The heartbeat of my garden – my transformed shed

This month my shed transformation is being featured in Sunset Magazine (omg – so excited!)

I’ve grown up with Sunset in the house in one form or another, whether it was magazines or DIY garden books lying around my mother’s and grandmother’s house.

So imagine the pride I feel seeing one of the most meaningful areas of my garden featured right there on page 49!

And, as if it couldn’t get any better, one of my close friends (and someone whom I greatly admire,) Debra Lee Baldwin, wrote the article!

Debra and Kathleen Brenzel (Sunset’s garden editor) have visited my garden on different occasions over the past few years, and while I’ve always known my office was a special place to me, I never realized that others felt the same way.

There’s just something so magical about this place, so I thought I’d tell you all a little more about it.

This was originally a fruit shed at some point in the 1930’s or so, as Los Altos was primarily apricot orchards.  But by the time we moved here, when I was 10 years old, the first thing I fell in love with was the spooky, abandoned shed in the back of the garden.

My parents cleaned it up a bit, put in a little window, and a new floor, and it quickly became a hideaway for my brother and me.  We spent many years playing in that shed, having sleepovers with our friends, etc.

Fast forward a few decades.  After moving back home and getting married, my husband and I bought the home (and shed!) from my parents who wanted to move up north.

While my husband and I were busy raising our young children, the shed sat there storing our junk and getting spookier by the year.

It wasn’t a total eyesore on the outside, though, as my mother and I had fixed up the front a bit so it was rustic and charming viewed from the rest of the garden.

But inside?  It was a whole different story. 

The shed was nothing more than a spider-ridden storage unit with holes in the floors and walls.

My husband, Tom, had been wanting to fix up the shed for years, but since I couldn’t quite figure out how I wanted to use it (definitely NOT as a man cave, as he suggested) the remodel never really materialized.

One summer, Tom was between jobs and since he had a little free time on his hands asked, 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!  Tom was in heaven, working every day for the entire summer, on a project he’d wanted to do for years. 

And 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 wanted to keep as much of the original shed as intact as possible – including the old, faded redwood exterior.

And especially the section that my then 10-year old brother had carved his name into (and then vehemently denied.)   

When my mother discovered this, she was furious, but he steadfastly denied it, blaming it on his poor friend.

Hmmm…sounds a tad fishy to me.  

 

And I also wanted to keep the front stoop, cracked and worn thin over the years. 

I think about all the times I’ve stepped into and out of this little building.

 

We wanted a pitched roof, which posed a bit of a problem for Tom as I didn’t want my wonderful, old ‘Lady Banks’ rose to be damaged in the process.

So Tom built a brace that carefully supported the rose as he gingerly pulled it away from the roofline.

My mother had collected a few antique windows over the years, with the intent of someday remodeling the shed herself.

 Those windows, combined with others that we found at various antique stores and flea markets, gave us all we needed for the renovation.

I love these old windows, with their fragile, wavy glass, as they let 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.

Click here to see more pics of different window boxes that I have throughout my garden.

 

I’ve had so much fun personalizing 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 garages, flea markets, and antique shops to find such treasures.

I especially love my dad’s old fishing creole that’s been the home to many little birds over the years.

 

 

While this space was originally re-invented 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, that fill me with joy.

Whether it’s the pansies that my great, great grandmother painted for her mother (left), the bookcase my father built for me when I was a toddler, shells collected, or artwork my daughter’s made over the years – all of these items give me endless joy and inspiration.

 

When I designed the back garden, I created a curving path with the intent of slightly obscuring the shed. 

It’s like a secret that’s tucked away just waiting to be discovered.

 

This little shed is the heartbeat of my garden. 

And to know that others can also feel how special it is makes it all the more meaningful.

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43 Comments

  • 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!

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

      Reply
      • 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!

        Reply
  • 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!

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

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  • 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.

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

      Reply
  • 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

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

      Reply
  • 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. ??

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

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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!!!

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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! 😉

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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….

      Reply
  • 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).

    Reply
    • 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!)

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

      Reply

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