The Retrofit Garden Studio

Office Michael Dillon, Tunbridge Wells, 0


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All photographs Michael Dillon     Download Original

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Conversion of a garden shed into a studio space, separate to the main house.

The project is modest in scale and budget. It represents a tangible and quick idea for a loose-fit conversion of a common garden shed structure, within permitted development rights. Completed in just three days and with modest and sustainably sourced/focused materials, the project only cost £1,500, and has been continually used since completion in late September 2021.

The project was focused around offering an open and light studio space, separate to the main house for oil painter and printmaker Eleanor Watson. This didn't need a fully insulated room, but one with good natural ventilation due to toxins and paints used in her practice, and some insulation for the cooler months.

The project converted an existing motorbike shed, keeping the floor and insulated stud walls, but replacing the roof with a new insulated frame, which brought in more natural daylight, and made the space warmer and taller for larger paintings and printing commissions. We looked to remove the existing low dual-pitched roof of the shed, replacing it with an asymmetric dual pitched section. A ring beam increased the 1.8m head-height and the new asymmetric roof allowed larger painting areas on the gable walls, Glazing is orientated to face north-west.

The project was a self-build, completed in just one long weekend. It is seen as a temporary studio, to be used for two to five years, therefore the choice of material and detailing was focused around easy disassembly so that all the products can be reused in any new structure in the future. It uses off-the-shelf structurally graded softwood timber for the mainframe, Insulation is stacked woodfibre panels, painted in a breathable limewash on the underside. Glazing is simple multi-wall, and the roof is finished with a dark green Onduline corrugated panel.


  • Floor area: 13m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £1,500
  • Funding: Private
  • Procurement: Self-build
  • CO2 Emissions: 11kg/m2/year
  • Address: Spring Lane, Bidborough, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 0UE, United Kingdom

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