Children often have dreams of making a magical space of their own, but it’s not often that they are able to make their dreams come true. Elsie Swanborough has been able to do just that, making the story of the Mushroom House one that has not only won hearts – but also the coveted ‘Shed of the Year’ competition, as sponsored by Cuprinol and announced on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces programme on Channel 4.

The master bedroom is a peaceful haven of white

The master bedroom is a peaceful haven of white

The vintage inspired, quirky look is not just confined to Ben’s award-winning shed, however. It turns out that the interior of their house in the pretty village of Chiddingfold is just as unique

The vintage inspired, quirky look is not just confined to Ben’s award-winning shed, however. It turns out that the interior of their house in the pretty village of Chiddingfold is just as unique

When Ben and Sammy moved in, they removed the carpets and sanded the floorboards

When Ben and Sammy moved in, they removed the carpets and sanded the floorboards

The walls throughout the house are painted in pale grey shades – Farrow and Ball’s ‘Hardwick White’ and ‘Mouse’s Back’ predominate

The walls throughout the house are painted in pale grey shades – Farrow and Ball’s ‘Hardwick White’ and ‘Mouse’s Back’ predominate

I once drove through Chiddingfold when I was younger and said to myself that I wanted to live in the village. What I didn’t realise when we came to see the house, because we entered the village from a different direction, was that it was in the village of my dreams.”

"I once drove through Chiddingfold when I was younger and said to myself that I wanted to live in the village. What I didn’t realise when we came to see the house, because we entered the village from a different direction, was that it was in the village of my dreams.”

Elsie’s bedroom is pure white and is calm and tidy, save for a single rustic oak shelf packed full of teddies and toys

Elsie’s bedroom is pure white and is calm and tidy, save for a single rustic oak shelf packed full of teddies and toys

An old French chateau shutter on the living room wall is displayed like a piece of art above an illuminated coiffeur unit from a French hairdresser’s, picked up in Lille at the Braderie France, a massive flea market

An old French chateau shutter on the living room wall is displayed like a piece of art above an illuminated coiffeur unit from a French hairdresser’s, picked up in Lille at the Braderie France, a massive flea market

“When it was time to redo the front room, my wife Sammy was a bit fed up with all my clutter in the dining room, so we went for a calmer look in here.”

“When it was time to redo the front room, my wife Sammy was a bit fed up with all my clutter in the dining room, so we went for a calmer look in here.”

There are more vintage finds in the kitchen

There are more vintage finds in the kitchen

The dining table has been cleverly made from scaffolding poles and boards

The dining table has been cleverly made from scaffolding poles and boards

On one wall is a vintage chocolate dispensing machine. “We bought that – together with a soap and towel machine – at a pop up antique shop in a Turkish night club. It was great, we went a few times, and then one day it had all vanished.”

On one wall is a vintage chocolate dispensing machine. “We bought that – together with a soap and towel machine – at a pop up antique shop in a Turkish night club. It was great, we went a few times, and then one day it had all vanished.”

Although not trained in design, Ben’s creative flair must have something to do with the fact his great uncle was Thomas Cooper Gotch, an English Pre-Raphaelite painter and book illustrator. Elsie and her older brother Sebastian are also good at art.“I’ve definitely inherited the ‘quirky junk shop finds’ side of things from my mother. I love going round junk yards, looking on Ebay, finding things,” he says

Although not trained in design, Ben’s creative flair must have something to do with the fact his great uncle was Thomas Cooper Gotch, an English Pre-Raphaelite painter and book illustrator. Elsie and her older brother Sebastian are also good at art

Although not trained in design, Ben’s creative flair must have something to do with the fact his great uncle was Thomas Cooper Gotch, an English Pre-Raphaelite painter and book illustrator. Elsie and her older brother Sebastian are also good at art.“I’ve definitely inherited the ‘quirky junk shop finds’ side of things from my mother. I love going round junk yards, looking on Ebay, finding things,” he says

“I’ve definitely inherited the ‘quirky junk shop finds’ side of things from my mother. I love going round junk yards, looking on Ebay, finding things,” he says

“I love quirky bits and bobs; I go for colours, I like old toys, as much for the colours as for the objects in themselves.”

“I love quirky bits and bobs; I go for colours, I like old toys, as much for the colours as for the objects in themselves.”

Ingeniously, Ben has used reclaimed floorboards on the wall: “It was almost like putting a decking frame against the wall, into which I cut shelves and alcoves, hiding speakers and an industrial lamp in the wall,”

Ingeniously, Ben has used reclaimed floorboards on the wall: “It was almost like putting a decking frame against the wall, into which I cut shelves and alcoves, hiding speakers and an industrial lamp in the wall,”

The award-winning Mushroom House at the bottom of Ben Swanborough’s garden is built to the design of his daughter, Elsie

The award-winning Mushroom House at the bottom of Ben Swanborough’s garden is built to the design of his daughter, Elsie

Instead of just fantasising about a mushroom shaped house, she commissioned it to be made

Instead of just fantasising about a mushroom shaped house, Elsie commissioned it to be made

When the family moved in, they added a new kitchen and bathroom to the main house

When the family moved in, they added a new kitchen and bathroom to the main house

“I’ve really enjoyed making the Mushroom House and I’d love to do some other projects.”

“I’ve really enjoyed making the Mushroom House and I’d love to do some other projects.”

Ben is hoping that winning the title will help to launch a business making bespoke garden buildings

Ben is hoping that winning the title will help to launch a business making bespoke garden buildings

The toughened glass window in the floor of the Mushroom House is two inches thick, so you can stand on it, or lie on the floor and look down to the river below

The toughened glass window in the floor of the Mushroom House is two inches thick, so you can stand on it, or lie on the floor and look down to the river below

Ben sourced the Mushroom House’s quirky windows from salvage fairs. He found the stained glass window at a car boot sale

Ben sourced the Mushroom House’s quirky windows from salvage fairs. He found the stained glass window at a car boot sale

The toughened glass window in the floor of the Mushroom House is two inches thick, so you can stand on it, or lie on the floor and look down to the river below

Spiders aside (or even inside), it is clear that the award-winning shed is a big hit with everyone

In the ‘stalk’ of the mushroom there’s an ingenious storage bench and table and a small staircase leading up into the ‘cap’

In the ‘stalk’ of the mushroom there’s an ingenious storage bench and table and a small staircase leading up into the ‘cap’

It is also testament to the vision, faith and attention to detail of this inspirational father and daughter team

It is also testament to the vision, faith and attention to detail of this inspirational father and daughter team

The award-winning Mushroom House at the bottom of Ben Swanborough’s garden is built to the design of his daughter, Elsie

The award-winning Mushroom House at the bottom of Ben Swanborough’s garden is built to the design of his daughter, Elsie

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Helen Barton

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