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January 2013: Studio completed

The big news in 2013 was the conversion of part of our garage into my Studio after many months spent ensuring we complied with the planning system, designing the studio, selecting a builder and ensuring it all worked as intended.

After considerable debate, it was concluded that we needed planning permission for change of use but that we didn't need listed building consent (there is a listed building within the overall development). Permission was granted in May 2012.

The design aimed to maximise natural light, make best use of the available 30 square metres of floorspace given the need to accommodate sculpture, painting and teaching activities, and above all to offer an attractive all-weather facility given that the building is remote from the house. Equipment for work and storage needed to be robust rather than attractive so we eventually used educational suppliers where possible for tables and most storage. Almost inevitably, IKEA played their part too. We chose underfloor heating based on a small gas combi boiler that also supplies hot water. The gas supply to the house is fortunately located on the side nearest the studio/garage so the studio supply could go in the same trench as the drainage. We intended to rely on wifi for computing and phone kit, but more of that later.

We chose our builder based on personal recommendations. Dave Eckersley worked tirelessly from late October 2012 and, with help from his chosen sub-contractors, handed over the completed job early in the New Year. A large double-glazed window has replaced two garage doors and opens up views of the orchard and beyond. Together with three Velux sun tunnels and the underfloor heating, it is a wonderful working environment even in the depths of winter. I use it nearly every day, teach sculpture there on Friday mornings and Tony is planning to install a potters wheel and/or slab roller.

However, getting wifi to work reliably between the house and studio proved very frustrating. We even tried replacing our BT Home Hub with a supposedly more powerful modem but pacing round the studio with a laptop searching for the signal was not a way forward. In the end we asked Dave Peck the electrician to run an ethernet cable from the house, up through the ducting he thoughtfully placed in the drainage trench "just in case" and into the studio. The new cordless phone we bought had much better range but, again, the signal in the studio varied so we installed a repeater upstairs in the house. Top tip: buy said repeater from a supplier that can explain how to make it recognise your particular model of cordless phone; the generalised instructions in the box will probably not work! One detailed email from liGO and it worked first time. The distance involved in all this is about 30 metres. Marconi would be staggered at the technical leap forward that is wifi.

The studio, May.