Shed Owners Reveal Their Creativity

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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Lorene Edwards Forkner

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways: Big Ideas for Small Backyard Destinations

By Debra Prinzing, Photographs by William Wright

2008, Clarkson Potter

$30,  hardcover

Reviewed by Lorene Edwards Forkner

More JOY!  More play, more space —who among us couldn’t use more of these precious commodities, often the very first casualties of a hectic twenty-first-century lifestyle?  Enter the shed.  Not the calamitous repository for rusty tools, last years seeds, musty boxes and sticky spider webs presently hidden in so many of our backyards but “…an escape, a retreat, a sanctuary, an art studio, a dining room, or even a whimsical playhouse…where we showcase our personalities and preferences.” 

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways by Debra Prinzing, with stunning photography by William Wright, two of our own Northwest-grown garden publishing luminaries, is an inspirational kick in the pants and a stylishly produced design sourcebook to start us contemplating the many possibilities present right in our own backyards.  Passionately committed to crafting a contemporary definition for this once humble hut, Prinzing spent a year and a half crisscrossing the country collecting a “colorful crop of sheds” along the way.   “Sublime and seductive, the shed has moved far beyond its quaint, utilitarian origins on the farm.  Elevated to a new role that responds to and reflects the way we live...”

There’s a whimsical northwest chicken coop that resides next to a storage building whose design was inspired by the Doge Palace; together with a child-sized playhouse and a beautifully ornate viewing tower they form a sort of suburban mini garden village.  A Texas tea house offers a refreshing, bug-free reprieve from Austin’s sticky summer heat, and a converted barn-like garage in Southampton accommodates overnight guests in stylish comfort. With fond memories of a nostalgic pink playhouse a dilapidated little log cabin in Atlanta is reborn as a grownup refuge devoted to writing, painting and puttering.

A spacious Eastern Washington greenhouse is designed for both potting and parties while a tiny 8’ x 8’ structure is just big enough for a desk, bookshelf and the DSL technology that enables a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter to work from home challenging powerful bureaucrats while also keeping an eye on her children playing in the backyard and the laundry strung on a nearby clothesline.   In southern California the happy result of a scary accident when a giant Eucalyptus limb crashed through the glass roof of an orchid house is an intimate plein air courtyard with a definite Provençal flavor.

William Wrights’ luscious photography sumptuously illustrates these and the nearly twenty more shelters profiled.  Home to collections, tools, craft materials, and comfy furniture, each shed emerges as an intimate portrait of its owner as his lens captures the personality and detail of each unique environment.  But it is Prinzing’s warm and encouraging rapport with the “Shedistas,” as she has dubbed them that reads like a friendly afternoon spent in the company of the owners and creators of these marvelous spaces.  

Looking beyond the practicalities of providing a charming garden focal point, maximizing space and creating a chic destination for afternoon tea or evening cocktails, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways  gently exhorts us to ponder a place of our own, elevating the notion of a simple outbuilding to a place of relaxation, repose and sanctuary.  For me it was a breath of fresh inspiration and I truly hope this will be the summer that I finally outfit my vintage trailer as the backyard clubhouse and cozy folly I see in my mind and know that my life is waiting for.

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