Ultimate man cave inspired by Abba

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This luxurious man cave doubles as Max Reid’s writing shed and the HQ for Yorkshire’s answer to Les Mis. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Simon Hulme.

Max Reid is a creative thinker and so when he needed somewhere to pen his first film script he came up with the perfect place.

Max is thrilled with his cedar-clad  garden room, which the family have named the Max Cave

Max is thrilled with his cedar-clad garden room, which the family have named the Max Cave

“I wanted somewhere that was quiet and had no distractions and I remembered that Abba went off to a log cabin in the hills of Sweden for six months to write some of their best music. So I suggested to my wife that I could do the same,” says Max, 51, a former accountant turned businessman with a keen interest in the arts.

Helen said “definitely not” but she did suggest that he build a shed in the garden instead. His interpretation of “shed” is a sensational man cave that Helen and their four children have christened the “Max Cave”.

It sits in the grounds of their home in Penistone, near Barnsley, and was built by Andy and Gary Eamonson from Cedar Garden Rooms in Wakefield. They, together with Max and architect Mark Booth, came up with the contemporary design.

The construction is treated timber stud work with ply outer walls and a breathable membrane covered with two layers of cedar cladding. The windows and bi-fold doors are framed in grey aluminium. The whole building was insulated and then plastered and topped with a fibreglass- reinforced resin roof coated in grey gel that Andy says is “like the hull of a boat”.

The Max Cave is a social media free zone but reading, writing and thinking is allowed

The Max Cave is a social media free zone but reading, writing and thinking is allowed

The striking, modern interior was created by Leeds-based designer Ben Huckerby.

Ben came up with a scheme that combines pizazz, comfort and warmth with practicality. While the room is well-insulated, a wood-burning stove adds extra cosiness. There is a kitchenette and a Coca-Cola dispenser, along with a sofa bed, which means that Max can work and nap through the night if he wants to. A cushioned fabric feature wall in purple adds a touch of luxury and a desk facing the bi-fold doors gives views onto the garden.

Similar buildings designed and built by the Eamonsons usually cost between £15,000 and £25,000 but Max’s ultra-high spec model with all the trimmings cost closer to £40,000. “My mum died and left me some money so I used that to part finance this project and it is worth every penny. I have a study in the house but this is a very peaceful, creative space. I didn’t have a clue what to do with the interior, which is why I asked for Ben’s help and he’s done an amazing job. It is the perfect place to write,” says Max, whose script is based on his school reunion.

He and his five closest school friends meet every first Friday in December for a catch-up in a pub in their native Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. In 2012, they decided to see if any other friends from their old comprehensive school wanted to join them and over 70 people turned up.

The desk with a view over the garden

The desk with a view over the garden

“It was fascinating. I heard success stories and heart-warming stories and there were some sad discoveries. After we toasted absent friends, my thoughts were that it might be a subject for a film or a TV series. That sparked the need for a place to write,” says Max, who is also gearing up to take a musical to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

No Horizon is a joint project between Max and Andy Platt. Andy, a headteacher, wrote the musical based on the largely forgotten Yorkshire genius Nicholas Saunderson.

“It is a beautiful story of courage that lent itself to Andy’s amazing musical abilities. I agreed to co-produce it to try to get it to a wider audience,” says Max.

Saunderson’s life story is remarkable. The son of a Penistone millworker, he was born in 1682 and went blind at the age of one after catching smallpox. He seemed destined for poverty but taught himself to read and write using the gravestones at St Mary’s church in Penistone. He eventually became a Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University.

The interior of the garden studio was designed by Leeds-based Ben Huckerby

The interior of the garden studio was designed by Leeds-based Ben Huckerby

Radio 2 and Top Gear presenter Chris Evans was bowled over by the tale. Andy met him by chance and told him about the production and the star dubbed it “Yorkshire’s Les Mis”. He also gave it a mention on his popular breakfast programme, while Elaine Paige has championed it on her Sunday afternoon radio show.

No Horizon will run at Underbelly, one of the Fringe’s best venues, throughout August.

“We are really keen for Yorkshire support so if anyone is at the Fringe it would be great if they came to see our musical. We are hoping it is the launch pad for a tour and who knows, it might even make the West End,” says Max, who is desperately in need of more man cave time but is struggling to get it.

His four children, Sam, 22, George, 20, Joe, 16, and 14-year-old Hope also love spending time in the garden studio even though it is a strict “social media free” zone.

“They argue about who gets to use it,” says Max. “All I can say is that it’s Abba’s fault.”

No Horizon the Musical is produced by Max Reid and written by Andy Platt. It will be at Cow Barn, Underbelly, at the Edinburgh Fringe every day at 5pm from August 3 to August 27, nohorizonthemusical.com

Useful Contacts

‘Max Cave’ supplied and built by Andy and Gary Eamonson from Cedar Garden Rooms, Wakefield, tel: 01924 820555, cedargardenrooms.com

Interior design by Ben Huckerby of Ben Huckerby Design, Leeds, tel: 0113 2445446, benhuckerbydesign.co.uk

Architect Mark Booth, MBooth Design, Barnsley, tel: 01226 286256, mboothdesign.co.uk