As a children’s book illustrator, it’s apt that Ann wanted her studio to be a woodland hideaway at the end of her garden – like a scene from a fairy tale. Struggling for space in her ground-floor flat, building her own home office was the logical way to gain somewhere to work without extending outwards. Her studio is a cosy, calm and practical retreat that doesn’t skimp on Scandi style, featuring black-painted floorboards and a woodburning stove.
With climbing plants like clematis and rambling rose snaking their way slowly up the sides of the cabin, Ann’s office is transforming into the creative hideaway she’s always wanted and boasts uninterrupted views across the garden – it’s no wonder she loves spending time here. She reveals just how she created her dream office so read on, then check out our guide to garden rooms to see what you could build on your own plot…
The owner Ann Kronheimer, a children’s book illustrator, lives here with her cat, Flossie
The property A garden office behind a two-bedroom maisonette in a Victorian terrace in Stoke Newington, London
Project cost £77,887
‘I used to have a studio in Shoreditch and while it was cheap and cheerful in the 1980s, I was eventually priced out of it,’ says Ann. ‘I worked from home for a while but the room got too small because it was so full of stuff. I realised I could make better use of it by moving my work into a garden studio.
‘Initially, it was just me, helped by a friend, who was going to build it – we thought if we did it ourselves it would be a cheap job. Then we realised just how much digging was involved! We turned to each other and said, “This isn’t going to work”. I also realised I needed planning permission because I live in a shared property. Once I appreciated how big a job it was, I decided to bring an architect in.’
‘While we were cutting down shrubs in the garden, we got talking to the neighbours behind us. They have a lovely architectural flat, and the man said his sister-in-law was an architect. When I changed my mind about going it alone, I had Sara Moody, the architect, over to take a look.
‘There were rules around the maximum height of the roof and how much area it was allowed to cover in the garden, and I didn’t want the roof to be higher than the back wall. I had the idea of having the garden room set in a sunken pit, like a cabin in the woods. Planning went through quite easily and the build started a few months later. My living room was completely given over to the builders for seven months – it looked like a store room! My only concern was that I might disrupt the lodgers living upstairs, but they didn’t seem to mind – they knew something exciting was happening.’
‘We installed a big skylight to brighten up the space, and the sun really beats in. In hindsight, I wish I’d got one that opens up. You can’t get a through draught in here easily and it gets very hot in the summer – I have to pull a blind over it to stop it becoming unbearable. It’s beautiful and bright, though, and it makes me feel a little more awake. I also have a woodburner for the winter, which is a little distracting when I’m working – it’s just so cosy! Considering I built the space for working, I spend a lot of time faffing, putting pictures up and rearranging things. When I have friends round, we’ll sometimes sit in here and chat instead of going into the main house.’
‘I planted the flowers and greenery outside in the summer. I put in climbers, like the rambling rose and clematis, which will eventually creep onto the roof, as well as an apple tree. Hopefully, in a few more years the tree will be grown, the climbers will have covered the fences and I will be more secluded again! I needed the roof to be hardy so that it wouldn’t mind all those plants climbing over it – materials were really important in the design process. My original budget was to do it all for peanuts, but I soon realised that just wasn’t possible. My ideas got grander and grander. It’s lucky I was able to get a mortgage on the house.’
‘I have my computer here, and a little table easel looking out into the garden, which is mostly where I draw. I also put in another easel at the back to try and prompt myself to get back into painting. I have a day bed above a storage chest, and I spend rather more time than I should lying around on that. I’m even really into the loo I had installed! Everything I need is in here and it’s transformed my work – I find that I like being in the space and time goes by in a flash. Suddenly it’s 10pm and I’m still working. Before, that just didn’t happen – the TV was on or I could hear people coming home from work. Here, there’s a feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world in my own little space.’