3 Backyard Hideaways

Stylish garden sheds give new meaning to living well outdoors.

By Angela Cabotaje June 2, 2014 Published in the June 2014 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Will Austin

The Dual-Purpose Shed

Katherine Anderson’s Seward Park garden shed sprouts a wild head of hair in summer. Poppies bloom bright orange, white, and rosy pink across the living roof, giving the contemporary structure—framed with weather-rusted steel and clad in ipe wood slats—a colorful mane. It’s a far cry from the mess of ivy and cold concrete that once overwhelmed the backyard.

“I’m a florist and landscape architect, so I spend a lot of time in the garden,” says Anderson, owner of Capitol Hill flower shop Marigold and Mint. “And our kids’ bikes, kayaks, and pool toys needed to go somewhere because we didn’t have a garage.”

Luckily, Shed Architecture and Design’s Thomas Schaer, the project lead for Anderson’s backyard remodel, had a plan: a multipurpose shed that would seamlessly blend in with the fence and new landscaping. 

“It’s all meant to be clean and subdued, so it falls into the backdrop and lets the plants take hold,” Schaer explains.

A large door on the shed’s front, house-facing side slides open to reveal a tidy potting area complete with sink, poured-concrete counters, and walls that gleam with shiny blue oil paint. Around back, another large door conceals storage space for the family’s outdoor gear. Anderson coated the walls here with leftover orchid-pink paint from her daughter’s bedroom. 

And that mess of ivy? It’s long been forgotten. “It’s nice having a prettier space,” Anderson says. “We often have dinner out on the lawn, so the shed can be used as a bar for a party. But we mostly use the sink to fill up water balloons.” 

Architect: Shed Architecture and Design, 206-320-8700  http://shedbuilt.com 

The Garden Gazebo

Perched on the edge of a Kirkland patio is a purple-and-yellow beauty queen. Her tall windows suck in sunshine, drenching her whitewashed walls and knotty pine floors with light. Up top, a lantern cupola of a crown points skyward.

“It’s so darn charming to be in,” Mark Hickling says of his backyard stunner, a traditional Swedish pavilion called a lusthus. “I find it’s a beautiful place to slip away to in the afternoon with a book or laptop.”

This charming Swedish pavilion even has a wall heater for year-round relaxation. Images courtesy Michael V. Rainwater, Scandinavian Pavilions

Hickling’s lusthus love affair began some 30 years ago, when he and wife Lena Lönnberg married in Stockholm near a centuries-old garden pavilion. “I just knew they belonged in the Northwest,” Hickling says of the graciously proportioned gazebos.

And so the couple decided to take a leap, founding Scandinavian Garden Pavilions, a company that imports traditional lusthus to the United States. The very first order was for their backyard.

Most of the year, Hickling and Lönnberg keep their pavilion stocked with comfy, slipcovered armchairs and a cherry-red coffee table. But in summer, when the doors and windows are usually open to catch the breeze, they swap in an old Swedish table and hold all-night dinner parties beneath the gazebo chandelier.

Customers have ordered pavilions to use as backyard offices or art studios. And Hickling and Lönnberg’s daughter even cleared theirs out to create a private yoga sanctuary. The lusthus love bug, it seems, has caught on. 

Pavilion: Scandinavian Garden Pavilions, 425-985-1249 scandinavianpavilions.com

The Backyard Cottage 

Carol Leppa’s “bean palace” is a maze of planter boxes behind her Ravenna home—10 in all—where verdant vines rooted in the dirt entwine on a shared trellis. The nearly year-round bounty keeps Leppa busy in all types of weather, so having a garden shed that could keep up with her harvest habits became a must.

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Image: Will Austin

“I wanted someplace that could open up into the yard, where I could be in and out of the rain, where it was part of the garden rather than separated from it,” the homeowner says.

Enter Lisa Port of Banyon Tree Design Studio, who sketched up ideas for a cedar-frame structure with navy batten siding. Leppa also added design touches, asking Port to incorporate a mullioned window and set of white French and Dutch doors she had purchased.

“I had actually designed something a little more utilitarian, but when she found the doors and windows, it really set the character,” Port says.

A chair and table inside let Leppa relax while waiting out the rain, but on clear days, she suns out on the brick patio. On days like that, in the height of summer, thick grape vines cascade down from the custom cedar arbor like a leafy toupee.

The shed has so much sweet appeal that Leppa’s friends even built her a chicken coop modeled in the same style—complete with white-trim window frames, of course.

Architect: Banyon Tree Design Studio Landscape and Architecture, 206-383-5572; banyontreedesign.com
Doors: Frank Lumber, 17727 15th Ave NE, Shoreline, 206-362-2311; franklumberthedoorstore.com
Window: The Re Store, 1440 NW 52nd St, Ballard, 206-297-9119; re-store.org

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