Debra Prinzing

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A Preview of the Shed of the Year 2010

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

My fellow Shed Aficionado across the Atlantic, Uncle Wilco, has presided over a fantastic “Shed of the Year” competition for each of the past three years. The British press has followed his competition with avid enthusiasm, including a recent story in the The Sun, a national tabloid. I have the honor of serving as the “international” judge, joining an illustrious team of judges for Shed of the Year. 

Uncle Wilco will announce the winner on July 5th – the start of National Shed Week in the U.K.  

He has given me permission to share photos and details about the 13 finalists. Each has captured the fancy of visitors to We [Heart] Sheds, his blog that invites “sheddies” from around the globe to share photographs and details about their own private, backyard getaways. 

I recently checked in with Wilco to get a few more details about this year’s contest. 

Debra: How many entries did you receive? 

Wilco: “We had about 1,200 in total, including 60 international sheds this year.” 

Debra: I noticed that there are no finalists from North America! 

Wilco: “I think that the public who voted for the ‘short list’ went for the quirky UK sheds.” 

I agree, Wilco. The quirky UK sheds are highly personal and very creative. I promised that I wouldn’t reveal how I voted until the July 5th announcement . . . but in the meantime, here is a preview of the finalists, along with my commentary: 

Just a guy who wanted to have his own pub, 3 steps from the house

The innocuous pub exterior

PUB SHED Category: The 3 Steps (left) 

WOW, I didn’t want to like this Man Cave at first, but I’m actually blown away by the smart design, amazing efficiency and cozy feeling of Garry’s shed.  

I think I would like him as my neighbor!  

Everyone is talking about being alone and alienated in the suburbs, but Garry has taken care of that problem by building community at The 3 Steps Pub 

A tiny place for crafting and artwork.

WORKSHOP Category: Junkaholic’s Weaving and Sewing Shed (left) 

Sweet and fresh, simple yet stylish. Artemis has turned something utilitarian into an inviting escape where I could be happy day after day. Love it!  

Ahoy Matey! A pirate's lair

UNIQUE Category: The Lady Sarah Out of Worthington Shed (right) 

Reg is living the good life here on his ship.  

Viewing the photos and movies felt like a journey into Ye Olde  Curiosity Shoppe – something wonderful and strange with every glimpse.  

He has really created a backyard destination unlike anything I’ve ever seen – and certainly beyond the imagination of most shed owners.  

A garden shed with a sweet color palette

WOODEN Category:Frankenshed, Penny Two Allotment (right) 

What a creative way to dress up and decorate a basic tool shed. Frankenshed’s allotment potting shed is charming and has lots of personality. I love the lettering painted on the boards in contrasting lavender and green.  

Inside: A cool office studio

STUDIO Category: In the Shed (left) 

Nicola knows how to turn a box into a beautiful working space. Interiors are very creative, much more so than the rather plain exterior.  

Time machine for your own backyard

TARDIS Category: Tim’s Tardis (right) 

Clever and resourceful as a storage unit and garden accent.[Note: TARDIS is the name of a space-travel machine from “Dr. Who,” a popular British sci-fi novel] 

The lap of luxury inside a utilitarian shed.

NORMAL SHED Category: Mini Jeff Dave Jones (left) 

This is exactly what I look for in a stylish shed – a “chill-out” place in the garden that’s both useful for storage and pleasant for R&R.  

Nicely placed in the garden and I love all the attention to detail in the finishing. Not fussy at all, but a true Stylish Shed.  

A sustainable retreat

ECO SHED Category: Ecopod (right) 

The Eco Pod is inspiring and has a really appealing “mod” silhouette. Love that it was designed with sustainability in mind. I wish it was a little more organic as a garden element, though. Needs some oxygen-producing vegetation to downplay all that wood and really make the sustainable message relevant. It’s almost there, and I’d love to get my garden designer friends on the job to soften it up.  

A 2-part shed that's pretty cool for working and also stashing stuff

GARDEN OFFICE Category: One Grand Designs (left) 

Great design, great use of materials, wonderful attention to detail (wrap-around deck; skylight). Probably the best design of the batch for the mass marketplace. I see this design turning into DIY kits all over the globe.  

Inside the hut it's quiet and cozy

HUT Category: Beach Shed (right) 

Tiny and terrific. Love the way this diminutive hut draws a crowd and even offers a cozy hideaway inside.  

OTHER Category: Uisge Betha (no photo) 

Less is more – great ideas for turning one space into three distinct ones. Love the way the outdoors garden is “borrowed” into the overall design scheme 

Outside: architectural focal point; Inside: collector's gallery

CABIN Category: Naval Museum (left) 

Fantastic! Stephen is an absolute success at what he set out to do. The exterior fits really nicely into the garden and its interior demonstrates how to fit all your desired amenities into a tiny box – yes, you can have it all, even in the backyard shed.  

A wee cottage space that's easy, breezy and inviting

SUMMERHOUSE Category: Pebble Hideaway (right) 

Lovely, light-filled design. I’m impressed with the use of glass doors and windows; the color blue is wonderful and it looks like a little cottage. A sweet spot.  

Stay tuned for the announcement next week. I’ll let you know the final judging, as well as my own personal selection (including a Q&A with the shed creator).

Shed-of-the-Year . . . you can enter!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Uncle Wilco, as he is depicted on his web site, We *Heart* Sheds (well, this was a holiday version from 2007)

Uncle Wilco, as he is depicted on his web site, We *Heart* Sheds (well, this was a holiday version from 2007)

Here’s some background about SHED OF THE YEAR and its creator Uncle Wilco, a cyber friend who lives in the UK in South Wales, and is the creator of We (Heart) Sheds and several other projects.  I was thrilled to discover that I was not alone on this quest for finding and documenting awesome backyard structures, that many kindred spirits existed on this globe to share my journey. Here is the original story I wrote about Uncle Wilco nearly two years ago. A memorable quote about his Shed of the Year contest:

. . . the British have a love affair with the shed, so really it’s just snowballed. I was lucky to do a few radio interviews. I got the impression they thought I was a nutter . . . ! But at least people realise that I have a passion for sheds, so that’s all that matters.

Imagine my surprise when Wilco asked me to join his illustrious team of judges to represent as the International Judge for the 2010 Shed of the Year competition! The event culminates with an announcement in early July, during National Shed Week, and I’m eager to participate. I’m hoping to get over to the UK to join the others, but at the very least, I will do my part on this end. I encourage any of my readers to submit photos and enter. That is all it takes!

Thought I’d kick things off by telling you a little more about the competition. In the words of Mr. Wilco himself:

Q. You started Shed of the Year in 2007, right? So you’ve had 3 winners!
What has surprised you most about the scope and diversity of sheds
around the globe?

Tony's Roman Temple took honors in the 2007 Shed of the Year contest

Tony's Roman Temple took honors in the 2007 Shed of the Year contest

A. I have run readersheds since 2001  and thought it was time I should celebrate all these great sheds. So I started Shed of the Year. The last three winners have been very different: 1) A Roman Temple,  2) A Pub Shed, and 3) a Cabin. I look forward to shed of the year 2010 — it could be a workshop or studio or even a hut. That’s the thing — we don’t know until the public have voted and the judges have made their decisions for Shed Week 2010.

Q. Who does Sheds better, the UK shed aficionados or the North American ones?

A. Well, I am biased. UK sheds Rock- or should I say UK Sheddies rock. But you US sheddies have a different view on sheds. The UK history with sheds as mainly a man thing is very long and it’s the sheddies that make

Q. Can you please describe “wossname” and how I can explain it to US readers?

A. I am not great with words , so I tend to fill in things I can’t think about with “wossname.” So it’s a term in the UK, like a thing or a “wotsit,” when you can’t think of the real word!

Here's where Uncle Wilco hangs out and enjoys his home brew

Here's where Uncle Wilco hangs out and enjoys his home brew

Q. If you had to spend your final days inside your own shed, what three essential items would you need to bring with you?

A. That’s very difficult. I would say family and friends and  my dog, but as for items it would have to be some home brew (beer).

Q. What kind of swag can I expect for being a Shed of the Year judge?

A. What, the glory of being a judge in the World’s most favourite Shed competition is not enough?

Q. How many entries have you had from North American shed owners (in past years)?

A. Well, it’s not just North American sheds. It’s International, too. We love sheddies from the Americas, Canada, Europe and Australia and New Zealand. You can view all the international sheds entries (199 of them to join the 1200 UK ones) here.

Q. What else do you want my readers to know?

A. That we are welcoming entries to Shed of the Year 2010 now and would love to have some more  Stylish Sheds added. All I ask is that the sheddies add a few good images — including external/internal shots. The more images the better, so the public can get a  good look.

Thanks so much Uncle Wilco – I will do my best to pump up the entries from the International contingent. See you soon.

Do you have the most stylish shed in the world?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Uncle Wilco, my UK penpal who presides over We*heart*Sheds and Readershed blogs, has announced his 2009 Shed of the Year Contest.

I encourage anyone who owns a backyard shed to log onto his site and enter. Submit your photographs – we need international participation, folks!

Of course, I am angling to be tapped for the popular competition’s “International Guest Judge” slot, but I may have to butter up Uncle Wilco with chocolate chip cookies (or more likely, a keg of good English ale). I’m not sure what it takes to bribe these Brits, but flattery and admiration should help, right? He shouldn’t forget that I’m the gal who named him the “Bad Boy of Sheds” – a term of endearment, of course.

Here are some details on last year’s winner, a decidedly Man Cave sort of place that is part shed-part pub (pictured above). Very cool – congratulations, Tim!

Here’s Uncle Wilco’s official announcement:

Take Part in Shed of the Year 2009

“Do you have a garden shed that is unique?” asks Uncle Wilco, head sheddie of

“Maybe it’s your own little bolthole away from the trials of life. Maybe you have converted your humble garden building into a pub, or are a treehugger at heart and are building an eco shed, or maybe it’s just a normal wooden building that’s special to you.”

If you as a sheddie are proud of your shed then now’s the time to enter this year’s ‘Shed of the Year’ competition, which takes place during the third National Shed Week commencing July 6th 2009.

Entries are already flooding in for Shed of the Year 2009 and you can add your shed online using this link

This year’s celebrity judges are Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans, shed fancier and property guru Sarah Beeny and shed-based inventor of the windup radio, Trevor Baylis. They will be joined by shedworking expert Alex Johnson from, eco architect Lloyd Alter, and Uncle Wilco, head sheddie from and organiser of National Shed Week.

Together they will be deciding if your shed will make the grade and take the top shed crown.

[Hint to Wilco: What about DEBRA as your guest North American judge?!!!]

Following a public vote starting June 2009 which will produce a shortlist of winners, the judges will pick their “Shed of the Year 2009” during National Shed Week itself.

Last year’s winner was Tim from Suffolk with his amazing octagonal Pub Shed. Sheddies can join Tim – whose shed was featured in national newspapers and on television – and the hundreds of other sheddies by ‘sharing your shed’ on the internet’s favourite shed fan site,

Last year there were more than 800 sheds fighting for the title of Shed of the Year from garden pubs, TARDIS sheds, allotment sheds, ones hand made from English Oak, cabins, summerhouses and even a shed on wheels.

National Shed Week 2008 was mentioned both on-line and off-line by national and international press.

Comments included:

“The excitement! The anticipation! Shed Week 2008 starts on Monday, and we sheddies are in a frabjous state. Shed Week celebrates the importance of the shed, hut or gazebo in our culture as a place of refuge, storage and amusement” – The Times

“I can say that Tim in Suffolk did a wonderful job with his pub shed, with complex framing and difficult trapezoidal skylights” Lloyd Alter – treehugger

“All things shed-like are being celebrated up and down the country.” -Radio 4’s Women’s Hour

“It’s been a while since sheds came into it – and in the interval this splendid blog devoted to sheds and shedmen” – Brian Appleyard

“National shed week was the result of a typical touch of creative thinking from long term enthusiast Uncle Wilco” – The Daily Express

“Shed of the Year is a great excuse to wallow in the gorgeousness of all our sheds – and aren’t they all fine” -Sarah Beeny, judge of Shed of the Year 2007, 2008 and 2009

are you a SHEDISTA?

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

If you, like me, are enchanted with sublime and soulful backyard destinations once merely called “sheds,” consider yourself a Shedista

According to some Internet searches, the term Shedista has been appropriated (originated?) by the boutique wine industry. In France, these clever folks are called “Garagistes,” because they make incredible wine in their garages. Kind of an underground movement!

To quote “Shedista: A professional, low budget wine maker, particularly one who processes grapes in a shed-like building.”

I first discovered this term in Jay McInerney’s “Uncorked” column for (now defunct) House & Garden magazine: It was titled “The Shedistas.”

He wrote about a “warehouse gang” of Santa Barbara winemakers who “maxed out credit cards to rent a shed, buy a few tanks and a few tons of Syrah grapes, design a label, and make [their] own wine.”

Those who know me well know I have no desire to steal a moniker from winemakers. However, if you do an Internet search of the word, I bet you’ll find nearly three-quarters of the Shedista entries appearing are ones that I’ve generated. Yup, I’m out to change the meaning of this alluring term.

Here’s my definition: “Shedista: A person who creates and occupies a small-scale shelter in the garden for personal enjoyment and the pursuit of any creative passion.”

My UK shed friend, Uncle Wilco, who publishes a blog at his We [heart] Sheds site, calls himself a “Sheddie.” It’s a close cousin to “Shedista,” and we can all feel free to use both terms! Another friend coined the word Shedquarters to describe his backyard office. In other words, shedistas find shelter in their shedquarters. I like it!

If you wish to see some of the very best examples of personal escapes, aka “sheds,” check out my book: Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways. Welcome to all Shedistas!

Photos: (c) William Wright; top left: taken in July 2007 in Atlanta – in the doorway of Betsy Hansen’s beautiful potting shed. Lower right: taken in May 2007 (as a joke) at an abandoned child’s playhouse in Connecticut. We were on location at author Amy Bloom’s property and noticed this “shack” on a hill near her property. We couldn’t resist!

A Post-Script, Uncle Wilco just tipped me off to his December 14, 2006 post “What is a Shedista?” in which he quoted the same Wordspy definition I’ve used. I like what he wrote after that:

sounds great, but who is someone who brew beer in their sheds, maybe a shedbrewhaha

As I wrote in a reply to him: Of course, while I was running around the country trying to find sheds to photograph and write about, there he was . . . steps ahead of me! Thanks Uncle Wilco!