Debra Prinzing

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Shed-of-the-Year . . . you can enter!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Uncle Wilco, as he is depicted on his web site, We *Heart* Sheds (well, this was a holiday version from 2007)

Uncle Wilco, as he is depicted on his web site, We *Heart* Sheds (well, this was a holiday version from 2007)

Here’s some background about SHED OF THE YEAR and its creator Uncle Wilco, a cyber friend who lives in the UK in South Wales, and is the creator of We (Heart) Sheds and several other projects.  I was thrilled to discover that I was not alone on this quest for finding and documenting awesome backyard structures, that many kindred spirits existed on this globe to share my journey. Here is the original story I wrote about Uncle Wilco nearly two years ago. A memorable quote about his Shed of the Year contest:

. . . the British have a love affair with the shed, so really it’s just snowballed. I was lucky to do a few radio interviews. I got the impression they thought I was a nutter . . . ! But at least people realise that I have a passion for sheds, so that’s all that matters.

Imagine my surprise when Wilco asked me to join his illustrious team of judges to represent as the International Judge for the 2010 Shed of the Year competition! The event culminates with an announcement in early July, during National Shed Week, and I’m eager to participate. I’m hoping to get over to the UK to join the others, but at the very least, I will do my part on this end. I encourage any of my readers to submit photos and enter. That is all it takes!

Thought I’d kick things off by telling you a little more about the competition. In the words of Mr. Wilco himself:

Q. You started Shed of the Year in 2007, right? So you’ve had 3 winners!
What has surprised you most about the scope and diversity of sheds
around the globe?

Tony's Roman Temple took honors in the 2007 Shed of the Year contest

Tony's Roman Temple took honors in the 2007 Shed of the Year contest

A. I have run readersheds since 2001  and thought it was time I should celebrate all these great sheds. So I started Shed of the Year. The last three winners have been very different: 1) A Roman Temple,  2) A Pub Shed, and 3) a Cabin. I look forward to shed of the year 2010 — it could be a workshop or studio or even a hut. That’s the thing — we don’t know until the public have voted and the judges have made their decisions for Shed Week 2010.

Q. Who does Sheds better, the UK shed aficionados or the North American ones?

A. Well, I am biased. UK sheds Rock- or should I say UK Sheddies rock. But you US sheddies have a different view on sheds. The UK history with sheds as mainly a man thing is very long and it’s the sheddies that make

Q. Can you please describe “wossname” and how I can explain it to US readers?

A. I am not great with words , so I tend to fill in things I can’t think about with “wossname.” So it’s a term in the UK, like a thing or a “wotsit,” when you can’t think of the real word!

Here's where Uncle Wilco hangs out and enjoys his home brew

Here's where Uncle Wilco hangs out and enjoys his home brew

Q. If you had to spend your final days inside your own shed, what three essential items would you need to bring with you?

A. That’s very difficult. I would say family and friends and  my dog, but as for items it would have to be some home brew (beer).

Q. What kind of swag can I expect for being a Shed of the Year judge?

A. What, the glory of being a judge in the World’s most favourite Shed competition is not enough?

Q. How many entries have you had from North American shed owners (in past years)?

A. Well, it’s not just North American sheds. It’s International, too. We love sheddies from the Americas, Canada, Europe and Australia and New Zealand. You can view all the international sheds entries (199 of them to join the 1200 UK ones) here.

Q. What else do you want my readers to know?

A. That we are welcoming entries to Shed of the Year 2010 now and would love to have some more  Stylish Sheds added. All I ask is that the sheddies add a few good images — including external/internal shots. The more images the better, so the public can get a  good look.

Thanks so much Uncle Wilco – I will do my best to pump up the entries from the International contingent. See you soon.

A Gazebo in the Garden

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009
Kathy Fries, framed by her new gazebo

Kathy Fries, framed by her new gazebo

Most gazebos are a little twee for my liking. If you think of a traditional white latticework structure, the kind that looks as if a gust of wind or a swiftly-kicked soccer ball might knock it over, you probably don’t love gazebos either.

Ever since I started scouting great garden architecture for Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways several years ago, I have changed my tune.

Case in point: When I was in Seattle earlier this summer, my friend Kathy Fries invited me to see her new copper-roofed gazebo. Situated in the heart of Kathy’s prolific vegetable garden, the structure was built by John Akers. I’ve written about Kathy and John’s collaboration before, both in this blog and in the pages of Stylish Sheds. He is a salvage-artist-carpenter who knows how to take Kathy’s grand ideas and construct them into fanciful garden buildings.

It's a lovely addition that enhances the vegetable garden

It's a lovely addition that enhances the vegetable garden

What I love about Kathy’s new gazebo is that it is both beautiful and functional (not to mention sturdy!). In it, you can gain shelter from rain or sunshine; you can pause while picking raspberries and sit on one of two facing interior benches. You can “gaze out” over the garden, looking through openings on either end or the side walls.

The gazebo’s charming rooftop joins several other turrets, cupolas and domes that populate the skyline of Kathy’s garden. Plus, it gives the vegetable garden a new point of view. When John erected the gazebo, it allowed Kathy to realign some of her paths and planting beds on a main axis. It’s beautiful and I know everyone who sees it will start dreaming about a new sort of garden gazebo.

And did you know that Gazebo is believed to come from the Latin for “Gaze About”? I’ve added definitions from several sources to my Shed Glossary, here.

If you have a Gazebo you want to share, please send me the photo and I’ll post it in the future. Here are a few more photos from Kathy’s garden:

A pavilion for the garden

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

A dining pavilion with presence – who wouldn’t want to eat here? Photo by William Wright

Several years ago, Bill Wright and I created an article for Seattle Homes & Lifestyles about dining pavilions. The story centered around one incredible structure, designed by Seattle architect Susan Miller for a client in her neighborhood. What we loved about the design, the materials, the placement and the pure heft of the finished pavilion was its intent. It was designed for a purpose, not just plunked down in the backyard as an afterthought.

The race is on to capture our unfulfilled outdoor spaces for a higher — and better purpose. It’s a crowded field of excellent and inspiring ideas. More than ever we want to define and thoughtfully use the land on which we live (large or small or in between). I note this, not just because I’m living in LA. This phenomenon is all over the west and everywhere summer occurs.

I’ve had the word “Pavilion” in my shed glossary for quite some time and somehow the link was broken. I finally dug into the problem and am reviving the page with new photography. Here is the Pavilion entry.

Here’s an excerpt from my story about dining pavilions, which appeared in May 2002, entitled:

Dining Out: There’s nothing like a backyard pavilion to enhance alfresco entertaining:

Green Lake resident Heidi Hackett wanted to bring her meals into the garden – with more than a picnic table and umbrella. “I wanted something that I could use outside for more days than I would use a deck,” she recalls.

Susan Miller and Amy Gorman of Gardentile Inc. met the challenge, designing Heidi’s garden and its central showpiece: a fanciful dining pavilion that’s a scaled-down version of Heidi’s 1908 farmhouse. The 11-foot-square structure incorporates elements borrowed from the home’s architecture: boxed columns, a shake roof, beveled trim and a cupola.

While she’s designed a fair number of open arbors, Miller says there is an advantage to a covered place in the yard. “This is a great way to extend how you use the garden,” she points out. “The structure is tied to the house, but it stands out in the garden.”

Thoughtful finishes make Heidi’s pavilion an unforgettable destination for entertaining. Dry-set Pennsylvania bluestone pavers cover the patio floor; the ceiling is lined in the same beadboard as the home’s wraparound porch. A copper cap completes the cupola roof.

Borrowing the pattern from the home’s leaded-glass windows, the designers added bands of decorative metalwork between the pavilion’s columns and repeated the detail in an adjacent fence.

As she walks through her kitchen’s French doors, Heidi pauses on the porch to enjoy the view of her charming pavilion. She loves stepping across the whimsical checkerboard pavers that lure her visitors out to the structure.

“I use it all year long,” she says. “I’ll even go out on a rainy afternoon. And last winter, I hung lights there so we could enjoy hot cocoa outside in the evenings.”

What’s a Ramada?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

If you’re following my ongoing Glossary of Garden Architecture, check out this just-added “definition” of a Ramada. [photo source: Arid Lands Newsletter, 1989]

Part arbor-trellis, part pavilion, the open-air structure protects and shelters its occupants from the high-noon sun and also invites breezes to cool and comfort.

According to, the word ramada appears in at least two citations of American literature – in 1909 (Vanished Arizona, by Martha Summerhayes) and 1992 (All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy).

1992: “They sat in the shade of the pole and brush ramada in front of the place and sipped their drinks and looked out at the desolate stillness of the little crossroads at noon. ” Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

1909: (footnote) “A sort of rude awning made of brush and supported by cottonwood poles.” Martha Summerhayes, Vanished Arizona

Read further to discover why it’s important to learn and understand regional influences and cultural origins of architectural terms like ramada.