Where do you write? Do you curl up in a corner of that squishy couch in the family room; the one with the loud floral print that’s oh-so-comfortable? Do you claim a corner of the kitchen table and reluctantly give it back when it’s time for dinner? Do you have a dedicated corner of a room or maybe a converted closet? Or do you have the luxury of a room of your own with a writing desk and a view of the outdoors?
I’ve always managed to carve out a space for creative pursuits no matter where I’ve lived. Sometimes it was just an alcove or a table, and and occasionally it was a dedicated room. But I’ve always dreamed of having a studio separate from my home where I could immerse myself in writing and painting; a place the muse would love to visit.
Over the years (that’s over about thirty years) I clipped articles about creative spaces that appeared in design magazines. I bought books featuring artists’ studios and drooled over the colour photos. I was always intrigued by the magical conversion of structures like barns, chicken coops or garden sheds into dreamy places to create. So when my husband and I moved from a townhouse to our current home – a small 1950’s bungalow with a large sloped garden the size of a small park – I dreamed that one day I’d have a studio tucked at the back of the garden; a place where I could write without distraction and look out onto a tangle of green.
Fast forward several years to early retirement from a job I loved, but one that took every ounce of my energy. Freed from many of my daily responsibilities, I became determined to make my studio dream a reality. Someone suggested Lee Sheds might have what I was looking for, so my husband and I drove to a field outside Alliston where we walked through a number of different models of pre-fabricated sheds (read: studios). I settled on an 8’ x 12’ plan with a three windows with screens to let in both the light and the breeze.
Because of the slope of the land at the back of our garden, the company had to first install concrete foundation pillars. Once the concrete had set, two workers came and built the studio in a day – base, walls, roof, shingles, door, windows and window boxes. During a terrible heat wave, when we should have been sitting with ice cold drinks in front of a fan, my husband I painted the studio inside and out. We brushed pale green paint over the studio’s pre-finished beige exterior, applied two coats of slate grey marine enamel to the floor and sprayed several coats of bright white paint onto the thirsty interior walls.
Are you ready for a tour? Come and walk with me from the back door of our house to the studio. First we’ll head down the steps and follow the path that curves under the arbour heavy with honeysuckle vine and Virginia creeper. This is the arbour I walked beneath when I was married in the garden back in 2007. If you linger a bit, you’ll feel how cool it is beneath the dense cover of the vines.
Following the path will take us past the pond dotted with lily pads. The beautiful fuchsia-coloured lilies have blossomed. Listen to the sound of the water as it trickles over rocks at one end of the pond, and bubbles up at the other. If you happen to see flashes of orange, that’s the goldfish that have grown to the size of koi. The pond is deep enough for them to winter over.
Let’s take the woodland garden path past the tall stalks of the cup plant. This giant collects rain water in small pockets at the base of its leaves – perfect for thirsty chickadees. We’ll continue past the elegant Queen of the Prairie with its pink pouf blossoms, ligularia and Japanese wood poppy – both yellow-blossomed, and past hostas and ferns. Soon we’ll reach the sun and moon perennial gardens named for the amount of light they receive.
We’ve now reached the studio. I’ll open the door and you can step inside. You’ll see there’s plenty of room for my writing desk – a drafting table that also provides a great surface for art projects. On the other side of the studio is a French café table and two chairs – a fabulous garage sale find. Covered with a lace tablecloth, the table is a perfect place for sharing tea and writing with friends.
When I close the door to the studio, I truly feel I’m in my own little world far from distractions. My Internet connection rarely works this far away from the house, so I’m not tempted by social media and email. Although the studio isn’t heated, it can be enjoyed from April to October. I never take the studio for granted and am so grateful that I’ve been able to realize this dream after so many years.
Where do you write? I’d love to hear about your favourite writing space!
Until next time,
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Our blog posts will continue over the summer, but we won’t be offering any more writing retreats until the autumn. We hope you’ll consider joining us for a Day Away to Write on October 6, 2013. The leaves will be just starting to turn – a perfect time for a country drive. We’ve also posted our 2014 retreat dates on our home page.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND DRAWINGS IN THIS POST ARE BY JANIS MCCALLEN.