Debra Prinzing

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Revisiting our Stylish Sheds

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Published in 2008, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways is more relevant than ever!

In 2008, after a year of scouting the country for “stylish sheds” with my wonderful collaborator, Seattle photographer Bill Wright, and after months of interviewing shed owners, designers and builders, then writing 50k words or some ridiculous amount of text, Clarkson Potter (Random House) published Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.

We loved that book so much. We loved how beautiful Bill’s photography was, capturing the personalities and stories of each shed owner, not to mention unique geographical and architectural characteristics of each shed. We loved storytelling through my interviews, conversations that dug deep into the psyche of hideaways, retreats and shelters.

Bill and I were truly ahead of our time. We saw around the corner and we believe that Stylish Sheds captured a shift in how people viewed their gardens and the once-neglected huts or sheds that stood there.

Our book documented that lovely shift toward viewing sanctuary not as somewhere you have to travel to, but somewhere that exists just steps away from your backdoor.

Stylish ShedsWell, 2008 was a financial disaster and the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Our timing could not have been predicted. Ten years later, a number of copycat books emerged on the marketplace. And Bill and I just sat their and thought: Wow, we were visionaries! The promotional machine we needed in the lifestyle media marketplace was in its own crisis when Stylish Sheds was published. That was the era when magazines like House & Garden, Cottage Living, Domino and others suddenly folded.

Eventually, nearly 20k copies of Stylish Sheds were shipped to booksellers, more than any other book I ever wrote. But then, it went out of print a few years later. You can still find this special title on your library shelf and through online sellers of used books.

We were quite suprised recently when Lyda Kay Ferree, a lifestyle writer for a group of magazines in the South, contacted us to see if she could excerpt a few of Bill’s photos and interview me for an April 2020 Home & Garden feature for VIP Jackson Magazine and one of its sister publications.

Lyda Kay definitely “gets” this book. When she contacted me to set up the phone interview, she wrote: “I am fortunate to live in an historic district in a 100-year-old home, complete with the original potting shed with brick walls. (It has electricity but no running water.) I had saved an article about your book as I am getting ideas for my potting shed.”

Well, we had a lovely conversation about Stylish Sheds, and Lyda Kay’s article appears here, with photography graciously provided by Bill. Seeing those beautiful and diminutive structures we documented brings back a flood of memories of that year — between summer of 2006 and summer of 2007 — when Bill and I produced 35 photo shoots in 52 weeks.

Itinerant seekers of inspiration, we felt like we were on a treasure hunt, gathering the best tiny architecture and design ideas to share in our book’s pages.

Lyda Kay has shared the PDF of her article and you can download or read it here. We’re so pleased that she reached out and helped to remind us of this special book and the memories of creating it. Thank you, Lyda Kay!

Flowers, friends and fun in Colorado

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Here I am with Arthur Williams, talented floral designer from Babylon Floral in Denver.

Where have I been lately? Last week, I hopped on an airplane and flew to Denver, which surprisingly is only 2-1/4 hours away from Seattle.

At the invitation of the Denver Botanic Gardens, my collaborator David Perry and I spent three lovely days giving talks and workshops about some of our favorite topics. We met some wonderful new friends and were inspired by the DBG’s beauty as a public space for all of Denver to enjoy.

Last Wednesday evening, I spoke about the “Personal Outdoor Dwelling,” aka “stylish sheds,” featuring many of Bill Wright’s gorgeous photos from our book Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.

Then on Thursday, David and I made a joint presentation on “A Year in Flowers: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Ingredients.” We split the talk into two parts, an illustrated lecture and a flower design demonstration.

My arrangement from the demonstration, featuring Colorado-grown flowers and choke-cherry foliage from the Denver Botanic Gardens.

I was so fortunate that Denver floral artist and designer Arthur Williams, of Babylon Floral, helped procure locally-grown cut flowers for me to work with. Not only that, but he lent me some vases to use. We so enjoyed meeting Arthur and visiting his colorful shop (he’s pretty colorful, too – check out his arms!).

The following morning, Dave taught a hands-on photo workshop that wowed his students with new-found skills for their point-and-shoot digital cameras.

David's photography talk included practical, hands-on training at the botanic garden.

While Dave was with his students, I wandered along the Botanic Garden paths and through the various themed displays, taking in early Rocky Mountain spring day.

We found that the pace of spring’s unfolding in Denver is quite similar to Seattle’s this year. In other words, cooler than normal and later than normal. You’ll see what I mean in the photos I took.

On Friday, we spent a delightful afternoon with my friend and former editor Marlene Blessing. Marlene was my editor on The Abundant Garden and she also created the Pacific Northwest Garden Survival Guide and asked me to write it in 2004. She is an awesome writing coach and an encouraging advisor from whom I learned a lot about storytelling and book creation. I gained much confidence as a writer while working with this dear woman.

Marlene is presently the editor-in-chief of Interweave Press Books. After all the hue and cry about the publishing world falling apart, we took great comfort in the inspired, aggressive and confident approach to niche publishing embodied by this Loveland, Colorado-based imprint. With an emphasis on fiber arts and craft books, Interweave is led by a highly creative and innovative group, including Marlene. You can only imagine the compelling topics we covered during dinner later that evening. Marlene calls Interweave Press founder and creative director Linda Ligon her “Sensei,” but we kinda want to call Marlene our very own Sensei — what a breath of fresh air in a world of book-making!

Chet Anderson (center), with his mom Belle (left) and wife Kristy (right) at their Boulder County Farmer's Market booth.

After eating a delicious meal at Sugarbeet, a hip Longmont restaurant, we retired rather late and incredibly satisfied with our productive day. Bright and early Saturday morning, I picked Dave up at his hotel and we drove about 30 minutes to Boulder. There, we met up with Chet and Kristy Anderson, owners of The Fresh Herb Co., at their Boulder County Farmer’s Market booth.

Chet and Kristy’s farm is actually in Longmont, and they sell most of what they grow through Whole Foods and other retail outlets, but they still bring herb plants, hanging baskets and cut flowers to this market every Saturday. It is the only market in this part of Colorado that requires its vendors to sell what they produce. No dealers or re-sellers here. You meet the growers, purveyors and farmers who have raised or produced their goods – from amazing mushrooms to colorful Easter egg-colored radishes, to beautiful bouquets and more.

Rows and rows of luscious lilies fill 15,000-square-feet of covered growing area at The Fresh Herb Co.

It was fun to walk the market with Chet, who, I swear, could easily be called the “mayor” of the Boulder County Farmer’s Market. His popularity seems second only to his mother Belle’s popularity. She is there every week, helping at The Fresh Herb Co. booth, talking with new and returning customers, and greeting other vendors as longtime friends. It was fun to meet her!

David, Leesly Leon from the Denver Botanic Garden, me, Kristy and Chet Anderson - a group portrait at The Fresh Herb Co.

We followed Chet back to the family’s homestead and farm so that David could do some photography before a tour group from Denver Botanic Garden arrived. Leesly Leon, the DBG’s adult program coordinator, lined up the field trip so that some of the students in our workshops could have a first-hand visit to a flower farm. Chet and Kristy are very successful at what they do, but they are also passionate and humble about their role in bringing flowers from their fields to the customer’s vase.

 “When you know and meet the grower, and when the flowers are fresh and locally grown, there’s no better flower bargain,” Chet told the group. We couldn’t agree more!

Here are some more photographs from our trip – I loved every moment, every visual impression, and the great people we met.

All about designing with gravel

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

A few weeks ago I had a phone date with Stephen Orr, the guy who has held all the jobs I’d love to have: Garden Editor for House & Garden magazine; Garden Editor for Domino magazine . . . and now, garden editorial director for Martha Stewart Living magazine.

He is one of the friendliest and most genuine individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet in the magazine world. It was a treat for me to interview Stephen about the publication of Tomorrow’s Garden, his first book. I’ve met Stephen in person a few times, both in Los Angeles at a Garden Conservancy symposium, and in San Francisco when I spoke at Flora Grubb Nursery after Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, my own book, was published. We garden writers really do live in a small world!

Thanks to Craig Nakano, my editor at the Los Angeles Times HOME section, for agreeing to feature my Q&A with Stephen.

You can click here for the full story. And click here for a web gallery of Stephen’s photography that accompanies his book. Here is an excerpt of my interview with Stephen:

“People don’t think much about where gravel comes from as a resource,” Orr said, yet gravel gardens are becoming increasingly popular. His book features gravel landscapes from Venice and Ojai to Austin, Texas, to Nantucket, Mass. We asked him to discuss gravel as a sustainable design material:

What appeals to you about the use of gravel?

It is such a great base for many styles, from traditional to modern. There are plenty of people in Los Angeles and San Francisco who have jumped on the bandwagon wanting to make low-water gardens, but I’m happy to see it catching on in other parts of the country. The California lifestyle is so amazing, with outdoor rooms, and they can be “floored” differently. One room could be floored with grass, another with stone pavers or gravel.

Designers praise gravel gardens as permeable and an alternative to lawns. How has your view of the material changed?

I was visiting nursery owner Flora Grubb in San Francisco, and she told me she often recommends gravel to customers. And then the question “Where does it come from?” came up. Our conversation opened my eyes to begin viewing gravel as a finite resource.

Where does it come from?

As with so many environmental choices, the decisions we make trying to do the right thing are complex and often somewhat overwhelming. In many cases, gravel does indeed come from local quarries. The Austin gardens in my book used local gravel. Those gardeners like how it matches the colors of the natural geology around them. But in other areas, its origin is a big question mark. Even after a lot of research, I found I still have a lot of questions about how responsibly gravel is mined. The EPA monitors gravel production, which is a huge industry mainly for construction and highway building. In comparison, gravel for gardening use is minor, but it’s still something to be conscious of.

What questions should homeowners be asking about the gravel they buy?

I suggest you approach it like having a local consciousness of food. Don’t buy bags of gravel if you don’t know where it comes from. It may be shipped longer distances than is environmentally responsible. Try instead to source the material close to home.

What type of gravel do you recommend?

There is a difference between “crushed stone,” which has sharper edges, and “pea gravel,” which is rounded. Some people prefer walking on the rounded pea gravel, but consider the environmental impact it takes to extract it from ancient stream-beds formed by alluvial processes over millennia. Pea gravel isn’t a manufactured product. It’s not even a renewable resource. Many forward-thinking designers are switching to more jagged, crushed limestone or granite instead.

Any tips on how gravel should be installed?

One major thing I learned is that the depth of gravel is important. If it’s laid too deep, it’s like trudging through deep snow. Most of the designers I interviewed recommend you first put down a layer of “road base,” bigger pieces of crushed stone — an inch or two in length. Lay it very flat with a compactor and then place just a few inches of crushed gravel or pea gravel on top. This approach makes a very stable surface.

What are some of the interesting ways people use gravel?

I love the modern look of some of the gardens in my book. But I also really love gravel gardens with a more traditional influence where plants are encouraged to self-sow. I’m a plant nut. I come at gardening because I love plants. So to me, the space that contains the plant — the garden — is a frame to show them off. I love seeing volunteers like verbena or a spire of silver verbascum in the gravel. Or, I like to see gravel as the flooring for a spare space containing just a water feature.

Do you see gravel as the anti-lawn?

I like to see gravel and lawn used in combination. Just as a lot of us live without wall-to-wall carpet and instead have rugs with wood floors, I encourage people to think of their lawn as an area rug. Think about using it with an element of crushed rock, such as a flat area under a tree or where you need better drainage.

What to do with salvaged shutters

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Read on to learn what I'm going to do with these amazing shutters!

I recently spent the morning at a cool local flea market in Seattle. I was up early and out the door by 7:15 a.m., ready to get my creative juices going.

My mission: to discover as many castoffs from others that could make their way home with me.

The destination: 2nd Saturdayz, a popular flea market where vendors, dealers and designers come together to do business with salvage-savvy shoppers.

The apt motto: A Saturday Market of Fine Tastes and Curious Treasures.

Once inside the doors of a huge hangar (yes, the flea market is held at a decommissioned Naval base), I met up with Jean and Gillian. But not too much socializing is encouraged at these events. That is, IF you want to get the best deals. First-come, first-serve is the motto. Or: Every woman for herself.

I shouldn’t limit this endeavor to the female salvager because there were many men in attendance at 2nd Saturdayz. But still, you know what I mean. It’s a gal’s paradise.

Galvanized chicken feeder. 30 sizeable oval openings. A succulent planter or a flower holder? Or both?

Lately, I’ve been collecting vintage flower frogs, which makes sense since I’m living and breathing floral design. But this time, instead of finding glass and metal frogs, cages and stem-holders to displace the dreaded florist’s Oasis, I picked up a galvanized metal chicken feeder.

Think of a loooong ice-cube tray with oval cutouts. In metal. Very cool. Now that I’m looking at it again, I may just use this nifty piece as a planter for hardy succulents. It’s probably leaky so that’s going to give the drainage I’ll need.

A nearly-pristine child's typewriter complements my grown-up Underwood.

I also picked up a vintage child’s typewriter. It can play nicely with my retro black Underwood typewriter that we bought back in 1985 at the Rotary Club Auction on Bainbridge Island. I think I paid $5 back in the day.

Those old typewriters, truly relics, are now priced at $50 on up. And to think so many of them have been dismantled to make jewelry from the letter keys. I’m guilty of buying one of those alphabet bracelets, too.

When I walked into one small “booth” with my friend Jean, an awesome Seattle landscape designer, I found myself absent-mindedly stroking the frame and spindles of a cast iron baby crib. The vendor had taken off one of the crib’s side-rails and piled pillows and cushions on the springs and against the three remaining railings.

Here's the end of the baby crib. Next time you see this, I'll be lounging against some cushy pillows, perhaps under a shade tree. This crib will become my garden bench.

What did it recall? Yes, a very fashionable garden daybed or bench. And for $100, I totally lucked out. My friend Gillian, who is a pro at this sort of buying-and-selling of antiques and vintage items at Ravenna Gardens, pulled me aside to share the secret that she’s seen other dealers selling cast iron baby cribs for $600. I don’t have a “garden” in which to place this bench right now, since I’m in a rental house and I’m not yet ready to invest energy on land I don’t own. But . . . I did decide to bring this crib home and store the pieces in the garage until the next garden comes along. Luck-ee me!!!

I couldn’t ignore the central element inside the warehouse – a little hamlet of potting sheds. Their perky corrugated metal roofs, topped with finials created from shiny bits and pieces, stood high above the flea market’s landscape.

While gazing at the rustic but stylish potting sheds, I met designer/builder Bob Bowling. Owner of Bob Bowling Rustics of Whidbey Island, this engaging shed artist greeted me and generously shared his story.

Turns out, like some of the talented folks we featured in Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, Bob makes unique structures using reclaimed and recycled materials. Whimsical and playful, and finished off with salvaged windows, doors and other artifacts, the Rustics sheds are each a delight to see.

Bob's cool garden shed was hard to miss.

The "stripes" come from variously-stained boards.

The prices are reasonable, too. I should know. For $3200, you can get this “Rasta” shed. It measures about 7-by-7 feet in diameter (plus or minus) and features cool details, like the exterior of alternating stripes of differently-stained boards and the window boxes, door hardware and towering finial.

You could easily spend this much for a pre-fab storage or tool shed on the lot of your local big-box store. Which would add more art and style to your life, while also being quite functional?

All this thrifty flea-market shopping had energized me and made me feel quite artistic.

And then I met that shutter duo that called my name. Loudly. They appear to be half-circle crowns or eyebrow tops from a set of plantation shutters.

Wooden, with 2-inch deep slats, these pieces were displayed separately. Once I noticed both of them, I was not going to leave with just one! I don’t think I got a huge bargain, since I paid $28 apiece (but the seller insisted she had just cut the price in half). Whatever. When you spy something so uncommon, you have to act.

Other than changing the depressing buff-colored paint job to something more lively, what on earth do you suppose I will do with these crescent-shaped pieces?

Hello! You two are pretty darned cute. That Baylor Chapman is uber-talented!

Here's another small shutter-turned-wall garden, compliments of Baylor Chapman.

For inspiration, I hearkened swiftly to my visit to Baylor Chapman, a talented San Francisco floral and garden designer I recently profiled for A Fresh Bouquet. After my friends Susan and Rebecca took me to meet Baylor at her floral studio, the three of us accompanied her to her loft apartment in SF’s Mission District.

And there on the outside roof deck, were some pretty amazing succulent gardens – PLANTED IN SHUTTERS!!!

Naturally, I am going to draw from this incredibly clever idea and put those twin shutters to very good use with a vertical planting of hardy succulents. It may take until next spring, but stay tuned. And if you have any suggestions on what color I should use to upgrade the crappy paint color, please chime in.

The trick, according to Baylor, is to secure a layer of landscaping cloth like a little pocket or envelope behind each shutter opening. Then you can add potting soil and plant your sedums, succulents or whatever else seems fitting. You know, I really do love that chocolate brown finish on the shutters. Doesn’t it nicely offset the silver, gray, blue and green foliage of the succulents?

Well, all in day’s work. More to come as I execute these big plans.

Sheds in miniature

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Shedista Kathy Fries, wearing her amazing necklace.

When we wrote about and photographed the multiple sheds at Kathy and Ed Fries’s garden outside Seattle, we titled the chapter “Suburban Follies.” I mean “follies” in a good way because their landscape is dotted with a colony of amazing, fanciful structures.

Just when I think Kathy has exhausted all of her creative brainstorms, she surprises me. Last evening I saw a work of art around her neck that blew my mind. Actually, it is a collection of five works of art, suspended from an elegant gold chain.

These canvases are tiny. Miniature. Diminutive.

A little fairy must have painted the garden and shed still-lifes that range from a pinkie fingernail to a nickel in size.

Kathy is one of the most inspiring, big-idea persons I know, especially when it comes to garden-making and shed design. She recently commissioned this breathtakingly-beautiful piece of jewelry that celebrates all that she loves about her garden.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of her dazzling necklace at our dinner last evening. Thankfully, she allowed me to take photos and write about the art and the artist:

Kathy's one-of-a-kind necklace by artist and painter Christina Goodman

The allure of this art is that Christina Goodman didn’t just shrink down photos of Kathy’s architectural follies and other garden ornamentation to fit inside the Old-World-style gold-leaf cases. No. She painted each of these tiny canvases using a minuscule brush.

According to her web site, this California artist uses “very fine brushes, good lighting and a magnifier . . . and acrylic paint as it dries quickly and allows me to work on a small scale” to create her miniatures.

As for the lovely Renaissance-inspired frames, Christina says she designs and builds them “with wood using miniature moldings and a centuries old water gilding technique. The result is well worth the labor-intensive process. In the end, I hope to capture the luminosity of Renaissance painting in miniature.”

Kathy met Christina last year when the artist exhibited at the Bellevue Arts Festival. Kathy loved her miniature pendants, pins and earrings that featured trees, birds and other scenes from nature.

And she started thinking about the possibilities of having a one-of-a-kind necklace to celebrate her garden and its “sheds.”

One of the pendants was inspired by a vintage cast-iron chicken that is mounted on the Dutch door to the boys’ playhouse (see photo, above left). Kathy requested that Christina render it in miniature for her necklace.

The huge urn (in miniature) that dangles from the right side of her necklace is in reality about 4 feet tall and made of cast iron. I believe it was one of Ed’s “finds” that became a garden gift for Kathy. She jokes that its provenance was as a hotel ash tray. The last time I saw the piece, it was planted with a huge hosta and standing in the shade garden.

The three central gems on Kathy’s necklace include her Viewing Tower, her Doges Palace and Palais de Poulets, her chicken coop. Each was handcrafted by John Akers, a Seattle builder and salvager of architectural artifacts who collaborates with Kathy on many of her garden projects. Just in case you haven’t actually seen these structures before, here is how they look as real-life pieces of architecture. Bill Wright photographed them for our book Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways:

Kathy's tower overlooks her Medieval-inspired knot garden. The octagonal structure rests on a 12-foot-tall platform with steps and an iron railing.

The Doges Palace was once an unsightly 20-by-20 foot aluminum shed. Now a fanciful garden house, it is embellished with verdigris copper sheeting and a clock tower.

The Palais de Poulets, also known as "Clucking Hen Palace," was transformed from a decrepit shed into a functional and decorative coop inhabited by a flock of heirloom chickens.

Can you imagine what I’m fantasizing about? What special piece of art or architecture do I now dream to own in miniature by Christina Goodman? I’ll be on the lookout for just the right precious object.

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.

The Oregonian book review

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
Today’s Oregonian newspaper features an online 3-Star “Excellent” review of Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways by staff garden writer Kym Pokorny. I love how she started out the review:

It’s tempting to describe all 28 sheds in Debra Prinzing’s “Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways,” but that would take the fun out of discovery. Here’s a tease: A tiny, rustic cabin in the woods; an astonishing, asymmetrical, steel-framed structure over a pool; a grass-roofed, Norwegian stabbur; a stucco-and-tile pavilion surrounded by desert plantings. OK, that’s enough.

For those of you who read Kym’s Q&A interview with me and then moseyed over here, I thought I’d share the photos of each of the stylish structures she highlighted in her tease. These photographs reveal the incredible talent of my collaborator William Wright.


A Tiny, Rustic Cabin in the Woods


Separate from the main residence but as comfortable as a little cottage, the 14-by-14 foot writing shed is nestled in the Connecticut woods

Separate from the main residence but as comfortable as a little cottage, the 14-by-14 foot writing shed is nestled in the Connecticut woods



 A Stucco-and-Tile Pavilion Surrounded by Desert Plantings

The grand pavilion sets the stage for entertaining in a gorgeous cactus-and-succulent landscape outside San Diego
The grand pavilion sets the stage for entertaining in a gorgeous cactus-and-succulent landscape outside San Diego


Grass-Roofed, Norwegian Stabbur

The 9-by-12 foot redwood dining pavilion was inspired by traditional Norwegian farm buildings, called stabburs. Complete with a sod roof, it's a magical destination for outdoor gatherings
The 9-by-12 foot redwood dining pavilion was inspired by traditional Norwegian farm buildings, called stabburs. Complete with a sod roof, it’s a magical destination for outdoor gatherings


An Astonishing, Asymmetrical, Steel-Framed Structure Over a Pool

Made from ordinary greenhouse material, the 430-square-foot shed is a winter greenhouse for potted tropical plants. But during summers in Austin, Texas, it's a play pavilion
Made from ordinary greenhouse material, the 430-square-foot shed is a winter greenhouse for potted tropical plants. But during summers in Austin, Texas, it’s a play pavilion

 I hope you find inspiration from these incredibly diverse garden destinations!

Shed Stuff

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

In my past life as a garden writer in Seattle, I had several opportunities to interview landscape architect Alan Burke of Classic Nursery & Landscape Co. in Redmond (outside Seattle). I profiled Alan as one of the “Hot 40 Landscape Designers You Need to Know,” for Northwest Home + Garden Magazine in 2005.

Now we’re just Facebook Friends (since I’m here in Southern California; he’s still in the PNW; and I don’t get to see what he’s up to).

But today, out of the blue, I received this little communique from him on FB:

Today at 4:29pm
So I am having a meeting with a client, we’re talking about an outbuilding. She is thinking of many ideas for the shed, a greenhouse, a writer’s studio, a music room, a conservatory…. As we’re talking I am thinking: “I have to refer her to Deb’s book.” She says: “I saw some great ideas somewhere wait, I…”
I say: “You need to get a copy of Shed Style,” and she almost screams, “That’s it! That’s where I got the idea!”

…It’s a great book to show clients to get the ideas flowing….Great job!

Thanks for the shout-out, Alan. I needed that good news today!
Promise you’ll send me photos of the “outbuilding” you design for your client, okay? I’ll be sure to post them here!

Landscape Architecture magazine reviews Stylish Sheds

Friday, August 7th, 2009

landscapearchitecture002Wow – a nice, little review popped up in the July issue of Landscape Architecture magazine’s “noteworthy” column.

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways: Big Ideas for Small Backyard Destinations, By Debra Prinzing

Don’t expect the sheds displayed in beautiful, full-color photos in this book to house a lawn mower and a jumble of rusty tools. Geared toward an upscale lay audience, this book is intended to inspire affluent home owners to rethink what a “shed” can be: Tea rooms, writing nooks, playhouses, and fanciful creations that defy simple descriptions fill the pages.

It’s nice to be noticed. But of course, we know that stylish sheds do not have to be “upscale” or “affluent.”

As long as they are designed with heart and soul, they will bring comfort, cheer and satisfaction to their occupants.

Even still, maybe the review will inspire more landscape architects to incorporate diminutive sheds and shelters into their clients’ gardens!

Chicken Coop Sightings . . .

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

A vintage EGGS sign hangs in Kathy Fries's fanciful coop

A vintage EGGS sign hangs in Kathy Fries's fanciful coop

Fresh eggs, how can you argue with that idea? I love cooking with fresh, organically-grown eggs produced by free-range hens. Thank goodness that I can buy them at my local, Thousand Oaks Farmers Market every Thursday! 

I wonder how long it will take before I graduate from growing backyard herbs, fruits and vegetables to raising chickens? Let’s see. . . maybe after my children leave for college, and perhaps after my beloved Lab, Zanny, has passed on.

Poultry fever has smitten many of my friends, though. I love the way they’ve integrated chicken culture into horticulture (get it?). And I really love the chicken coop architecture created by inspired hen owners.

Bonnie Manion's hens live in a renovated children's playhouse!

Bonnie Manion's hens live in a renovated children's playhouse!

My blogger friend Bonnie Manion, who writes at Vintage Garden Gal, often shares stories of her hens, advice on raising chickens and even the care an maintenance of coops. She has just inherited a couple of charming gals – Buff Wheaten Marans. You’ll want to read more of Bonnie’s chicken adventures (and see more photos of her charming coop, which is a re-purposed children’s playhouse, shown here ).

Recently, a writer friend of mine paid me what I think was a lovely compliment. She said, “Debra, I want to create a book just like Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways – but about chicken coops!”

And my response: Go for it!

Bill Wright, my fearless collaborator, would love to photograph a chicken coop book. I call him “fearless,” because how else could you describe a guy willing to get inside a coop with half-a-dozen chickens, two youngsters and a lot of feed flying around . . . just to capture the perfect shot!!!?

Here is that photograph, of our dear friend and shedista Kathy Fries, along with her sons Xander and Jasper. We documented a moment in their daily routine, when mom and boys feed and water the chickens, gather eggs, and generally putter around the coop. That coop, by the way, is no ordinary henhouse. You’ll see what I mean about “poultry fever.”

”]Kathy, Jasper (left) and Xander feeding their chickens [William Wright photo]Kathy’s chicken edifice is called the Palais de Poulet. She worked with Seattle artist-builder John Akers to create the magnificent chicken abode, complete with a jaunty turret and a brick entry path lined with boxwood clipped into a fleur de lis pattern.