A 70s-inspired bar has been crowned the Cuprinol Shed of the Year 2021.
Danielle Zarb-Cousin, 29, channelled her heartbreak into building her Creme de Menthe shed.
“I went through a bad time with the break-up,” Danielle says. “It was the worst thing that could’ve happened, going into lockdown and not being able to see anyone or not being able to date. Building the shed became a focus in a time of chaos.
“After building it, the shed became a place where I could sit and write. It was a little sanctuary for me and it’s something I’m really proud of. The shed really represents that time in my life.”
Danielle, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex who is also a model, says winning Cuprinol Shed Of The Year 2021 “feels amazing”.
“I’m so happy I won,” she says. “It’s been a long process building the shed, so it’s nice to know it’s paid off.”
After moving in with her parents at the beginning of the first lockdown, Danielle transformed an old, unloved brown shed, which they were planning to knock down, into a retro haven – complete with an orange and mint green colour scheme and cocktail bar.
“I’m really drawn to that era. I love Elvis and Johnny Cash, and artists like that, so I made this whole moodboard and I didn’t want it to be a gimmicky or fancy dress-type 70s, I wanted it to be more authentic.”
Danielle spent three days painting the shed, before filling it with retro decorations, furnishings and vinyl records, which she collected from charity and vintage shops.
She says she hopes to inspire young people on social media to challenge “throwaway culture”, where items can be easily bought and disposed of.
“I really hope it encourages young people to get a bit more creative and stop replacing things with brand new things,” she says. “With my generation, everything is just so easily accessible. You can order something and have it so quickly, but it’s a throwaway culture.”
Danielle has been using the space to write a blog, on subjects from heartbreak and dating to lifestyle – which she is now in the process of turning into a book.
“I’m still working on the book because I want it to be perfect, and I always sit in the shed and write because it’s just so peaceful and quiet and I can really focus. I’ve also started writing some short stories, and I do that all from the shed.
“Moving back in with my parents for lockdown was not ideal and I needed my own space, so it was a place I could go and write and not be disturbed.”
Creme de Menthe topped the Pub/Entertainment category in a public vote before being awarded the overall title from a panel of judges. Alongside eternal shed glory, Danielle will receive £1,000, a plaque and £100 of Cuprinol products.
This year 331 hopefuls entered the competition – the most in its 15-year history.
This year’s entrants competed across seven categories including cabin/summerhouse, lockdown and budget. A public vote through readersheds.co.uk decided each winner, with a panel of judges crowning the overall winner.
Among the winners of the individual prizes are Joanna van Blommestein – the boss of a bra-fitting boutique in her back garden, Mark Campbell, who built a fairytale castle for his granddaughter during lockdown and Royal Navy Engineer John Williams who created a pop-up bar.
Head judge and founder of the competition Andrew Wilcox said: “We have been blown away by the creativity, passion and dedication on display from sheddies across the country. The amount of care and attention entrants have devoted to their sheds this year is inspiring.
“But it was Danielle’s Creme de Menthe bar and her use of colour, interior design and vintage decorations that really impressed us.
“We hope her win inspires a new generation of sheddies to get out in the garden and start building sanctuaries of their own.”
Kirsty Woodbine, Marketing Manager for Cuprinol, added: “The sheer ingenuity demonstrated by this year’s Cuprinol Shed of the Year winners is unrivalled in the competition’s 15-year history.
“At Cuprinol we’re committed to helping people make the most of the outdoors. The events of the past year have continued to reinforce how important our outdoor spaces and sheds are to our wellbeing and the winners of this year’s competition really exemplify that.”
Individual Category Winners:
Joanna, 33, established her bra-fitting boutique in her back garden as a way to provide women with a relaxing and supportive space to get fitted and choose their perfect bra. Specialising in post-surgery, many of Joanna’s customers are women who have suffered from breast cancer. Joanna, from Faversham, Kent, says: “Lots of people don’t really enjoy bra fittings. It can be quite overwhelming or quite daunting, it’s not the most enjoyable experience, but I just wanted to make it a lovely relaxing stress-free place.”
Kind-hearted granddad Mark Campbell, 60, built a fairytale castle for his granddaughter when he was required to shield during the first lockdown. The design was inspired by illustrations from two-year-old Sienna’s favourite story books. The two-storey pine creation stands 12 feet tall. Retiree Mark, from Wingerworth, Derbyshire, said: “We’ve not been able to get Sienna out. It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of enthusiasm. It was a voyage into the unknown. I’m utterly amazed to have won.”
Royal Navy Chief Engineer John ‘Bungy’ Williams, 46, roped in his son and daughter to help him build his hidden ‘pop-up’ pub in the back garden of his Plymouth home. “It’s got a footprint of less than 2×1 metres”, he explains. “I wanted it to be unassuming when you walked past it, but would open like a pop-up book.” John, who has travelled far and wide during three decades in the Navy, has made the most of recent good weather to entertain his friends and family with his creation.
Holistic therapist Rosie, 59 and her 65-year-old retired husband David initially only intended to build a bird table in their back garden. But the couple from Shrewsbury soon broadened their horizons and created an idyllic bird-watching sanctuary decorated in a Moroccan theme. Rosie credits the lockdown project with bringing her and her husband closer together. She says: “The shed has become our own little haven. I spend time there most days watching birds or reading and David and I will spend hours just chatting and relaxing.”
Ally Scott overcame tragedy to triumph in the workshop/studio category. The 48-year-old, from Southampton, lost her mum and her job in quick succession before deciding to build a studio in her back garden so she could pursue her dream of becoming an artist and signwriter. “This shed has changed my life,” she says. “It sounds cheesy but it’s true. I was a mess after my mother died, but this has given me back a buzz.”
Artist Les Rowe’s seven-sided refuge is flooded with colour courtesy of a series of stained glass windows he rescued from a synagogue in Cardiff. The 67-year-old from New Brighton on The Wirral created his distinctive haven featuring outward sloping sides and a domed roof from material mostly donated by family, friends and neighbours. He said: “I originally created Tranquillity Base because I needed a shed, but because it’s so beautiful and unique I don’t really want to put anything in it.”
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