Sales of 'shoffices' - a garden room or shed used for work - rocketed by 500% in the UK last year as the Covid pandemic maintained its grip and employees decided they needed a better set-up than the kitchen table or the spare bedroom, with remote working looking set to be the new norm for many heading into the future.
As a family-run company, who have a daughter that attends the school, we approached Cramlington Learning Village with a challenge to its A-level art students - to design interiors to inspire customers who might be spending much of their working day in a garden room.
Two teams of students were given a budget, asked to prepare mood boards and present their designs for a garden office or summerhouse.
We have been delighted with their ideas and the students have now brought them to life on our display site. They’ve created their own artwork and up-cycled furniture. It’s not just been a case of spending the budget, they’ve managed it really well. We've already had customers commenting that it was helpful to see what they could fit into different summerhouses and how inspired they are by the relaxing interiors the students have created. We could have gone to a well-established interior designer but thought this was a great opportunity for these young people to show their skills and build their portfolio for future careers.
The themes chosen by the students were Northumberland’s Night Sky – inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the country’s own iconic Sycamore Gap Tree – and the jungle.
Seventeen-year-old Isabella Robson, who is keen on a career as an interior designer, said her team’s jungle concept combined nature with the office.
“We thought it was really nice to have vibrant colours so your workplace is nice and lively but you can still sit down, work in it and have a bit of fun at the same time,” she said.
Gracie Mair, who is also 17 and was part of the Northumberland’s Night Sky team, said: “There was a bit of extra stress, considering we’ve never done anything like this before, but that challenge really pushed us to be as creative as possible. I am so thrilled. It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s really paid off.
“Planning, budgeting, mapping it all out and then see it come to life was really rewarding. I promised myself after my GCSEs I would never do Maths again, but here I am! We stayed well inside budget and I’m really proud of us all.”
Art and photography teacher Brad Hodgson said that in addition to the students’ creative skills they had to learn about budgeting, teamwork and working to a brief. “They’re all attributes they’ll be able draw upon if they decide to work in the creative industries,” he said.
He added: “Because of the pandemic they’ve not had the opportunities students of their age normally have. They’ve not even been able to sit their GCSE exams. To be able to link up with this way with their community has been quite inspiring and they’ve grasped it with both hands.”
The students’ work will be on show at Azure over the coming months.