In less than a decade, Airbnb has become a by-word for holiday accommodation that won’t break the bank. Just as Hoover once became the everyday word for vacuum cleaners, these days when we think of a short let that’s not the usual hotel or guest house, we think Airbnb.
Originally, it denoted ‘airbed and breakfast’, an online bed-booking business started in 2007 by a few friends in San Francisco who couldn’t afford the rent. They rented out an airbed on their floor for visitors to stay a night or two while attending conferences in the area. From those humble beginnings Airbnb has grown to include everything from castles to boathouses, to spare rooms in suburban semis to gypsy caravans and most recently – garden sheds.
Garden Sheds with Attitude
Yes, you read that correctly, garden sheds! They aren’t quite your usual garden sheds, of course. No dusty flowerpots, mucky spades and cobwebs here. These sheds have all the comforts of home, with the added bonus of someone else cooking your breakfast.
Not all Airbnb sheds are created equal, however. Some distinctly whimsical structures are available for a ‘shedcation’ so do your homework before committing to anything. Here are a few that are worthy of the ‘unusual’ tag.
Sheds made from recycled bits and bobs, such as The Pool Hoose in Kircaldy, Scotland, offer something different. This one comes complete with an alabaster statue at the head of the bed and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that allow uninterrupted views of the luscious foliage surrounding it.
This World War 2 corrugated shed near Glastonbury in Somerset was originally constructed for the use of the Land Army girls working on surrounding farms. It comes with its own Anderson shelter in the garden. The décor is straight from the 1940s – right down to the radiogram, Bakelite light switches, the winch-up clothes drying rack and gas masks – allowing you to step back in time.
At the Boatel in Powys, Wales, you get two for the price of one. A beached boat is your bedroom, while daytime facilities are provided in a nearby boat-shaped shed with an upturned boat for a roof. Amenities are somewhat basic and the owners say it’s too cold to use between September and April, but this quirky shed with its stunning views make up for the lack of luxury. It might also inspire you to replicate it.
Slightly more familiar these days are the ‘glamping’ pods that are springing up on camping sites and back gardens alike. Some are fairly basic but are actually quite comfortable and cosy inside. Other owners have really pushed the boat out and equipped their pods with showers and a variety of luxurious facilities.
It’s not the norm to have your garden shed up a tree as it makes putting the mower away a tad tricky, but you may come to like the idea. This treehouse in Kilmeedy, County Limerick, is really just a shelter from the elements – so take your camping gear – but it could be a fun place to spend a few nights.
Not quite up a tree, but certainly in the trees is this rather grand shed in Sligo. Apart from the views across the garden and the pool at its doorstep, its main attraction is that it’s built over a bubbling stream. Airbnb shed owners certainly know how to come up with unusual placements for their sheds.
Carrying on the unusual placement theme, how about putting your shed on legs? Suspended 1.5m off the ground, this Kilkenny treehouse at the bottom of a long garden is decorated with glass brick walls and unusual ornaments that add to its quirkiness. It goes to show that the outside of a shed does not necessarily give any clue to what’s inside, as it once might have. You’d have to be pretty good at scrambling up and down ladders though if you decide to stay here.
Now to a couple of truly luxurious sheds. The first called the Cuckoo Wood Hexagon is in Westport, Co Mayo. At first sight it looks pretty rustic, raised up on its own low platform in the woodland. However, the inside is anything but rustic, with cosy surroundings, its own shower room and wood-burning stove. If you have any latent Tarzan fantasies, this is the one for you.
The second of the sheds-with-an-edge is in Kenmare, Co Kerry, where you can enjoy lake views from the comforts of a hot tub on the decking outside. And chances are it will be raining as well! The inside is opulent, again with a wood-burning stove for chilly days. This would make a nice permanent home, never mind an Airbnb let.
When is a shed not a shed? When it’s a floating beach hut! This one is a bit of a stretch from the average bottom-of-the-garden shed, but it begs to be included. The ‘Maid of Dekkin’ is a beach hut mounted on a floating pontoon, strutting her stuff near Runnymede in Surrey. The accommodation is basic, but the on-the-water appeal makes up for it.
By now, you should have re-evaluated sheds as an appealing alternative to the traditional holiday destination. Give them a go and see what you find. One bonus is that they’re often cheaper to rent than standard accommodation and you could be in for the holiday venue of a lifetime.
Do It Yourself
Now that you’ve read all about these wonderfully diverse sheds, and what can be done with that little wooden box at the bottom of the garden, perhaps you’re toying with the idea of getting in on the act. How hard could it be to turn yours into a slice of paradise to rent out and watch the money roll in?
Well, it isn’t as easy as it might seem.
You’d think there wouldn’t be any issues with putting people up in a shed on your property, but as ever, rules and regulations apply. Some expense may also be incurred, apart from the make-over once you’ve evicted the spiders.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll need planning permission to erect the shed itself, unless it’s mega tall or takes up most of your garden, you may well need planning permission to change it from a tool shed to a residential shed.
If your shed could be described as a guest house, you’ll need to check out the Tourist Traffic Act 1939, as you might need to register it. And there’s more information in the Failte Ireland Guesthouse Classification Scheme.
You’ll certainly need insurance, both for the building and in case a visitor has an accident and sues you. There are many sources of Public Liability insurance and your home insurance advisor will be able to tell you what’s available for the shed itself.
Tax can be an issue, especially if you try to avoid paying it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that, because your little wooden cash cow is hidden at the bottom of your garden, the taxman won’t find out about it. If you register with a site such as Airbnb, they are duty-bound to disclose details of your takings to the Revenue.
If all that doesn’t put you off, you’re in for lots of fun creating a wonderful, memorable place for visitors to rest their heads. You’ll get some inspiration from the sheds described here, as you add your own unique twist to this unusual holiday trend.