The sheds that lockdown built: Readers share their garden havens

He sheds, she sheds, home offices, reading rooms, gyms and bars in readers’ gardens

Isabel and Aidan McGowran converted a ‘general dumping ground’ into a home office/den and gym in Dublin

Isabel and Aidan McGowran converted a ‘general dumping ground’ into a home office/den and gym in Dublin

 

Irish Times readers have been busy over the last 18 months in particular, building, converting, renovating and refurbishing to provide themselves with havens in their own back gardens. Many have carried out the work themselves while some have called in the professionals for part or all of it.

Whether it’s a home office, reading room or bar, a he shed or a she shed, readers have been telling us about it.

Here is a selection of unique outdoor constructions.

Isabel and Aidan McGowran, Dublin

We always planned on turning our existing garden shed into a proper room to create more living space, but Covid brought those plans forward by a few years as Aidan is now working from home and needs a dedicated space. Before renovating, the shed was a makeshift gym and general dumping ground. Now it is a 24sq m studio with south-facing 4m sliding doors and plenty of natural light. We also have rear access to our back lane now, which was important as we live in a terraced house and dragging the bikes through the house was becoming a pain.

The renovation started in autumn last year and was halted due to delays with the doors and then lockdown. It was completed earlier this summer. Our aim was to create zones within the studio, so we put laminate flooring on the home office/den side and commercial gym tiles on the gym side. It’s more of an office than a den right now due to Covid, but we hope that it will become a hangout space for our two sons when they are a bit older. And having a decent home gym will hopefully be something we can all get use out of.

Pat O’Duffy, from Limerick, built his shed with a turret, to take the eye off his wall
Pat O’Duffy, from Limerick, built his shed with a turret, to take the eye off his wall

Pat O’Duffy, Limerick city

I’ve always wanted to replace our old timber shed with a more substantial block one that would fit neatly into the odd shape at the end of our garden. I took on the task back in 2018 to start it and, with all my travel with work, and other commitments, I only ever got it cleared, and the foundations ready. My plan for spring 2020 was to get started on the block work, even take off a week or two to dive into it. Little did we all know how much time I would actually have at home during lockdown. I was lucky in that I had all the necessary materials at hand to dive straight into it. My previous experience in block work, I might add, was the occasional barbecue or garden patio.

As lockdown kept going, so did my shed. I added the turret, as I wanted to take the eye off the wall. Painting it blue was like the icing on a cake. It’s a bit hard finding round furniture in Ikea, so the plan is to make it. Round buildings are definitely a challenge, especially at the joints to the main roof, but hey, I had the time and YouTube was my friend.

Inside Pat O’Duffy’s shed in Limerick
Inside Pat O’Duffy’s shed in Limerick

My original intention for the shed was for storage, and to have space for my interest and hobby of woodworking but . . . with a bit of heat and appropriate lighting, this proved to be the perfect spot to wind down those winter evenings with a couple of quiet pints – within the household I might add. Today, it’s a mix of what I originally planned for it, and truly a great addition and extra space that would never have reached what it has without the push of lockdown.

John and Mairead Finnegan used leftover building materials and items found in skips to build their summerhouse in Co Meath
John and Mairead Finnegan used leftover building materials and items found in skips to build their summerhouse in Co Meath

John and Mairead Finnegan, Kells, Co Meath

John (Tex) Finnegan is dedicated to upcycling, and our little summer house was a complete lockdown project. Tex works in construction and everything used was made from leftover building materials, and a lot of it was rescued from skips over a number of years. The construction features all types of wood – some of it comes from an old garden shed that someone was throwing away, doors and windows salvaged from skips and sites. The ceiling is made with an old tablecloth and table top. The roof tiles are salvaged and the roof feature is an old water cylinder combined with a lamp from a charity shop. The beautiful terracotta floor was put together using tiles that were being thrown away. We use the house for reading, drinking coffee and chatting. I work from home so heading in to the Little House is an escape. It’s a perfect spot for a snooze and more recently our 14-year-old daughter Olivia likes spending time in there with her friends.

Sarah Zaidan’s shed in Dublin went from ‘eyesore’ to ‘best spot in the house’
Sarah Zaidan’s shed in Dublin went from ‘eyesore’ to ‘best spot in the house’

Sarah Zaidan, Dublin

Our storage shed, which was very rundown and filled with unnecessary stuff gathered over the years, was an eyesore. Over a four-week period, my husband and I transformed it into a relaxing room with bar. The room has been fully insulated, walls and ceiling plastered, floor and windows installed. Some furnishings are made from pallets. It’s a beautiful room to relax, and we are absolutely enjoying the makeover – it became the best spot of the house. It’s great to take this opportunity to show what can be done during lockdown.

Gary Hopwood has named his haven Quarantino’s
Gary Hopwood has named his haven Quarantino’s

Gary Hopwood, Dublin

This is my studio/cigar and whiskey lounge/office and sanctuary. I built it entirely on my own with the exception of plastering, which is an art form. It took approximately three months, working weekends and evenings – and I am not a builder or joiner, just a simple DIYer. I have a cocktail bar,feature wall and full home automation including air con. I have called it Quarantino’s.

David Molamphy, from Dublin, doesn’t envisage ever returning to his office full-time and built this home office to work in
David Molamphy, from Dublin, doesn’t envisage ever returning to his office full-time and built this home office to work in

David Molamphy, Limerick

Working from home since March 2020, and never set to return to the office on a five-days-per-week basis, I took the opportunity to make the most of lockdown and put my DIY skills to the test. The result is this 3.75sq m garden office, which provides a welcome break from the kitchen table.

At the suggestion of his daughter, Emily, Colin Nolan and his brother Alan transformed an old clubhouse in the garden of his Cork home into a home bar
At the suggestion of his daughter, Emily, Colin Nolan and his brother Alan transformed an old clubhouse in the garden of his Cork home into a home bar

Colin Nolan, Cork

During lockdown my daughter, Emily, suggested we renovate the clubhouse in our back garden that we had built when they were young children and which had fallen into disrepair. With help from my brother, Alan, we gutted the place, sourced all the materials ourselves and completely renovated it and transformed it into a home bar with decking outside. It has been a great success, didn’t cost a fortune and, because we did the work ourselves apart from the electrics, gave the family a real sense of achievement during the lockdown. It feels like we have something to show for missing out on holidays abroad and is regularly used by the family. My father, Liam, calls over once a week for a couple of pints of Guinness while watching a match, which has been fantastic while the pubs were closed as it has become a social hub for the family and friends.

Jonah Roche, in Dublin, badly needed a home office and this is the result
Jonah Roche, in Dublin, badly needed a home office and this is the result

Jonah Roche, Dublin

With three rescue dogs barking at every bin lorry, delivery driver and leaflet dropper, a garden office was essential for doing business Zoom calls. The main structural build was finished just today.

Inside Caroline Eagle’s potting shed in Co Down after its repair and renovation
Inside Caroline Eagle’s potting shed in Co Down after its repair and renovation

Caroline Eagles, Co Down

We discovered a potting shed buried in the undergrowth of our old walled garden when we bought our house a few years ago. Turning the walled mass of brambles and nettles into something you could actually walk into was one of our major accomplishments during the first lockdown last year.

The potting shed, meanwhile, was actually a rotting shed. But it had been there since the house was built in the late 19th century, and the other half wouldn’t contemplate for a second tearing it down. His heart was set on bringing it back to life and he did it all himself using, where he could, things left behind by previous owners such as slates, tiles and old doors.

Caroline Eagle’s 19th-century potting shed in Co Down before renovation
Caroline Eagle’s 19th-century potting shed in Co Down before renovation

The idea of a shebeen came about slowly. We had a busy lockdown – for most of last year we were a very shielded and shielding commune of seven including one 90-years-young mother and three remotely hardworking twentysomethings. When life returned a little more normal this year and our collective age became less than 200, we finally had the time to finish what the man had started in the darkest days. And for some reason the proposed toolshed started to feel like it deserved to be a little more than that. After everything it had been through, it deserved to live it up a little. As did we. It takes a bit of imagination to see our former rusty potting shed as a ritzy cocktail bar, but we love it.

Deirdre Walkin’s dad carried out a lot of the work to convert a shed into a home office
Deirdre Walkin’s dad carried out a lot of the work to convert a shed into a home office

Deirdre Walkin, Dublin

Our outside concrete shed-to-office conversion added €20,000-€30,000 to the value of our home. I approached my father, John, who is a retired builder with the idea that I could convert the concrete shed/utility into a work-from-home office. Up until that time it was used to house the washing-machine and endless cans of old paint and spiderwebs. Dad immediately backed the idea and put endless hours into the conversion which turned out better than I ever expected. The shed was already wired for electricity and I had an electrician friend add some downlights and extra sockets which would provide enough sockets and light comfortable for an office space. The walls and ceilings were boarded, insulated and plastered by a friend of my father and a ventilation vent was added (thanks Dad). The floors were carpeted and my dad added a wall-mounted electric timed heater to finish off the office comfortably. The walls were painted and panelled for a modern, bright finish and the half country door (custom-made by a carpenter) and new window (€50 in a salvage yard) added light and cosiness to the project. All in all it was a joint effort and, having been completed since January 2021, a haven for working from home, meaning I can close the door in the evening and switch off.

This gazebo in Co Wexford belonging to Barry Coleman has the added benefit of fresh air
This gazebo in Co Wexford belonging to Barry Coleman has the added benefit of fresh air

Barry Coleman, Wexford

This chill n’ grill outdoor gazebo is at our holiday beach cabin in Kilgorman, Co Wexford. It’s a great space for keeping that chilly evening at bay while enjoying fresh air and a cosy wood burner.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.