An Old-Time Garden Shed - Fine Homebuilding

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Fine Homebuilding: The Magazine

Fine Homebuilding: The Magazine


An Old-Time Garden Shed

comments (4) April 29th, 2009 in Blogs
RDA Robyn Doyon-Aitken, producer

This small garden shed has a big presence.
This small garden shed has a big presence.Click To Enlarge

This small garden shed has a big presence.

Photo: Kent Peterson

by David Edrington

There’s no obvious connection between burying utility lines and putting up a garden shed, but that’s what happened at our house. After years of trying to get the power company to streamline a patchwork of wires that crossed over our backyard, the work finally happened. It meant that at last we could improve our yard without worrying about a trench carving it up in the future.

So we fixed the drainage; terraced the slopes; and built rock walls, a brick patio, and a pergola. We also left a spot in the southeast corner for a garden shed.

A tiny building with a big presence Make it look old
A tiny building with a big presence. In the southeast corner of the lot, at its highest point, the garden shed helps to define the borders of distinct outdoor spaces, including a formal garden with a fountain at its center. Drawing: David Edrington   Make it look old. Exposed framing with diagonal sheathing harks back to early-20th-century building practices. Recycled windows, an old Dutch door, and used brick emphasize the rustic feel.


Make it more than a storage bin

Initially, the shed’s purpose was to store garden tools and supplies that were clogging the garage. Its role evolved into a place where we also could have tea and maybe even camp out with the grandchildren. The shed’s most important purpose, however, was to anchor the corner of the yard visually, giving shape to a series of roomlike outdoor spaces. (To view the yard, click here.)

Starting points for the design included a porch (teatime shelter on a rainy Oregon morning), a steep roof (18-in-12 pitch to relate the shed to the steep roof of the existing house), and no modern construction materials. We did use a modern design tool, though. Creating the design in SketchUp let us build the shed on-screen, right down to the number of studs. Our builder, Marv Glover, used both two- and three-dimensional views as he assembled the shed.

Almost like a four-poster bed
Almost like a four-poster bed. Surrounded by bracketed posts, the porch extends the architectural details and colors that characterize the main house into the backyard.
It’s a sleepover shed.
It’s a sleepover shed. Camp-style beds in the loft slip into dormers on both sides of the steep roof. The hatch in the floor between them leads to a pull-down ladder for access.


Construction notes

Garden shed
The shed’s rectangular footprint measures 8 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft. 6 in.; a 4-ft.- 6-in.-deep porch faces the yard. Stick-framed with 2x4s, the shed is sheathed with 1x10 pine boards applied diagonally and exposed on the inside as finished walls. All 12 windows are made from recycled sash. An extrawide pull-down stair leads to a loft, which has dormers front and back. We built a bed into each dormer, with storage underneath.

We compromised a bit on our old-materials-only directive. Besides an electrical system, we installed 1-1⁄2-in. foil-faced rigid insulation under the roof and wall shingles to boost thermal performance. We also mixed our own weathered green stain for the shingles and used gloss enamel paint on the trim and other exposed wood.

The shed is a pleasure to look at any time we’re in the garden, and it’s a wonderful retreat from the house. We love it. The grandchildren love it. In the summer, it is the last spot in the garden to be hit by the late-evening sunset. It glows.

—Architect David Edrington is a frequent contributor to Fine Homebuilding. He’s based in Eugene, Ore. Photos by Kent Peterson.

Click here to return to main article and view other featured projects.


posted in: Blogs, outdoor spaces, cottage

Comments (4)

dmdj dmdj writes: This shed is a beauty! Any chance of getting those Google SketchUps?
Posted: 8:35 pm on May 10th

mac46 mac46 writes: Is there any chance of you publishing your Sketchup file for this garden shed? I find this to be one of the best designs for a garden shed that I have ever found.
Posted: 9:08 am on April 20th

Hellabore Hellabore writes: Yes the Garden Shed is impressive. It is built along the lines of many old little sheds I have seen at old country houses in England (only those were of stone).

Will you be publishing any plans or a bit more detailed drawings with measurements, although in my area of the world a garden shed cannot be larger that 9 x 10 footprint with no height restrictions

It is nice to see a little thought and eye appeal being applied to garden structures.
Posted: 12:12 am on February 11th

Spexcalibur Spexcalibur writes: I know this has been published for a while now. Stumbled upon this shed and been admiring it for a little while now. My wife and I are impressed with the aesthetics and love the second floor sleepover loft. Our two young boys would enjoy something like that. Any chance a blue print or at least some measured drawings are available to inspire a shed we'd like to put in our backyard? Anything you would do differently, looking back? Thanks for sharing.
Posted: 11:17 pm on July 18th

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