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The heartbeat of my garden – my transformed shed

by Rebecca Sweet

This month my office is being featured in Sunset Magazine (my copy just came in the mail yesterday and I’m so excited I can hardly breathe!)

I’ve literally grown up with Sunset in the house, whether it was magazines, how-to or garden books lying around my mother’s and grandmother’s house.  So imagine the pride that I feel seeing one of the most meaningful places in my life featured right there on page 49!

 

And imagine how honored I am to have one of my close friends, and someone whom I greatly admire, Debra Lee Baldwin, write the article.  Debra and Kathleen Brenzel (Sunset’s garden editor) have occasionally visited my ‘Chick Shack’ on several occasions over the past few years, and while I’ve always felt my office is a special place I never realized that others can also feel its alluring, emotional ‘pull’.  There’s just something so special about this place, so I thought I’d tell you all a little about it.

When I was just 10 years old, we moved to this house, and of course the first thing I fell in love with was the spooky, abandoned shed in the back yard.  My parents cleaned it up a bit, put in a little window and new floor and it quickly became a hideaway for my brother and me.  We spent many years playing in that shed and having sleepovers with our friends.

 

Fast forward a few decades. About 12 years ago I moved back, re-married and bought the home (and shed) from my parents.  While we were busy raising our young children, the shed just sat there storing our junk.  It wasn’t a total eyesore, though, as my mother and I had fixed up the front a bit so it was rustic and charming from the outside.  But inside? It was a whole different story – it was nothing more than a spider-ridden storage unit, with holes in the floors and  walls.My husband, Tom, had been dying to fix up the shed for years, but since I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to use it for (definitely NOT a man cave) the remodel never really happened.  One summer, Tom was ‘between jobs’ and since he had a little free time on his hands pleaded with me, once again, to pleeease let him rip off the flat, leaking roof and get started.  Since I had just started my landscape design business, it made perfect sense to turn it into my office!  

My office_001Tom was in heaven, working every day for the entire summer, on a project he’d wanted to do for years.  I was in heaven because we were finally giving this little building the glory it deserved.In an effort to maintain its rustic simplicity, I really wanted to keep as much of the original shed as intact as possible, including the faded redwood exterior.  And especially the section that my then 10-year old brother had carved his name into.

When my mother found out, she was furious, but he steadfastly denied it, blaming it instead on his poor friend. I guess ‘this friend’ decided it would be cool to carve my brother’s name and not his own? Hmmm…sounds a little fishy to me.  

And we had to keep the front stoop, cracked and worn thin over the years.  I wonder how many times I’ve stepped into and out of this little building….

We wanted to pitch the roof, which posed a bit of a problem for Tom as I didn’t want my wonderful, old ‘Lady Banks’ rose to be damaged by the process.  See the brace he built for it?  So clever…My mother had collected a few antique windows over the years (with the intent of someday remodeling the shed) and combined with a few more that we found at different antique stores and flea markets, we now had a total of eight.  These old windows, with their fragile, wavy glass, lets in the softest, dreamiest diffused light.  Outside of these windows, I have two large planter boxes filled with flowers that hummingbirds adore (salvias, cupheas and abutilon). Nothing makes me happier than designing at my desk and having a hummingbird fly up to take a sip of nectar just inches away from my face.I’ve had so much fun decorating the outside of this little building, with my collection of old garden tools being my favorite of all.  It’s taken me years of scouring my grandfather’s and father’s garage, flea markets and antique shops to find such treasures.  I particularly love my dad’s old fishing creole that’s been the home to many little birds over the years.

While this space was re-created as my office, it’s morphed over the years into something much more meaningful.  I’ve slowly filled it with things that are near and dear to my heart, from my past and present, and that fill me with joy.

Whether it’s the pansies that my great, great grandmother painted for her mother, or my grandmother’s various knick-knacks that I’ve loved my whole life, the bookcase my father built for me when I was born, the little birds that my mother painted, or artwork my daughter’s made over the years – all of these items give me endless joy and inspiration.I love how my office is barely visible from most spots in the garden, like a secret that’s tucked away just waiting to be discovered.  This place is clearly the heartbeat of my garden.  And to know that others can also feel how unique it is makes it all the more meaningful.

{ 42 comments }

Nell Foster February 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Rebecca – I also work out of my shed (down the coast a bit in Santa Barbara) but it’s not nearly as transformed as yours – what a lovely space. Mine is more like “beach shack revival” but I do enjoy the parade of butterflies & hummingbirds whizzing by. How lucky we are to sit at our desks & look out at the garden!

Rebecca Sweet February 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Hi Nell – From one shed dweller to another I couldn’t agree more with you! We are, indeed, lucky beyond belief! :)

Nell Foster February 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I was in England a few years ago where I heard the term “sheddie” – for one who works out of their garden shed (due to the downturn in the economy, folks gave up offices & started working out of their sheds). Nice to finally be classified!

Scott Weber January 11, 2013 at 7:55 am

What an amazing transformations…I’m green with envy!

Rebecca Sweet January 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Thanks, Scott! :)

Pam/Digging January 7, 2013 at 12:45 am

Your shed is the stuff of dreams — so inviting, semi-hidden, so filled with personal touches that shine with your personality. Congrats on the Sunset story about it. I’ll have to go find a copy!

Rebecca Sweet January 7, 2013 at 10:32 am

Thank you, Pam. I can’t wait for you to see it in person at the Bloggers Fling in June!

Taunya December 31, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Hi Rebecca, Every woman should know the joy a grown up play house has to offer……how precious of your hubby to make your dream come true! It’s incredibly magical, so cozy and inviting, your artistic touches of layering and including sentimental treasures have taken it over the top! I can only imagine the “Sweet” memories you share with your brother of childhood afternoons playing in the shed. Thank you for sharing your creativity with us, your utterly amazing. Sunset Magazine, wow, congratulations!
I’m in touch with our garden club president in hopes we can meet with you in May!!
Happy New Year, Taunya

Rebecca Sweet January 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

Thank you so much, Taunya – what a sweet comment! I just spend the past week with my family (and brother’s family) who all enjoyed reading the article, and reminiscing about our times in the shed. My brother hadn’t seen his name carved in a long time and laughed at how naive he was to think no one would think it was actually HIM who carved it. I hope to meet you in person in May!

Charlie December 30, 2012 at 11:17 pm

It is amazing, and wonderful. I absolutely love it. Thank you for the detailed pictures. Walking through your garden was inspring. I am always looking for ideas and I found many in your post. Thank you, I am surprised they put you on page 49, that must have been one special addition of the magazine.

Rebecca Sweet December 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Thank you, Charlie, and I’m so happy you enjoyed my garden and gathered some inspiration of your own in the process!

Rossie December 29, 2012 at 11:46 am

Hi Rebecca,
I’ve got a dream! Not for a husband like Tom (I’ve got one, very handy, needs a lot of pleading to do something, though) but for a place, like yours, somewhere to hide, somewhere – just to be … ME
What a way to finish your blog this year – Congratulations!!!!!!!!!! Many thanks for it & see you in the next one

Rebecca Sweet December 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Rossie, you make me laugh. Thank you so much for such a sweet and encouraging comment!

pete veilleux December 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm

i just love this little house! i’ve been trying to figure out what kind of structure to build for my native plant nursery in east oakland, california – using all recycled materials, and i want to base the general appearance of it on this place. i hope you don’t mind. ??

Rebecca Sweet December 27, 2012 at 8:10 am

Mind? I think it’s a fantastic idea, Pete! I’d love to see some photos when you’re finished with it, too!

Candy Suter December 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm

It was so wonderful to meet you Rebecca at the Extravaganza. You are just as sweet as I thought you would be. What a dreamy little office you have. And your hubby is so awesome to have built this for you. Can’t wait to read the article and see more photos. Hope you had a Merry Christmas and have a safe and fun New Year!

Rebecca Sweet December 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I feel the same about you, Candy – your spirit (and smile) just lights up a room! Let me know whenever you’re in the area and we’ll sit outside in my shack together! Happy New Year!!!

Rebecca Salsbery December 25, 2012 at 7:29 am

I ‘ve spent a wonderful hour perusing your book and glimpsing at your spectacularly quaint office. Such a dreamy place to do your work every day. I own garden centers in Indiana, and you have given me so much inspiration to redesign my workspaces. Thank you for letting me spend a peaceful Christmas morning with you…before all the chaos of the day begins.

Rebecca Sweet December 26, 2012 at 8:19 am

Rebecca, what a thoughtful comment. I have to laugh at what a small world this is, as about 5 minutes before I read your comment last night, I was on the phone with my brother who’s spending Christmas with his wife’s family in Martinsville, Indiana! I’m so glad I’ve given you a peaceful moment, before the chaos, as that’s how I feel right now. I have about 5 minutes left until I have to rouse everyone out of bed to pack for our long drive to Tahoe! Merry Christmas!

Barbara H. December 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I fell in love with your office when you did a post on your yard, I think. I have a small shed that looks cute on the outside since I painted it but it has been a mess on the inside. For inspiration, I printed out this sentence from that post: “I love this little space of mine and have filled it with memories of my past, things from my great-grandmother, grandmother, parents and cherished friends.” I’m getting closer to getting it in order. Now I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of Sunset to see more of your shed. Congratulations!

Rebecca Sweet December 26, 2012 at 8:16 am

Thank you, Barbara, and I’m so glad to hear you have your own little space just waiting for your magic touch!! I’d love to see photos of your own shed’s transformation once it begins.

sheila schultz December 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

It is you, Rebecca, that makes your shed magical, and Tom that listened to your vision and made it a reality. I’m thinkin’ you make a fine team! Sometimes life works well… Congratulations!

Rebecca Sweet December 24, 2012 at 8:15 am

Thank you, Sheila. You’re so right, we are definitely a fine team! It took me a few tries to find him, but I eventually did! ;)

sheila schultz December 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

It may take a try or two, but sometimes the stars are just aligned. Worked for me!

Michelle D. December 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Rebecca,
thank you for your invitation this past year to visit your garden.
I very much enjoyed the peaceful tranquility of your creative cottage and meeting some of your gardening friends.
Happy holiday to you and your family.
Michelle

Rebecca December 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Michelle – I can’t tell you how happy I was that you came last year! Have a wonderful holiday and happy, happy new year. XO – Rebecca

Town Mouse December 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Wow, Sunset! Oh, congratulations Rebecca, that’s so wonderful. And of course I’ve admired your office for a long time — how much fun to hear the story.

Rebecca December 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Thanks so much, Townie! :)

Sabrina Tanner December 23, 2012 at 10:28 am

Hello Rebecca,

Freeland said “absolutely fabulous!” and I just love the story and photos of Tom!! Great story for a rainy day.
Sabrina

Rebecca Sweet December 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

One of these days, Sabrina, you will both be here, sitting in my little shed with us overwhelming poor Tom with our incessant garden chatter!

sharon lovejoy December 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

You KNOW how much I love and appreciate your glorious “shed,” and I use that term loosely. It fits you perfectly. Tom, the best mixologist in the world, is also a stellar shed builder/dreamer.

Thank you for this inspiration.

Lovingly and with wishes for joyous holidays for you, Tom, gorgeous girl, and Mom and others,

Sharon

Rebecca Sweet December 23, 2012 at 10:55 am

Ahhh, Sharon, and my glorious shed loves YOU, too! As I’ve told you before, having you as a guest in my little shed was so incredibly special to me. I remember trying to be subtle while watching your expression to see if you recognized mementos of Hearts Ease placed here and there. Whether you realized it or not, your little shop from many years ago had a huge and wonderful influence on me, manifesting itself in my shed! Happy holidays to you and Jeff, your children and grandchildren. XOXO

lauren scheuer December 23, 2012 at 8:28 am

Oh. Wow. What inspiration!

Laura December 23, 2012 at 6:21 am

Rebecca, you have a great eye for details, and your tool collection is displayed in a rustic but beautiful way. I love how the plants seem to be hugging the shed and the re-claimed windows add amazing charm.

You created a very inviting space and the fact that it has all that history behind it makes it even more special.

Thanks for sharing!

Rebecca Sweet December 23, 2012 at 8:39 am

Hi Laura – Happy Holidays to you and your family!! And thanks for your sweet comment. Someday when you’re in my neck of the woods you’ll have to stop by and we can hang out there together!

Laura December 24, 2012 at 6:20 am

Well…I will take your invitation to heart and in the New Year I will make time to visit you. That would be so lovely.

Robin December 23, 2012 at 4:10 am

Beautiful! I could live right there, surrounded by beauty. Thank you for sharing these inspiring photos. My garden shed has been built but it standing alone. I’ll be decorating and planting, hopefully as beautiful as yours.

Rebecca Sweet December 23, 2012 at 8:38 am

Robin, I’m so glad that you have your own garden shed just waiting for your special touches – take it slow and have FUN with it! And don’t forget that garage sales are a fantastic place to start – I’ve found some of the neatest things there, often wondering why anyone would get rid of such treasures….

Debra Lee Baldwin December 23, 2012 at 12:36 am

Rebecca, what a lovely tribute. You really captured the soul of the place. I love the way it’s tucked away, with only its window frames visible through the foliage. And especially the photo of the fuchsia dreamily visible through the wavy-paned glass. So smart of you to take photos during the process!

Do you think Tom could transform the 25-year-old metal tool shed down in my garden? It’s quaintly rusted in places. Big enough for a single bed (for a short person). No windows. Completely engulfed by a Cecile Brunner rose intermingled with a wisteria I probably should have pruned back. Uh…probably not (sigh).

Rebecca Sweet December 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

Tom would love to transform your metal tool shed, Debra, alas the distance between us is a wee bit of a problem. I love your little shed that’s slowly being eaten by the Cecile Brunner rose! Even if sheds aren’t being used for anything but storage, I’ve realized a good climbing rose lets them blend right in with the rest of the garden. There’s not much a climbing rose can’t do, right? Thanks again for writing the article – it is YOU who magically captured the soul of the place (in just a few words, no less!)

Carol December 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm

That is a beautiful shed and what wonderful memories are in it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Rebecca Sweet December 22, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Thanks so much, Carol! How nice to hear from you (and wow, you’re up late reading tonight!!) ;) Happy Holidays, my friend!

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