By Cindy Hadish/for Lure magazine
Call them potting sheds, garden houses or “she sheds” – the female equivalent of a man cave – these outdoor sanctuaries are growing in popularity for homeowners, not only for practical purposes, but for entertaining and aesthetic appeal, as well. Take a look at several of these backyard beauties in the Corridor for inspiration in creating your own.
When Rebecca Mueller needed a space for her gardening tools, she took matters in her own hands, building a shed that’s equal parts rustic and chic, with vintage windows, a flea market find for a door and other recycled items.
“I wanted to build something unique with repurposed materials and this is what I came up with,” said Ms. Mueller, 31, who lives on an acreage between Mount Vernon and Cedar Rapids with her husband and their menagerie of animals, including chickens, miniature donkeys, dogs, cats and rabbits.
Their 25-by-25-foot garden, where tomatoes, onions, potatoes and other vegetables thrive, is a good distance down a path from their home and garage, so she wanted to have her shovels and other tools stored closer on their 7-acre wooded property, not far from the Cedar River.
An old tie rack serves as a garden tool holder on the wall, shelves ensure full use of all of the space inside the petite 8-by-4-foot building, and the windows, a Craigslist buy, allow ample sunlight into the structure to help spur growth for seedlings in the spring.
The exterior walls, supported by 2-by-4s, were salvaged from a horse barn near Dundee, with remnants of a mural still visible on the outside.
Ms. Mueller estimates the materials cost just $400, with the majority of the shed constructed in a weekend. “It really went as planned,” she said.
Lisa Hinzman Howard sketched the concept for her garden shed on a napkin and once her vision came to fruition, found it indispensable for storage, entertaining and more. The 12-by-12-foot structure, with a 5-by-12-foot porch, was constructed by family members with about $3,800 in materials purchased at Menards.
When she first moved to her home in northwest Cedar Rapids, the landscape was bare. A Linn County Master Gardener since 2011 who now operates her own gardening consulting business, Midwest Garden Gal, Ms. Hinzman Howard has created a backyard haven with perennials, vegetables, herbs and other plants, combined with a series of arbors, stones and pathways.
The garden shed stores much of what she doesn’t use in the off-season, including trellises and large rain barrels. Cross-beams become cubbyholes for holding small essentials, while peg boards and wall hooks are used for hanging garden tools and more.
“You name it, it goes in the shed,” said Ms. Hinzman Howard, 47, and while she is all about functionality, the porch offers a spot for kicking back after working in the garden or relaxing over a drink with neighbors, with a firepit nearby. “We come out here all the time to sit with a beer or margaritas; it all happens on the porch.”
A “Lake House” sign on their garden shed is an apt description for the multi-purpose building in the gardens of Monica Morley and her mother, Elena Murillo, in northeast Cedar Rapids.
The shed and seating area, which overlook a koi pond teeming with fish, serve as a feeding station for the koi, a spot to drink coffee in the morning and as storage for the nets, containers of koi food and other items used for the pond and gardens.
“I don’t consider it a regular shed,” said Ms. Morley, 62, noting the position of the building down a path serves as a focal point in the yard. “This gives the illusion that it’s a kind of a getaway in there.”
The custom-made shed cost about $6,000 when Ms. Murillo, Ms. Morley and her husband were creating the design for their backyard more than 15 years ago, and while they wish it could be a bit larger, have found it to be a vital component in their outdoor space.
“I didn’t want a shed that looks the same,” said Ms. Murillo, who, at age 95, actively gardens daily during the growing season. The seating area offers a prime spot for taking breaks to watch the koi and multitude of birds and other wildlife attracted to their gardens. “I’ve learned so much being out here to actually see this little bit of nature.”
If she had her preference, Jeanie Geers would up the scale in decorating the potting shed she shares with her husband, Jerry Geers, outside their Marion home. But because they both use the 12-by-20-foot space, Ms. Geers doesn’t exactly consider the structure a “she shed.”
“It’s a working shed,” she said, noting that at the height of their business, Dry Creek Hostas, she would spend entire days in the outbuilding to pot hostas and more. The two have since retired and are winding down their hosta growing, which takes up much of their 2-acre, shaded yard.
Their cabin-like shed, with a 7-by-20-foot porch, was designed by Ms. Geers, 65, and built by Mr. Geers, 67, with about $7,000 in materials from Menards, including cedar siding, nearly 20 years ago.
“I’m the visionary and it if involves building, he makes it happen,” she said, noting that her husband at first was skeptical about constructing a porch on the shed. “He couldn’t understand why. Of course, our customers always sat there and he sits there all the time. Now he gets it.”
The couple built their shed as large as they could to fit their property and use it not only as a potting shed, but for storing tools, birdhouses, containers and other items for their gardens. Their dogs and grandchildren also hang out on the porch and shed, which includes whimsical finishing touches, such as an old mailbox and frog-shaped door handles.
“I wanted it to fit the space,” Ms. Geers said, pointing out boulders at each end of the structure, with a backdrop of trees. “It nestled in there quite perfectly.”
Potting Shed Tips
Lisa Hinzman Howard, of Midwest Garden Gal, offered the following suggestions for potting sheds:
– Go big. You’ll always have more items to store, so build the largest size shed that can fit in your space.
– Stay neutral. Using beige or another neutral exterior color offers a blank palette for colorful signs and other decorations.
– Think outside the shed. Have a plan for landscaping around the structure, to provide a finished look for the area.
– Get organized. Go vertical with storage, using hooks and pegs for hanging garden hoses and tools.
– Be personal. Decorate your garden shed with signs and art that strike a chord and make you smile. “Trespassers will be composted” is among the messages on one of Ms. Hinzman Howard’s signs.
Learn more about news in the Corridor at the Corridor Business Journal