A Room of One’s Own
The Woolf Shed
To mark the 90th anniversary since the first publication of Woolf’s, “A Room of One’s Own”, we have created a writing retreat inspired by Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House.
Among the first visitors to see the tribute to this literary great on Press Day at Chelsea Flower Show was British designer and Virginia Woolf’s great niece, Cressida Bell. Speaking at the unveiling she commented:
‘In her essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ my great aunt Virginia Woolf writes that in order for a woman to write fiction she must have two things, a room of her own and enough money to support herself.
I am in complete agreement with her on both counts, but the having the first is a very important step on the path to gaining the latter.
I am lucky enough to have a large studio away from my house in which to create, but I need the extra space as I am a printer – as well as a designer. It is where I run my business, but also a place of great creativity. Though it is in urban East London it is surrounded by a leafy courtyard, so I have the calm of a garden to retreat to at lunchtime and after work.
A shed like the one created by Malvern Garden Buildings would be ideal for a writer. Once inside you can escape from the domestic routine of the home and not hear the siren call of the washing machine or the chopping board! It is a nurturing and relaxing environment, both inside and out, and is a fitting tribute to Virginia Woolf.’
How was the idea conceived?
The idea was the brain wave of Events Co-ordinator Jessica. Jessica organises the stands for Malvern Garden Buildings and Breeze House at 60 exhibitions and shows every year from their headquarters in Leek.
Jessica Leese explains:
“The idea came to me as the deadline was looming to submit our idea for our exhibit at Chelsea Flower Show twelve months ago. We’d been talking about she sheds. It occurred to me that man caves were a way for men to hold onto their identity and get away from it all but women haven’t always had that option.
Both my parents were librarians and I grew up in a house crammed with books and went on to study English at university, so Virginia Woolf and her essay “A Room of One’s Own” sprang to mind.
A hundred years ago women didn’t have the opportunity, or financial freedom, to explore their creative pursuits. If they did it was seen as a hobby and not taken seriously. Virginia Woolf wrote from a shed in her garden away from domestic drudgery.
We’ve come so far but a room of one’s own for enjoyment, pleasure and creativity still appeals.”
The making of the Woolf Shed
Over the last six months writing paraphernalia and objects from the 1920s and 1930s era have been sourced by antiques expert Tina Delicata with input from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and the National Trust at Monk’s House.
The most difficult item to find was the writing desk. Virginia described her desk as, “not such a desk as you might buy in London or Edinburgh you see in anybodies [sic] house when you go to lunch; this desk is a sympathetic one, full of character, trusty, discreet, very reserved.” Tina finally managed to locate a very solid desk like the one used by Virginia on eBay and it was so large it had to be removed through the sash windows of its previous owner’s home.
It was also important to include a writing desk you could stand at, as well as an armchair for writing with a tray, as Virginia was in the habit of writing in both these ways. The Woolf shed also includes a bookcase with a set of books covered in marbled paper just as Virginia did with her own works of Shakespeare.
The exterior of the shed is painted in dove grey like the writing lodge at Monk’s House. The design was created especially for Chelsea Flower Show with double French doors opening out onto a decked area dressed with deckchairs for lounging between writing.
It is hoped that this exhibit will spark conversation about female creativity and why so many creatives gravitate towards outdoor retreats. We’re also pleased to say this new design will shortly be available as part of the Malvern Garden Buildings collection.