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Colin Humphreys Summer House & Workshop Project

Colin Humphreys Summerhouse & Workshop Project

Whether you want an outdoor retreat, a workshop, or a multi-purpose structure, create your perfect outdoor space with C&W Berry.

Colin Humphreys built his dream summerhouse-come-workshop with materials from C&W Berry. We interviewed him to find out what inspired the build, the products he used, and how others can achieve a similar look in their own space. 

As seen on George Clarke's Amazing Spaces

Series 12, Episode 3 - Due to air on Channel 4 on July 3rd, 2024 @ 21:00

Channel 4Channel 4
Colin Humphreys 1970's Inspired Summerhouse & WorkshopColin Humphreys 1970's Inspired Summerhouse & Workshop

We interviewed Colin Humphreys of Garstang, Preston, who was selected to appear on ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces’. Inspired by renowned designer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Colin built an innovative glass workshop in his garden which doubles up as a photographic studio and relaxing sanctuary. Materials were primarily sourced from C&W Berry: the UK’s largest single-site builders’ merchant.

Colin’s huge passion for 1970’s furniture shone through and is evidenced in his beautiful home. Furnished with premium furniture from designers such as Charles Eames, G Plan and Charles Rennie Mackintosh – interspersed with a selection of spectacular Danish-inspired pieces – these are all the kind of collectables that Colin sells through his website, Vinterior, and Instagram.

Colin has been sourcing and selling top-quality furniture from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s for many years. He believes that pieces from these periods were built with a quality that isn’t often seen in furniture today. His views are in contrast to the modern, “throwaway” culture of cheaply made items; devoid of style and lacking value, often quickly discarded to make way for the next trend.

This attitude has been reflected in Colin’s newly-built structure, which exudes quality, durability and style, encapsulating the design ethos of the era he so admires. The form of the summerhouse is striking materially, with contrasting aluminium supports paired with the darker warmth of the wooden cladding. The entrance to the building was crucial in both function and design, providing a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors.

"The full height glazing allows natural light to flood in – perfect for photographing the furniture he sells – whilst capturing striking sightlines for optimal aesthetics. Responding beautifully to natural light, as day turns to dusk, light bounces off the aluminium and timber in different ways for a constantly evolving aesthetic."

With passive design, the building orientation, insulation, thermal mass and glazing innovatively work together to take advantage of natural sources of heating and cooling (such as sun and wind), and to minimise unwanted heat gain and loss.

Colin feels that this house puts down a marker and provides a unique and alternative way to approach the construction of, what can sometimes become, a generic and bland outside space. It incorporates all the best architectural elements from historical iconic designs, whilst simultaneously reinventing it for the 21st century.

To find out more about Colin Humphreys Circa 62 project that celebrates everything mid-20th century, please visit www.circa62.uk or follow him on Instagram.

Circa 62Circa 62

Products Used For This Build

Door FurnitureDoor Furniture
Timber CladdingTimber Cladding
FixingsFixings
GlassGlass
Hardwood Doors & FramesHardwood Doors & Frames
Hardwood T&GHardwood T&G
Hardwood TrimHardwood Trim
Sheet MaterialsSheet Materials
ToolsTools
Veneered MDFVeneered MDF
Paints & StainsPaints & Stains
Power ToolsPower Tools

What was the catalyst for this project?

So the initial concept came about because, primarily, I needed a workshop; a space that could act as a studio to take photographs of the furniture I sell, somewhere that my wife can do upholstery, but also a space to relax in and enjoy the garden. So it’s an all-round space that serves a number of needs and purposes.

What inspired this design?

I’m hugely passionate about art, design and architecture, and there’s an architect called Ludwig Mies van der Rohe whose work I particularly admire. Around 100 years ago, he was the last director of the Bauhaus school in Germany. He fled to America after pressure from the Nazis forced the school to close in 1933, and ended up creating lots of iconic buildings like the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library in Washington, the Seagram Building in New York, and the Crown Hall in Chicago.

One of his most famous creations though was a commission from a lady named Edith Farnsworth. She wanted a house that could be used as a weekend retreat, and chose an area in Illinois about 100ft from the Fox River. Mies van der Rohe recognised the risk of flooding, so he built the house at an elevation to try and protect it from this.

I’ve always looked at the Farnsworth House and thought, “I’d love a place like that”. So I decided to build a small version of it in my garden. I live next to the River Wyre which has a flood risk so, replicating Rohe’s design, I constructed it to have legs and be raised off the ground. It also has a flat roof and glass windows, so I’ve really tried to replicate the look of the Farnsworth House as much as possible, whilst still creating a multi-purpose space.

Edith Farnsworth house designed by Mies van der RoheEdith Farnsworth house designed by Mies van der Rohe

Photo © Carol Highsmith via www.edithfarnsworthhouse.org

What made you choose C&W Berry for the materials?

Berry's is the biggest single-site builders’ merchant in the UK so everything is there. Whenever I’m over that way, I always pick something up. And even though I didn’t go to Berry's for everything, I would much rather get it from Berry's than anywhere else – particularly because everyone is so helpful. Through this process I’ve found that, sometimes, building companies sometimes give a bad impression and can be difficult to work with. But that’s not the case at Berry's.

How long have you been a customer at C&W Berry?

I’ve been a customer for the last 25 years.

What was it like working with C&W Berry's joinery department at King Street on the manufacture of your window frames and doors?

Brilliant. I couldn’t have done it without them – particularly Graham who helped me out with my designs.

I sometimes have these mad ideas you see. I can’t help myself. Some of my friends think I’m barking but, one of my friends is a builder and he “gets me”. When I came up with the concept for my workshop, I told him – Simon – that I was going to build the window frames myself. Simon has an account at Berry's and it was him who recommended I speak to the C&W Berry joinery team at King Street instead. He knows what I’m like though so the suggestion was more, “why don’t you go to King Street and order the wood from there – maybe they can even make up some of the frames and then you can put them together”. So I thought “yeah alright” and I went down. But when I met Graham, he really latched on to my project and what I wanted to achieve, and he had a similar energy to my friend Simon in that he just understood what I wanted.

When I showed Graham my drawings for the workshop, he was instantly interested and making helpful suggestions. I initially wanted the doors to open outwards but Graham explained that, over time, the weight of the doors would cause them to sag and could create problems. So I went away and Graham did new drawings and, between us, we eventually came up with the design I have now which work so much better and will stand the test of time.

How hands on were you with the project?

I worked on it every day for 4 months, more or less. Over those 4 months, the film crew for George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces came every so often for the bigger/more interesting jobs. So when we were putting up the walls or fitting the roof, I had to get friends in which you see on the show. But the majority of it really was just me.

What's your favourite bit about the renovation?

My favourite bit really is the guttering which you can’t actually see. I built a fall in the roof so that, when you look at it, it looks like a completely flat roof but, hidden inside, I’ve put all the guttering. So my favourite bit is actually unseen.

Was there anything you would have liked to do that you didn't have the budget or time for?

Yeah, loads of things. I built my workshop almost back to front because I wanted to raise it off the ground - I wanted legs like the Farnsworth House. The problem was I didn’t know where to get them. So initially I ended up buying some sort of fencing posts and you see on the TV programme that me and George put these up together. I quickly realised though that they weren’t going to work so they were sent back and, eventually, I managed to source the H beams that I’ve got now. 

So if I’d had the budget and time, I would have built a frame first and slotted everything in instead of building the case up on pillars to begin with. But I didn’t because I didn’t know what I was doing and couldn‘t find the components I wanted.

What was the timescale for construction?

3 months and it took me 4.

Did you have to compromise on anything?

Not really. I knew if I bought timber from Berry's I wasn’t going to find it cheaper anywhere else. But one thing I struggled with were the finishes on the inside. In the end, I bought some veneered MDF from Berry's and glued it on some multipro backer board and it looks great.

There’s also some barrel board cladding on the back of the workshop which I also bought from Berry's. One of the staff in the Planed All Round department was incredibly helpful – he was making suggestions and gave me off-cuts to look at and try out. The softwood barrel board was perfect and Berry's applied a Naturewood Brown treatment to protect it from rot. It looks brilliant, it really does. And in fact, I wouldn’t have even known about the cladding if it weren’t for you mentioning that you sell it.

How much of the materials for this build came from C&W Berry?

I’d say 90% - including fixings that you can’t actually see.

Do you have any tips/tricks/suggestions for anyone else wanting to do the same thing?

Go to Berry's. Seriously. And also plan properly. Plan out and work backwards. Get organised with your materials to save you time and multiple journeys.

What's the most important lesson you've learned from your project?

Be realistic on what you can and can’t do. Don’t take on things you’re not capable of and, if you’re not sure, bring an expert in. For example, I can hang a door but, when you’re looking at the huge doors I have on my workshop, it’s worthwhile paying someone that bit extra for a proper job. Know your limits.

What's your next project?

I’m renovating my house to get it back to how it should have been in the 1970s. This includes a new extension so I’ll be back to Berry's for more materials for that.

Is there anything you wish you had known before you started?

How much it was going to cost. And also, I wish I’d known exactly where to source the different materials I needed to use. And maybe a bit more research before I started. What do they say? 9/10ths planning, 1/10th doing. 

I also wish I’d known how helpful the joinery team at King Street were going to be. I think I may have been able to do the window frames myself but I haven’t got the machinery or knowhow really… so I never would have finished the build in time and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good a job. So Graham at King Street – as well as all the staff at Berry's – really helped me out. I wouldn’t have finished without them. The suggestions Graham made changed the build for the better. The space I have now works better for what I wanted it to be thanks to his guidance. 

I think we know the answer but, would you use C&W Berry again?

Yes. Absolutely. I literally couldn’t have done this project without C&W Berry, the joinery team at King Street, the helpful staff in the various departments I visited, and particularly Graham. He was so helpful, knowledgeable, and just got what I was trying to do. You know when you try and explain something to someone and they just don’t understand? Not Graham. Everytime I started to explain something he’d say “no I know what you mean, you mean this don’t you?” He just knows what he’s doing. And even when I went yesterday with some basic scribbles, I said, “sorry I’ve brought you some more drawings” and he’s like, “no no I like your drawings”. I said, “I should get some software really shouldn’t I?” and he said, “no don’t worry, I understand the drawings, don’t worry” and he starts scribbling away. It’s great.

I’ve already planned to go back to the joinery department at King Street and Graham is already working on trying to help me find someone for a job on the extension.