Although plenty of folks in North America have garden sheds, the cultural obsession with small structures meant for housing tools, gardening equipment, material overflow from the main home, and maybe even granny when she’s in town for a visit isn’t quite the same as it is in the UK.

In the US, garden sheds — often prefab metal or vinyl-sided structures — are commonly neglected and filled with junk. They aren’t places for people; they’re places for stuff. Spacious garages with ample storage space and workshops are generally the norm.

Across the Pond, however, garden sheds are treated as a vital extension of the home and as the man of the house’s own private retreat. They’re celebrated, heavily utilized, thoughtfully designed, and often lived in (backyard “cottages” have gotten quite a bit of attention since the recession-borne small house trend started). They’re even often a deal-breaker when it comes to real estate transactions. “What a beautiful home! But the shed out back doesn’t seem to be up-to-snuff. Let’s move on.”

Considering the Anglo affection for the garden shed, it’s not shocking that the UK’s premiere shed web destination, Readersheds/Shedblog, hosts a popular annual shed design competition as part of “Shed Week.” The winner of Shed of the Year 2009, announced last week, was Kite Cabin. Designed and hand-built by Steven Harwood, a “sheddie” from West Wales, Kite Cabin boasts a composting toilet, a veranda, bunk beds, and killer views that can be enjoyed through a wall of glass windows.

Says Harwood of his pint-sized hideaway:

It is surrounded by nature including kites, badgers and various birds. It is such a useable space and is not pre-ordered like so many sheds these days. It is a realisation of my idea and I love it.

I hope that my cabin will be an inspiration for others and what can be done in an otherwise dead space.

The nominees for the Shed of the Year competition — now in its third year — were picked by Readershed readers. From an esteemed group of finalists in a variety of categories like “Normal Shed,” “Eco Shed,” “Pub Shed,” and “Hut", the winner was selected by a jury that included TreeHugger’s Lloyd Alter, radio personality Chris Evans, winners from previous years, and others. The winner received a year’s supply of cheese (!) from The Cheese Shed, a garden center gift certificate, and more

Congrats to Harwood and all of the esteemed "sheddies" in the running this year. 

And on a somewhat related note, garden goods/outdoor furniture emporium Smith & Hawken is closing. The company's webstore has already shut down but the remaining 56 brick and mortar locations will be holding liquidation sales. 

Via [Make Blog]

Images: ShedBlog

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Shed-ding light
What's up with the Brit fixation on garden sheds? Let the Shed of the Year 2009 competition illuminate you.