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Workshop Design/Construct

Workshop Design/Construct

Why build a workshop before a house? After moving into our Mayfield East home, we quickly realised that converting the existing cottage to our own design would need deconstructing before the creation of anything new. In reorganising existing rooms, available storage would be lost and therefore a new storage solution would be required. With our brief materialising; storage for household and repurposed building materials, a space to make things, somewhere to raise seedlings and store garden tools, all requirements that informed our need for a workshop/ storage structure and our first design/construct project!

Our site for the workshop was self evident. As keen gardeners, the full sun prime positions on our lot were prioritised for planting. As we observed the site it was clear the rear boundary wouldn’t offer any good ground for growing things. Three sides of the area are defined by big trees, a massive old Camphor Laural to the east, a big Fig tree to the north, and a Jacaranda on our property. Tree roots are everywhere, the ground was a hard dusty surface with seasonal deluge of leaf litter and berries. With that said…a wonderful space to be hidden under the trees. Perfect, siting sorted!

The design of the workshop started with a few requirements, a light and airy place to work, and a desire to work with hardwood. One of the few beauties of the existing house was it’s fantastic seasoned hardwood skeleton. We wanted our new structure to respond and sit in context with the house, thus our design begun with the clear intent of expressing a hardwood timber structure.

The proximity to so many trees meant ground movement and drainage concerns were key design considerations. As this was always going to be a self build, our solution was to construct concrete strip slabs. This form of flooring provided opportunity for regular drainage recesses, and movement joints. Through limited sized pieces we could minimise cracking and in limiting each segment to a quantity of concrete we could actually mix and lay by hand in one a half day session (yes, crazy we know).

At the time we started the project we had a family member working for Australian Solar Timbers a saw mill in Kempsey. It was perfect for us, a local product, Australian hardwood, responsible milling practices and a good price buying though family!

During the construction of the shed a few things have changed; as we expect our needs to be ever changing. When Dana inherited her grandfather’s work bench it replaced the planned built-in benches. However, the essential form of a visually unobtrusive hardwood and polycarbonate structure with a spine of storage cupboards remained.

Mayfield shed footingsWe started with a two person auger to dig some decent footings dodging tree roots as best we could.


mayfield shed setoutWe decided for our design and purpose it was best to cast-in column stirrups.


mayfield shed gradingThe area fell away to the southern and eastern sides of the yard so we lay a strip slab to fill up and levelled the area.


mayfield shed compactingA bit of compaction on the new fill.


mayfield shed strip slabsLike many DIY folks we laid the stripslab floor on the weekends. This ended up being a heatwave so a bit of shade was required to try and prevent the slabs from drying before we mixed the next batch of concrete.


mayfield shed timbersThe fabrication of our rough sawn green hardwood columns required a bit of preparation. The connection points between the hardwood studs are at datums to suit the mounting of racks, ceiling storage and rafters. We attempted an assembly line type setup.


Mayfield shed drainageRiver pebbles in the strip drains.


mayfield shed frameThe frame going up felt like a very satisfying milestone.


mayfield shed foremanOur building inspectors and friends took up residence for a few weeks are now annual visitors.


mayfield shed roofWe procrastinated for a while before putting the roof sheet on, it was long enough for the passionfruit vine to start to claim the structure. In the end we just got in there and did it really fast. After all Dana’s dithering that it would be really difficult was unfounded….it turns out, so long as you work in the shade, pregnant women can still do this sort of roofing.


Mayfield shed storage wallBuilt from formply for durability, the storage spine braces the structure. About six metres by one metre the enclosure contains all unwanted household storage. Cupboard doors face our back boundary fence, now engulfed by a vines – Virginia Creeper. This arrangement allows us to use the side facing our yard as a work area and for hanging tools.


Mayfield shed propergationAs we develop our garden we have found the need for a propagation area. We chopped out the old galvanised mesh front fence and suspended it to create a snail fee zone for pots, then lined and covered to create a humid environment that holds moisture. So far so good…


Mayfield shed approachIt has been important to us that this structure related well to and fitted within the landscape we are developing. For a footprint of over forty square meters we didn’t want the yard to feel hemmed in by structures at both ends. This is the view of the shed from the middle of the yard….very satisfying.


Mayfield shed approach 2The workbench takes key position allowing a functional area to get on with making in the light/bright and airy space.



Mayfield shed final evening 1This is about as much as you can see of the new structure from any angle until the Jacaranda loses it’s foliage and that is just the way we like it.





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