A Chic She Shed.

Suddenly sheds have become trendy. I remember when I was a child, my father’s potting shed  smelt of damp, mouse droppings,  cigar smoke and no doubt, carcinogenic chemicals. It was home to spiders, mildewed  garments, dead butterflies  and all my father’s complicated garden paraphernalia. My father had never heard of shed chic and he would have snorted in derision at the very idea.

Tool Shed. East Ruston.

Tool Shed. East Ruston.

Today, we all want a shed. I’m not sure why men like them, maybe so that they have somewhere to play with their tools. But I think women never grow out of their love of playing ‘house’. We all have perfectly nice houses but we want a Wendy  House to play in.  Maybe in all of us, the need for a cave is an atavistic thing. Our early ancestors needed it for security. And we still crave a cave, or in modern day terms, a little hut of our own.

I visited Long Melford Hall this summer with my niece. It was fascinating to find that Beatrice Potter used to stay there regularly and in their library they recently found some of her original drawings. But what also fascinated me, was the boudoir decorated with French eighteenth century furniture and Meissen porcelain. The very idea of a lady needing a boudoir is such an odd concept nowadays. And back then, as ladies didn’t seem to do much anyway, it seems strange that they needed a special room to do not much in. But nevertheless, I like the idea of a room of your own. A boudoir. I  don’t  just want somewhere to sit elegantly sipping tea from a Meissen cup. Or even like Hyacinth Bouquet, out of Royal Doulton china with ‘ hand painted periwinkles’ .  But maybe the modern equivalent of a boudoir is a shed.  A shed with a potting station and shelves and all  my tools nice and clean and hanging from their own hooks. And a nice comfy chair with cushions. And a big table to work or write on.

I have been planning my boudoir/ shed all summer. In fact not only have I been dreaming about sheds but I have been lying awake for several nights planning mine. The Pianist was incredulous when I told him that I couldn’t sleep because of my shed. But then he nodded and said wisely: ‘Ah yes, sheds, a common cause of insomnia, ask any doctor.’  I think perhaps he was being ironic.  Anyway, at last my dreams have come true, I have my shed and I want to share it with you.

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You may wonder why I need a new shed when I already have three old stables. But honestly, although I try to kid myself they are shabby-chic, what they are really, is hopelessly  tumble-down and scruffy. And they are all full of stuff accumulated over many years by many past owners of this house. One is full of wood and discarded windows. I wrote about my efforts to clean up the plant pot shed in an earlier post. Shamefully, it is no better, in fact it is worse. I am only grateful if I can close the door. And the other is full of – well, I don’t know -stuff.

Even if I am not potting on my lovely potting station, or doing other shed- related things, my new She-Shed is a place to take a  cup of  tea into. Obviously, I don’t drink out of Meissen, or sit in an elegant gown entertaining charming young men . I don’t know any charming young men, except for my son and my son-in-law and they would be a bit surprised if I invited them to take tea in my shed.  But  nevertheless, this  shed is my boudoir.

I have painted it inside  in a shade called Cool Marble, despite everyone’s incredulity that I thought the inside needs painting. So many people have hastened to tell me that the inside of a shed doesn’t need painting. Of course, it doesn’t need it. ‘Oh reason not the need’ as  King Lear said, under rather more exacting circumstances.  The floor is painted with slate coloured deck paint. The outside is painted Silver Birch. On an impulse I painted the window frames Cool Marble and painted stripes on the door so it looks like a beach hut. The great thing about a shed is you can indulge any whim.
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Ok, the nearest beach is more than 30 miles away and I know that Alexander Pope said that we should consult the genius loci, the spirit of the place in the garden. This mantra has been repeated from Russell Page onwards. I heard Arne Maynard speak recently and this was his theme too. In fact, the original use of the phrase was used by the Romans to mean that we should propitiate the gods or spirits of the place who live there. Well as I have said before, I do not want a midden and a cabbage patch to make this in keeping with a sixteenth century garden. So the gods of this place will have to stay unpropitiated. I live here now and I will indulge any whim that comes into my mind. And if I want a beach hut I shall have one. In fact I am toying with the idea of  a shingle beach,  Derek Jarman type mini -garden in front of it. I even have a plump bathing beauty on the door.

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Maybe I can rig something up to play George Formby singing ‘My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock‘ when I open the door. The Pianist can accompany him on his banjolele.

But inside I have abandoned the maritime theme . I cleaned, oiled and sharpened all my tools and they are hanging up in neat order,  thanks to the Pianist’s efforts in erecting this special tool- hanging thingy. And no duct tape was used at all. How wonderful it will be not to have to run around from garage to shed to greenhouses looking for all my tools. And how lovely to see them all clean and gleaming. I can’t bear to get them dirty now. The Pianist asked me to dig him some leeks and I had to try to persuade him that he didn’t  really need leeks. I didn’t want to get my fork dirty. I can see this is going to  scupper my winter gardening plans a bit.

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And yes, that is a picture you see on the wall. Well why not?

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And then the dear Pianist has given me  four long shelves. I keep my vases here because from now on I shall do all my flower arranging in the shed. This has come just in time as I have run out of cupboard space in the house for all  my jugs. I do have this weird thing about jugs. I hadn’ t realised quite how many I have until I put them all on the shelf.

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And then I have a special potting station. I have never had such a luxury before.

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Next to it it is a wipe clean board to keep track of what has been sown.dsc_0713

Miniature Xmas card pegs hold the seeds waiting to be sown soon. All my other seeds are in my grandmother’s gas mask tin from the war.  This used to hold her sewing kit but as I am allergic to the needle sort of sowing this is a much better use for it.

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It is nice to find new uses for things that your family have owned. I keep plant pots in my father’ s old tool box. I believe this was his tuck box at school.

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My Mother’ s tapestry basket holds my gardening gloves. The chickens hold labels.

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I use an old fashioned bread bin to keep my vermiculite in.

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Much more practical are the two galvanised steel bins for potting compost and the large plastic boxes  for grit and sand.

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But I like old things. This old walnut box does not actually contain gants but a hammer and nails. I love it, how wonderful that people used to have a special box to keep their gloves in and one that they could  lock so that nobody could steal them.

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My Chinese umbrella stand seems the obvious place to keep bamboo canes. It didn’t serve any purpose in the house as all our brollies are telescopic.

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The long table was an eBay buy and came much cheaper than making one. Fortunately it just fitted in the car. The wicker chair was ridiculously cheap on eBay too.

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dsc_0661The great thing about a shed is that you can indulge in the sort of whimsy which you wouldn’ t tolerate in the house. For instance I have ladybirds in odd places.

I have even brought my pottery pig and owl in here; my children made them for me when they small and so they are very precious.

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And maybe I am propitiating the genius loci because as you see I have a green man, symbol of the ancient spirit of nature.

I am quite sad that my shed is finished now because I enjoyed doing it. Never mind, it’s on with the next project. Life is never boring if you have a garden.

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49 Responses to A Chic She Shed.

  1. Oh, I love it! I wish I had a she-shed now. I am mentally decorating mine right now.

  2. Yes, I love it – an actual building of your own. My husband has two, he had three and I am so happy the third disappeared (it was Rubbermaid, dreadfully ugly and unscreenable with landscaping) I like the interior whimsy touches and the old family boxes. I am working on my she room in the house.

    • Chloris says:

      I wonder what a Rubbermaid is? It sounds disgusting, and rather rude, I’ m not surprised you wanted to get rid of it. My husband has the whole of the garage to fill with his junk. We’ ve only been bere 6 years but you can hardly get in the door.

      • Rubbermaid is a brand name, they make plastic everything including a 7 by 10 foot plastic shed that snaps together. Fortunately gone! Can you believe how much junk men keep! ? Our garage is also full. Car parts, etc. my husband had the gall to tell me the other day, when you find this after I am dead you can throw it away.
        Question for you on another subject –
        When you mention using a membrane to prevent weeds – what is it made of?

      • Chloris says:

        I don’t know what it is- some sort of heavy duty woven fabric. It’s brand name is Mypex.
        A plastic shed? Yuck! Definitely not chic.

  3. Cathy says:

    I am very impressed and think it is simply lovely! I have got a potting table outside the backdoor and it has become the place where I put my vases together, but a shed would offer so many more possibilities…

  4. Christina says:

    Wonderful, and I didn’t guess at all what your project would be. I look forward to a cup of coffee in your glorious she cave in the future.

  5. Your shed is wonderful. I love all the little touches. You’re right – those whimsical notes are just perfect there. I’ve wanted a greenhouse-shed for some time, although finding a spot for it presents an issue and convincing my husband that I “need” one is an obstacle I’ve yet to overcome. I even have a Pinterest page to collect ideas for one. My husband claimed the workshop attached to the garage when we moved in and, while I have a potting bench along the garage, it’s not the same. I’d love to be able to enjoy my garden from inside a shabby chic space, out of the weather. It may not rain often here but the sun does blaze and the wind can be troublesome. Coincidentally, today’s Los Angeles Times has a feature on she sheds.

    • Chloris says:

      Ah Kris, I can see you really need one if you are collecting them on Pinterest. I believe they are popular in America, there is even a book called Shed Chic. Apart from being really useful, it is such fun.

  6. Eliza Waters says:

    How wonderful to have a airy space of one’s own, I’m envious! You’ve done a great job painting and decorating, it’ll have to be christened soon – what will you plant first?

    • Chloris says:

      I’ m not going to keep many plants in here. So far I haven’ t used my potting bench, I am reluctant to get it dirty. That will all have to change in spring though, once I get seed sowing.

  7. gardenfancyblog says:

    Very nice! Your shed has turned out wonderfully — I love all the fun decorative items you have added, such as the bathing woman on the door, the gas mask tin (what a Brit item), and your fancy Chinese umbrella stand. I know what you mean about being finished with decorating it though; I had so much more fun fixing up my garden shed than I actually have had in using it — but mine isn’t nearly so comfortable as yours. What a nice accomplishment, and you can look forward to using it in spring! Best, -Beth

    • Chloris says:

      I enjoyed reading about your lovely sunroom and I was very envious. You had such fun doing it I know. I think it is wonderful to have an indoor garden for the winter months. I wish I had one.

  8. That is wonderful! Seems all my garden areas end up being “shared” spaces. The older I get, the more I feel like I need a “she shed,” or at least a room that is mine alone. The kids are out of the house, but both of them are in apartments, so they still store loads of their stuff here. What a joy to have a place where you can go to garden, have tea, and dream about the next growing season–a place for you! Enjoy!

    • Chloris says:

      It is lovely but unfortunately it is not insulated or heated so I can only use it in summer to take tea and dream in. It’ s rather cold in therd at the moment.

  9. Splendid! The paint definitely kicks it up a notch, so the she shed is very chic indeed. The pianist is to be congratulated on the addition of shelves for your jug collection and the hanging thingy for tools. What are diamonds and rubies compared to such indulgence? It looks like you could move right in…or at least spend many happy hours in this comfy nest. Enjoy!

    • Chloris says:

      Ye, perhaps I should have made it a big bigger and made room for a bed. And I should have had it insulated and perhaps installed a wood burner too. But as it is, it is just for summer use.

  10. Flighty says:

    A wonderful post and lovely photos. I certainly have more than a touch of shed envy as mine is literally smaller than a sentry box.
    Clearly a garden or plot shed is an essential item. They are a constant source of interest both the building and it’s myriad contents.
    Needless to say if I had a bigger plot or a garden then I’d have a shed that I could actually get in to. xx

  11. Cathy says:

    A girl after my own heart Chloris – and perhaps this project is why you asked for a peek inside the sitooterie…. ? Sadly you would have been disappointed as it is merely full of chairs – and now overwintering pelargonium, fuchsia and nerines… Like Hardwick Hall it is more glass than wall so opportunities for personalising are limited – unlike your wonderful she-shed. What a great project and a delightful result with a distinct Chloris personality – and a typical Chloris description in this post too!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Cathy, yes you are quite right I did ask to see inside your sitooterie because I was quite obsessed with everything shed related. I have been asking all my friends to see into their sheds and getting some funny looks.

      • Cathy says:

        Your she-shed certainly made me wonder if there was any way I could personalise the sitooterie as it pretty sexless as it is, but I suspect opportunities are limited – although I do have some broken pottery I was going to use for some future project so…hmm, that’s got me thinking… 😉

  12. It looks like heaven. I suppose my greenhouse is my boudoir (we don’t have a shed at all). It is a bit revealing and getting quite cold, but I do take my tea there when I check the plants out. Yes, yes, yes to your shingle beach. It’s a great idea.

    • Chloris says:

      Well a greenhouse makes a very nice boudoir. My shed is getting rather chilly too. I am glad you agree with the shingle beach idea, I am quite taken with it.

  13. I love it and wish I had one! Lucky, lucky you!

  14. Bodger says:

    The Rolls Royce of sheds, your hard work and careful planning are evident everywhere. I admire your vase and jug display particularly. I had to throw out husband’s antique sock collection to fit mine in.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you, the planning was the fun part. It is good to have somewhere to keep my jugs and vases safe from Mr.Clum who was always knocking them over.
      Antique sock collection? Do you mean all the odd ones whose partners mysteriously disappeared in the wash? I got so sick of doing sock jigsaws that now if one single sock finds itself without a partner it is binned immediately. I refuse to have my life spoilt by delinquent socks.

  15. Brian Skeys says:

    I think it is wonderful Chloris, you have shamed me into tidying up my potting shed!

  16. Lavinia Ross says:

    I love your shed! I have an old garage like that which doubles as a shed. Even has pictures up on the walls!

  17. pbmgarden says:

    Reading about your adventure of shed-making has put a smile on my face this morning. Wishing you years of pleasure.

  18. What a great shed! A place for everything, and everything in its place?

    • Chloris says:

      Yes indeed Cynthia a place for everything. I am collecting vintage biscuit tins to keep things in so everything will be tidy. Unlike in my house where chaos rules. We have too many books and too few shelves.

  19. snowbird says:

    Oh my goodness, what can a girl say? How utterly fabulous, I just love it! What a lot of thought you’ve put into it, I can see why you’re sorry it’s completed. How I would love to visit it, I suspect though that there would be no room for me as I have no doubt that it’s already home to a hundred over-wintering plants!!! Lovely to see your vase collection, I bet there’s more though!xxx

    • Chloris says:

      Well it would be lovely if you would visit me and my shed. I hope you will one day. No over-wintering plants in here I am very fussy about keeping it tidy and organised. You are right this is just a fraction of my jug collection.

  20. What a delightful shed you have made. Sadly, I do not have a shed. I do have a tiny garage, really too small to keep a modern car. So it’s sort of a shed, but it is in desperate need of sorting, it contains an enormous jumble of all kinds of stuff. Your post makes me think of a tongue twister: She sheds chic sheds by the sea shore.

  21. Chloris says:

    No one keeps cars in garages anymore. Our garage is the pianist’ s domain. I never go in there, in fact I couldn’ t get in even if I wanted to. The things he keeps in case they will come in handy astonish me. In fact he has 2 garages, both as bad as the other. I love your tongue twister.

  22. Peter Herpst says:

    Your shed is a delightful creation! So much to admire and copy. The metal bins for potting compost is an idea that I’ll borrow as there is usually a collection of unsightly plastic bags of the stuff in my greenhouse! Much more practical than a boudoir and no silk gown required. However, taking tea at your spacious table is not out of the question. Impressive space you’ve created!

  23. I love, love, love this! It is the perfect haven for you and I am slightly jealous. A great way to end one year and start another, all gleaming and full of gardening potential. I am sure you will enjoy every minute of your she-shed.

  24. carolee says:

    I love your shed. I don’t have a potting area in mine, but do store tools and have all the braided shallots, onions, and garlics, plus bunches of herbs to dry in it. I think I may have to add the white board where I can job down tasks that need doing, seeds that need sowing. It always seems as I am harvesting bits to take in to start dinner, I see something that needs to be done, and think “I must remember to do that first thing tomorrow.” But, then I don’t remember!

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