We built a studio

14 October 2019


New house, new home - new studio


I owe you a bit of an explanation. 

But before I do I should thank you for sticking round so long with radio silence here on the blog, though if you follow me on instagram then you will know I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the world. 

So - why I’ve been away so long? 

Let me introduce you to Number 55, also to be known as The Sometimes Gallery (but that is a whole story in itself, so perhaps we should leave that for another day). 

If you have popped by here from time to time you will probably have noticed that my work space seems to be changing on a frequent basis. I get established somewhere, set up my studio (never ideal) only to move on again in a couple of years. 

I have been renting and have lived in 3 different houses since I started my creative journey properly about 10 years ago. 

The first was a lovely stone cottage with a work space off the kitchen. Cold in winter (the whole house was cold in winter!) but convenient.

The second was a Victorian pile in Winslow, just outside Milton Keynes. Also cold in winter but with a large workroom under my bedroom (except that the lighting was shocking) and somehow the space never seemed to work properly. 

The third was by far the most comfortable house, a modern house but my workspace was a conservatory off the bedroom. Too hot in summer and freezing in winter. Great light though.

All of these places were temporary and, being rented under assured shorthold tenancies I was very limited in terms of hanging shelves and making the spaces work properly. Also, there was always the nagging concern that I was not master of my own destiny and that I would have to move on. All very uncertain and unsettling. 

But then the opportunity arose to buy somewhere when I inherited a bit of money. 

Looking round for somewhere to buy was a saga in itself, and at one point I despaired of ever finding anywhere that quite fitted the bill. I had a very specific shopping list:-

  • Access to good dog walks (my girl is very important to me and needs her exercise) 
  • Some where for a good studio space - good light, useable all year round, 
  • Somewhere suitable for hosting Open Studios on a more permanent basis - we have been moving around Milton Keynes for the last 5 years
Not an unreasonable list but challenging to fulfill.  Actually, I was getting pretty fed up with looking at houses. 

But then I happened upon no 55. Small, but perfectly formed and tucked under the Grand Union Canal (dog walks? Tick!) 

No space for an inside work space/studio (unless I forfeited a bedroom and I did want to be able to have people to stay, so not really an option) but no 55 has a lovely long garden, not so long that it is daunting but long enough for a garden studio. (Studio space? Tick!) 

Garden and the back of the house are accessed via the side passage. (Open Studios? Tick!) 

So, this looked like it could be the ‘one’. 

Then there was months while all the legal stuff happened (that dragged on) and I eventually got the keys in November 2018.

And then the hard work began. 

  • Building the studio
  • Decorating 
  • Refurbishing the bathroom
  • Refurbishing the kitchen
  • Painting, painting, painting
But here I am, nearly a year in and settled.

So let me take you through the journey that is my studio.  Grab a cuppa - this will be a long one.

It started with a base at the end of the garden. I spent as much on the base as on the studio building, but you have to if this is going to last. 


Then a pile of timber arrived from Dunster House ( complete with 2 fabulous builders) 


And let the painting commence. Great tip this - paint as you build. Much easier, especially as it’s butted right up against the hedge.





Then the building started - luckily these two had done it before. 


Progress was swift once the base was laid out. 



With the roof on we were able to start the floor.


Boards laid over suspended insulation. 



The roof has felt shingles.


A bleak view from the back of the house - we did this build in a January.



But this studio has water and electricity.

And double doors.






Really beginning to feel snug and cosy.






Within a few days this really began to take shape.


To keep the neighbours guessing. 


The interior fit out. 


Complete!

The garden was trashed during the build but quickly recovered. On the right only a few months later.

Well done for getting this far.

If you are thinking of a similar garden building then I’ll happily share what I learnt, but in summary:

  • The base is critical - expect to pay as much for the base as the building. Make it bigger than the building for access etc.
  • Electricity and water a must. Don’t scrimp here or the building will be useless. I’ve only got cold water but not a problem. I can heat a kettle if I want warm. The studio has its own mini fuse box - like you would fit in a garage. 
  • There is an insulated timber option on this building, but I went for just the thicker timber version. It warms up quickly with a blast from the electric fire. I have got floor and roof insulation. Not a lot but it makes a real difference.
  • The cabin doesn’t come with guttering. That’s a problem still to be resolved.

I’ll save the interior for another post. It won’t be as meaty I promise.


3 comments

  1. Wow, what a project! I can't wait to see the interior. You sound like me. I've been renting for 11 years and am in the third house. I'm planning to finally buy after the first of the year and can't wait to set up a permanent studio.

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  2. I am so happy for you, and happy to finally start getting the full story of what's been going on in your life. I know how frustrated you've been with the renting so how lucky to fall into a bit of money so you can be settled and do with your digs what you please. That purpose built studio should help you soar as you continue to create and be involved in studio tours and shows.

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  3. Good luck! I look forward to seeing the work that comes out of this great space.

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