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Nolii Works | SHED, Haggerston

NWks001 — Co-working, hot-desking and café-perching. In Nolii Works, we explore the spaces, places and people supporting the world’s mobile workforce. Today, we visit SHED in Haggerston, East London.

In recent years, the mysterious stretch of land between East London’s Dalston and Shoreditch has been the focus of much hear-say and speculation.

Rumours abounded about the disused railway arches now home to independent bars and restaurants, and hordes of 20-somethings lining up for late-night events in otherwise unassuming warehouse spaces.

Now, it’s safe to say, the once misunderstood suburb of Haggerston has arrived, and with it a number of small businesses which have demonstrated the staying power necessary to weather the developments of the last 10 years.

One of these is SHED — a garage-turned-photography studio which now boasts an impressive roster of co-working businesses and freelancers across two adjacent spaces. More recent developments include the introduction of an in-house production offering, as well as the inset Stop Fix — a café and wine bar which sits on street level.

But despite what now seems a tightly integrated and considered business, SHED’s inception was much more modest, and its growth far more organic and whimsical than you would expect.

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Established in a disused carpark space just off what is now Haggerston Overground Station, SHED began life as a photography space rented and shared between friends — recent photography graduates from Central Saint Martins, Kings Cross.

Though initially intended for personal projects and freelance jobs, SHED has since grown into an impressive and popular multi-purpose space, no less to the surprise of its co-founders, Christopher Fields and Brendan Olley.

“We never set it up as a business.” says Brendan, “We weren’t really entrepreneurial — I mean, I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur, but we weren’t really thinking about it in business terms. We set it up because we wanted somewhere to shoot.”

However, when photographers, artists and clients began asking for space to base themselves in-between shoots, the pair expanded their remit to include a small space for co-working and hot-desking.

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Early-era SHED occupants included fellow Central Saint Martins alumni Sharmadean Reid, founder of the now-infamous WAH Nails, and Grace Ladoja, the manager behind grime artist Skepta’s breakout and continued success. Top-tier publications like Vogue and Elle Magazine were also quick to book time in the newly-opened photography studios.

Brendan attributes this early interest to the founding pair’s approach to managing the space — their own artistic exploits kept them grounded, and brought a creative and communal atmosphere into the space.

“I think [SHED’s early clients] felt that they were going to people who were more on their wavelength.” he explains.

Whatever the reason, SHED quickly established itself as a high-quality and affordable space for photography and co-working, and continued to grow in a number of directions.

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Today, SHED is home to a broad spectrum of small businesses and freelancers from a variety of creative walks, and high profile clients such as Whistles and Alexander McQueen suggest that the photography studios continue to be in high demand.

The cafe space— stripped back in the style of a photography dark room, but comfortable, with photography hung gallery-style along the walls — hosts a rotating cast of professionals who drop in to work, socialise, eat and drink.

Coffee from Kings Cross-based Caravan (a relationship established while the founders were studying) is put to good use by the baristas, who also serve up coveted St John donuts and biodynamic wine throughout the day and into the evenings.

And a partnership with the Clerkenwell-based magazine enthusiasts Mag Culture means that the founders’ passion for print is realised in the form of regularly updated, high quality editorials and journals.

It’s clear that relationships are important to the dynamic, and each supplier we discuss seems to have become involved through some mutual friend, a shared interest or novel encounter.

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Similar to spaces like Shoreditch’s Ace Hotel, SHED’s many different parts complement each other and create a sense of place in what is increasingly becoming a property development hot spot.

And while the pressure to maximise the yield on floor space in a era of sky-high property prices can’t be discounted, Brendan and Christopher’s willingness to invest in their passions and share these with tenants and the public alike is inherently charming.

By allowing their personalities to shine through in the space, the founders of SHED are encouraging a creative culture which is shared by everyone who visits.

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Words by Huntly Gordon

Photography by Marek Dorcik

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