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Garden sheds change the landscape of a backyard. They’re a great place for your garden tools — and help keep them out of the garage — but that’s just the beginning.
Sheds redefine the garden; they create an irresistible destination — and that in itself opens up new opportunities for landscaping. A good shed makes a garden more beautiful and interesting.
“A shed is a catalyst for a backyard transformation,” says Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, whose company, Studio Shed, was founded after he designed a shed to solve his own storage problems. Horgan-Kobelski and his wife, Heather Irmiger, both competitive mountain bikers, live in a 1,000-square-foot ranch house in Boulder, Colo. They desperately needed a place to stash their bicycles.
“I wanted to incorporate a little storage building into the landscape — something I could create positive space around,” Horgan-Kobelski says. Standard metal and wood-panel sheds from big-box stores did not inspire him much, so he designed his own smart-looking building for the couple’s collection of about 20 bicycles. It suits their design sensibilities perfectly.
Outdoor buildings have always reflected the changing tastes and styles of their owners, sometimes over generations. Outbuildings (or dependencies, as they are sometimes called) were usually very functional: old farmsteads had smokehouses, chicken coops, woodsheds and outhouses. Over time, these buildings were modified and updated as they found new uses. Kids claimed the old smokehouse as a clubhouse; gardeners, naturally, took over spaces that could be used to store garden tools.
James Baggett, editor of Country Gardens magazine, calls the garden shed “an outdoor closet without the fuss of wrapping a house around it.” The magazine often has a brightly painted garden shed on the cover. Old-fashioned sheds have the charm of a child’s playhouse, but they appeal to grown-up modern gardeners who appreciate well-organized storage areas. They may also see a shed as a private space of their own, away from distractions indoors.
“When they are well-placed in the garden, sheds become a hideaway for the green-of-heart,” Baggett says. “If you’re like me, they’ll even offer space for puttering.”
Studio Shed’s customers have the same goal. “People’s homes are no longer a sanctuary,” Horgan-Kobelski says. Adults leave their offices and come home to a bustling, Wi-Fi world of social obligations and responsibilities. A backyard shed can be an escape from both home and work, Horgan-Kobelski says — a place to keep stuff, but also a spot physically and emotionally separated from workaday worries.
Studio Shed’s designs are infinitely adaptable and are used for storage, as potting sheds, artists’ studios and backyard offices, and as a place to entertain. “It dovetails with the small-house movement,” Horgan-Kobelski says. “People are asking themselves, ‘Do I need a big home, a big addition?’ And most people don’t. You don’t need all this gigantic space, you need the right space.”
It’s a good idea to check local zoning regulations before you decide on the size and location of a garden shed. Bigger is not necessarily better, Horgan-Kobelski says; sheds 8 feet by 10 feet and 10 feet by 12 feet are the two most popular sizes among Studio Shed’s customers. Sheds this size often do not require a permit, but setback rules may dictate their placement in the garden.
A porch or deck outside the door of a shed is a nice touch, but a path of stepping stones will suffice to make the shed an enticing destination and suggest that it’s more than just a place to hang up tools.
A gardener in Richmond, Va., painted her shed’s door sky blue and installed a small cupola on the roof, to add a little old-time aristocracy to the tiny structure. She planted boxwoods and daylilies by the front door. Flower beds and shrubs settle a shed into its garden context, just as foundation plantings do around a house. Flowerpots or window boxes echo blooms in the garden, and they’re easy to take care of.
A writer in California who made a 10-foot-by-14-foot Studio Shed into an office in his backyard says his shed has become a think tank where he does his best work. A vegetable garden on one side of the shed makes even his 20-second commute productive — he can pick beans for the dinner table on his way home.
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