8 really simple, cheap ways to transform your shed…

September 23rd, 2014
Posted In: Gardening on a budget

I’ve pored over shed brochures and websites. I’ve watched sheds on TV. I try not to brake dangerously when driving past shed companies.

Anyone with a middle-sized garden will always have at least one shed. And it will spell escape, romance, privacy, nostalgia, creativity….as Joel Bird, winner of the Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year 2014, said ‘You can change your life with a shed.’

You may not be ready to change your life – but here are 8 real-life examples of how to transform your shed.

garden shed

Our tool shed is a standard issue, but even so there is a whiff of romance along with the smell of lawn mower fuel. A simple wash of leftover Farrow & Ball ‘Hardwicke White’ paint got rid of the standard brown planking.

Do you have shed fantasies and what do they mean?

So I’ve joined the shed-aholics and sheddies in their shedonism – but, alas, only in my fantasies. In reality, we still have standard,ordinary sheds: Mr Middle-Size’s neat tool shed and my chaotic potting shed with a very dodgy roof. If it rains, I don’t have to water the plants.

I barely have time to tidy it, let alone turn it into a miniature Gothic lodge, American log cabin, shell grotto or Caribbean escape. The bar has been set very high in the world of sheds. A generation ago they were mainly a male domain, and there was even a pretence of tobacco-stained practicality about them.

Normandy Wendy house

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be: it’s taken up residence in our sheds, which have turned into grown-up Wendy houses. Emma and Ian’s old Wendy house in Normandy.

Now sheds have turned into adult wendy houses, masterpieces of craftsmanship and, above all, repositories of nostalgia. What does that say about us all?

shed door

Oh, the nostalgic appeal of a weathered shed door – this one at Littlebredy Walled Garden

1) Transform your shed with paint

If you don’t have time to glue 50,000 shells onto the interior of your shed, or the skills to build a Gothic lodge shed from salvaged material, you can still transform your standard-issue flat-pack. Pick up a pot of paint and a brush, and paint it. In one afternoon.

It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. It’s only a shed. We simply used some leftover Hardwicke White paint from Farrow & Ball on our tool shed.

Just having it a different colour from the standard shed-orange wood has made a difference. Emma Daniell has painted her shed her signature blue colour – it matches her china.

Blue shed

Emma’s shed is a lovely washed-out blue – this was painted several years ago, so the colour has weathered well.

Staining is a good alternative – Griselda Mussett’s pretty shed below is stained in a Cuprinol shade called Sage, available here from Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate so if you buy via links on this site, I may get a small fee. It won’t affect the price you pay.

Griselda’s is a very special shed, as she houses her collection of goddesses in it, which she has collected over the years. They’re displayed in date order, and she says that 9/10ths of it shows history with female goddesses. It is only in the last 10th of the shed’s wall space that a male God appears, and she believes this reflects history and pre-history.

She hasn’t decided what to call it (‘shed’ does seem a little down-played) – but her husband is currently calling it ‘France’, so that when someone calls, he can says ‘Griselda’s in France.’

Griselda's shed

Griselda’s shed (‘France’) is stained with Cuprinol’s Sage – which ‘accidentally matches the water butts’, says Griselda.

 2) But you could go one further and use vibrant colour. 

Canterbury Festival director, Rosie Turner, and her artist friend, Alice,  took two afternoons to paint her standard black shed a bright, eye-catching pink. It’s also from Cuprinol and is called Sweet Sundae. It was a hugely brave choice, but it has paid off. 

But the Kent branch of the National Gardens Scheme got in touch to warn that neighbours could be upset by bright colours if they can see the shed – if you’re doing anything dramatic it might be wise to discuss it with them first.

An eye-catching colour will transform your shed, like this brilliant pink

Rosie Turner painted her shed a bright ‘Barbie’ pink with Cuprinol Sweet Sundae (see end of post for link) creating a vivid ‘pop’ of colour in her garden.

3) Paint windows and doors a different colour

A contrast paint around windows and doors is very cute, and can make a big difference.

Contrast blue and black shed

This black weatherboarded shed in Robin Grimble’s garden looks great with a blue door – photographed for the Faversham Open Gardens Day

4) Or try a simple pattern, such as the ‘beach hut’ look…

Author Veronica Henry has written a number of best-selling novels, many set in the fictional Cornish seaside town of Everdene. Her latest is The Beach Hut Next Door, her second ‘beach hut’ novel. Veronica has painted her own garden shed in Beach Hut style: ‘I found it pretty easy – my eleven year old son and I did it as a project together. We were very lazy and didn’t do masking tape – he did blue and I did white and we each took one side, then swapped and coloured in the blanks.’

‘It absolutely would not stand up to close scrutiny but the overall effect was immensely gratifying and it’s brought a real seaside feel to the garden. We used Cuprinol Garden Shades which cover very quickly and easily, but had to do about 3 coats to get a really good finish.’

‘The horizontal slats which slightly overlapped were much easier than the smoother vertical slats which didn’t have an edge, so we needed a steady hand. I used a really thin brush to get the edges nice and sharp. The letters were the finishing touch – we got a box of metal letters in a junk shop ages ago, and by luck I was able to spell BEACH HUT. I’m now looking for a red and white lifebuoy to finish it off.’

Veronica Henry shed

Author Veronica Henry painted the stripes on this ‘beach hut’ shed herself – she says ‘it doesn’t stand up to close inspection’. But that doesn’t matter.

5) Or even paint a picture on it….

If you enjoy painting, you could go one step further and paint something on your hut. Artist Mandy Broughton is often commissioned to paint sea scenes, and this beach hut on the Tankerton seafront in Kent is painted by her. If you’re a professional artist, you could paint your own shed – but if it all goes horribly wrong, paint over it or commission a pro – it’ll make a big difference to your garden.

Beach hut in Tankerton, Kent

Artist Mandy Broughton painted this beach hut in Tankerton, Kent

6) Add a pergola in front of it…

When Clemency Schofield bought her terraced town house, the 20ftx40ft garden had a shed across the back of it. She really needed the storage space but the building dominated the garden and her view from the kitchen window. So she put a pergola and decking in front of it, then asked talented professional artist Georgia Horton to paint this delightful trompe l’oeuil on it. The chair, table, fork and ‘open’ door with the cat coming out are all painted, not real. The pergola frames the scene. For a similar pergola canopy for your shed, see here.

Shed with trompe l'oeuil

The trompe l’oeuil chair, table, ‘open’ door, cat and spade were painted by artist Georgia Horton – the pergola frames and softens the scene beautifully.

Professional tip: if you’re thinking of painting trompe l’oeuil or a picture on your shed – this shed had over-lapping planks, but Georgia placed a piece of thin board in front of it, and painted the planks, chair, table, fork, and some flowers onto the board. It’s easier to paint onto a flat surface. Theoretically, if you moved, you could take it with you, although that might be a bit mean to your buyers. This trompe l’oeuil is now nearly 10 years old, so it has weathered well.

 7) Or a simple trim…

It doesn’t cost alot to give your shed a simple edging. We added plywood ‘bunting’ around our tool shed, cut into a ‘bunting’ shape with a jigsaw, and painted in a contrast shade of dark purple. It looked great – but the strip on the side didn’t last, because it had no protection from the rain. The gable end ‘bunting’ is better protected by the over-hang of the roof, and although it looks a bit battered it has now weathered four winters.

garden shed

You can just see the plywood ‘bunting’ at the gable end of the roof. We originally added it all round, but it had no protection on the side and peeled off in the rain.

Battlements shed

Miranda’s shed in Dorset has a row of ‘battlements’ cut out along the top. I love the colour, too.

8) Add curtains

Julie Cohen, author of Dear Thing and Where Love Lies, ran up these curtains for her husband’s shed (below) in an afternoon, with a borrowed sewing machine and £10 worth of fabric remnants. She hung his African mask over the door ‘because I didn’t want it in the house – it reminds me of the killer doll in Trilogy of Terror, a film that terrified me as a kid.’

Julie Cohen's shed

£10 curtains made with a borrowed sewing machine turn this workshop shed into a home-from-home. Note the African mask guarding the door. 

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6 comments on "8 really simple, cheap ways to transform your shed…"

  1. Caroline says:

    Loved looking at all the sheds, I transformed my own a couple of years ago with Sweet Pea and Lavender Cuprinol paints. Didn’t get round to the curtain making, but this has inspired me to do it :)

    1. Thank you – do post a picture of the shed with curtains on the Middlesized Garden Facebook page (if you use Facebook) as it sounds lovely.

  2. Since my pink shed featured in your blog an epidemic of shed painting has struck in my road. Two of my closest neighbours have transformed their shed – one a tasteful Eau de Nile, the other a delicious zingy lime green. Open invitation to photograph for Sheds II – the sequel!

    1. I’m there! Will be beating your door (and theirs) down soonest….

  3. Miranda says:

    That was a surprise, seeing my little ‘castle’ shed in your blog. Unfortunately, it is a bit far from the house, and mostly filled with logs, so I am currently fantasising about replicating a friends potting shed, which is made of flint, and a bit of brick, with windows set into one half of the roof, so that it part shed/part greenhouse. It is sooo pretty, and i could while away a lot of time in there with some geraniums and radio 4. i was always led to believe that propagating,( although of course that is only one of many, many things one can do in a shed) is the cerebral part of gardening, and certainly suited to long dark winter afternoons, – as long as one can arrange a little bit of heating in there.
    Perhaps Griselda’s husband should call her shed, in view of all those goddesses, ‘Heaven’? “Griselda’s in Heaven” might give callers a fright!

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