other considerations contained in the brief:

  • It should be soundproofed to a high level (but as no live recording was planned - I tend to work with remote players or for an ensemble use a studio with an engineer more competent than I am! - it didn't need to be excessive)
  • It should be difficult to break in to (maybe steel or mesh lined so you couldn't just jemmy off the featherboard and start helping yourself)
  • It should be fitted out with a desk which met certain ergonomic and size requirements (I'll go in to more detail on that in a later post)

So... they all came round to kick the tyres and talk over ideas and then disappeared back to their workshops. There then followed a month of rolling tumbleweed before the first responded with a quote. I got 2 quotes (the third never got back to me) at around the £6000 level for just the shed, with maybe £3k on top for the fitting out. When you then added electrics, carpet and so forth the cost added up to about £10k. I had originally looked at off-the-shelf garden offices, and they seemed to be about the same price.

So, here is where the niggling thoughts started to set in:

  • How much work do I have to do (in terms of hours) to earn £10,000 writing music? There was a general concensus that the materials cost of the job was about £2,500, the rest was labour - which at around £150/day for a joiner added up to 50 days work. It was tough for me to see how the project was more than 14 days work for an amateur like me, let alone a professional - how much would I usually earn in 14 days, £7,500? Probably not (especially when you consider composers have 'quiet periods' where you're waiting for delayed projects to kick off etc.)
  • These guys are also saying they have other work on, so they wouldn't be starting for another 8 weeks, with another 10 weeks on top of that before I could move in. If I did it myself, I could be in by Christmas (2012).
  • What if what they come up with doesn't work out (isn't soundproof, doesn't look right, leaks, is wobbly) or we need to tweak things and the costs start to creep up?

It was then that I started to remember that Google was my friend, and started to look for real sheds that I could modify. I contemplated building a frame from scratch but as it was now October I realised I might only get a couple of dry days to get the shell up - plus a job might come in unexpectedly which would mean I'd have to down tools for a while, allowing whatever I'd build so far to get soaked. Also, my DIY skills are at the amateur end of the scale, so I'd need to do quite a bit of learning to make sure I constructed something that was 'fit for purpose'. Anyway, then came the epiphany moment - while searching for sheds I stumbled across 'log cabins'!

Yes, I know what you're thinking - 'Little House On The Prarie', lumberjack hewn timber, bark on (or possibly ski chalets in Chamonix, for those of you who live in Islington). But these structures are a little more 'shed-like' in construction; 'Posh Sheds' if you like; which was a stroke of luck, as that was precisely what I was looking for!

Generic Log Cabin

Why then did I decide the Log Cabin was the best solution for me?

  • They are available in multiple sizes (so I can find one which pretty much fits my existing concrete base)
  • They are available in a variety of wall thicknesses (up to 90mm!)
  • You can gt them 'double skinned' (essentially a shed within a shed - which is supposed to be the best option for soundproofing)
  • You can customise where the windows are doors are located (to fit around how you choose to lay out the inside)
  • They are constructed using pre-cut interlocking 'logs' onto a pre-fabricated base, so essentially, if you have your concrete slab ready, one person can erect the shell on their own in a day (the roof is tongue & groove like floorboard, so you don't have to lift a heavy pre-fabricated complete roof on your own.
  • An appropriately butch 'log cabin' to fit the space I have available, including double glazed doors and windows would cost in the region of £2-3k, leaving me around £2k to fit it out and £5k gets to stay in my bank account = 4 x 64GB Slaves or = a shed load of libraries etc.
  • Once the shell is up, I can work on it when I'm not too busy to do so, so I don't really feel like there's an 'opportunity cost'  (for non-accountants; money I would lose by stopping composing to do building) associated with taking the DIY approach.

OK, so that's why I decided to undertake this project in the way that I have. How did I pick my shed, who did I buy it from? etc. Well, that's another post, innit!

If you want to ask and questions or give me some feedback, please use the comment form below! 


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