Cramlington students deliver shoffice makeover

Creative Cramlington students have come up with eye-catching designs to brighten up the lives of people working from home.

In the UK last year sales of shoffices – a garden room or shed used for work – rocketed by 500% as many employees concluded that working from home was going to persist way beyond the pandemic and they needed a more suitable set up than a kitchen table or spare bedroom.

Cramlington company GCS Leisure Buildings, which has seen this trend reflected locally, approached Cramlington Learning Village with a challenge for its A Level art students to design interiors to inspire customers who might be spending much of their working day surrounded by wooden walls.

Two teams of students were given a budget, asked to prepare mood boards and present their designs for a garden office or summerhouse.

GCS was delighted with their ideas and the students have now brought them to life at the company’s base at the Azure Garden Centre.

“They’ve been amazing,” said GCS’ marketing director Ashleigh Galloway.  “They’ve created their own artwork and upcycled furniture.  It’s not just been a case of spending the budget, they’ve managed it really well.

Cramlington students (from left) Olivia Polwarth, Courtney Mason, Gracie Mair and Millie Wilkinson in their summerhouse

“We’ve already had customers commenting that it was helpful to see what they could fit into different summerhouses and how inspired they are by the relaxing interiors the students have created.”

She added: “We could have gone to a well-established interior designer but thought this was a great opportunity for these young people to show their skills.  We’re definitely keen to work with the school again.  I think they’ve done a brilliant job and it would be great if other local businesses got involved with CLV.”

The themes chosen by the students were Northumberland’s Night Sky – inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the country’s own iconic Sycamore Gap Tree – and the jungle.

Seventeen-year-old Isabella Robson, who is keen on a career as an interior designer, said her team’s jungle concept combined nature with the office.

“We thought it was really nice to have vibrant colours so your workplace is nice and lively but you can still sit down, work in it and have a bit of fun at the same time,” she said.

Gracie Mair, who is also 17 and was part of the Northumberland’s Night Sky team, said: “There was a bit of extra stress, considering we’ve never done anything like this before, but that challenge really pushed us to be as creative as possible. I am so thrilled.  It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s really paid off.

“Planning, budgeting, mapping it all out and then see it come to life was really rewarding.  I promised myself after my GCSEs I would never do Maths again, but here I am!  We stayed well inside budget and I’m really proud of us all.”

Art and photography teacher Brad Hodgson said that in addition to the students’ creative skills they had to learn about budgeting, teamwork and working to a brief.  “They’re all attributes they’ll be able draw upon if they decide to work in the creative industries,” he said.

He added: “Because of the pandemic they’ve not had the opportunities students of their age normally have.  They’ve not even been able to sit their GCSE exams.  To be able to link up with this way with their community has been quite inspiring and they’ve grasped it with both hands.”

The students’ work will be on show at Azure over the coming months.