My she-shed, bitch barn, backyard sanctuary

Posted on Tue, 8 Oct 2019 by KiM

In the spring my husband and I had several conversations about all the yard work we had to do this summer. Almost every inch of our property needed work, with the exception of our back porch and raised vegetable garden, which we built a few summers ago. We got started with some fencing in the backyard, and once that was done we started discussing the structure I wanted at the back of the yard. I wanted a place to hang out in over the summer months, and the conversations started with a deck with pergola roof, then turned into a covered roof so it could be used in the rain, then turned into a screened-in structure because I hate bugs, which then turned into a completely sealed structure so I could also store our outdoor furniture in it in the winter. What was maybe a 2-weekend project turned into a 3 months of weekends project. While this endeavour monopolized our entire summer, I look at these photos and I start tearing up. This she-shed is my dream come true. And we built the entire thing ourselves. (Before you start looking for step-by-step instructions, let me tell you that you won’t find any. We “winged” this and while it’s totally sturdy and meets all of my needs, we’re no experts). Unfortunately we finished it with only a few weeks left of warm weather, but the fact that we finished it with only working 1 day a week is a miracle.

I would like to thank the wonderful people at Farrow & Ball Canada for once again supplying me with paint for yet another one of my painting projects. This was built with basic pressure treated posts and a sort of bead-board style rough plywood for the exterior (and plastic corrugated sheets for the roof) so what were inexpensive materials and not very pleasing to the eye. I knew I was going to paint this structure and lawd half mursey was that ever an undertaking! I used their wood knot & resin primer in eggshell, then painted the exterior with exterior eggshell in Studio Green, and the interior with exterior eggshell in Yeabridge Green, and decided to stripe the floors with both colours. I will always sing the praises of Farrow & Ball paints, and now I can do so with their exterior paint. It worked like a charm and the rough plywood exterior thankfully only needed one coat. The colours are gorgeous and add drama to the exterior and a bright and cheerful vibe to the interior, whilst blending in with the tree and eventually the plants I’ll have planted next year. I could not be happier with how the paint turned out.

I mentioned to my husband one day that we should try to find some old windows for the front wall. Having no real plan in my mind we started searching Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace looking for old windows, ideally a couple leaded or stained glass ones to group and make one large window. Then husband stumbled upon a Kijiji ad that turned out was posted by Northern Art Glass, a stained glass artists’ studio a few blocks from our house, who were selling off about a hundred windows they had removed from a home (and replaced with newer ones). We went to look at them and were thrilled with how beautiful they were (despite being in rough shape) and they were selling them for $30 each! We had already built the front opening of the she-shed so husband took some measurements and realized that we could use 8 of the windows of a particular size and have them cover the entire opening. If that wasn’t enough of a miracle, when we went to pick up the windows they told us because we were buying so many they’d be $25 each! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! A whopping $200. Another miracle. And our house has all leaded windows so it gives the impression that the shed has been there as long as the house has (1940).

We had a bit of a hard time figuring out what hardware to use for the windows so they could all open and close without us having to worry about wind blowing and smashing the glass, but in the end we ended up with simple chain and eye hooks to prop open the lower horizontal windows, and my genius husband found some bronze lid hinges on Amazon for $12.50/4 that work perfectly for the upper vertical windows. And then sliding latches on each one to seal them closed.

On each side of the she-shed we installed barn door tracks and went to Habitat for Humanity Restore and found 2 gorgeous solid oak doors for $40 a piece. On the entrance side (the photo above) my husband built a screen door, and on the other side the opening is a screened frame so on really warm days all the windows can be opened, and both doors can slide back for air flow from one side to the other. With those openings screened in, and all of the windows having screened frames, and with the floor boards being siliconed in each of the seams (I told you I hate bugs!) this is a completely bug-free zone. So no matter how bad the mosquitos might get, I can relax out here and not fret. I should also point out that this area of the yard is shaded all day except for maybe 1.5 hours in the late afternoon so the clear plastic roof was a great choice as it keeps the space really bright and should not get too hot when temperatures soar.

Before I get to the interior, I will warn you that aside from the polka dot rug (H&M) and the floor lamp and basket (Homesense), everything else was sourced from around the house. With this project and the subsequent landscaping projects I have coming, there was really no budget nor time to do much else. The art I bought a couple of years ago from my friend Sara for I think $40, and all of the textiles and the hanging rope chair are brought back from past trips to Mexico. I’m hoping I’ll have some funds in the spring to have husband build a platform along the back wall and have seat cushions made, and then we can buy a projector and screen so we can have movie nights out here. When I dream, I dream BIG! In the meantime I have gotten as much use out of the space as I can before winter hits. I have even worked from home several days and spent it out here, and hope to get a couple more days in this week too.

The day of this photo shoot I dumped all of this black mulch around the she-shed to hide the dirt. We have lots of landscaping work to still do back here but you’ll have to wait until spring to see what we do. And the day before the shoot I picked up these sweet retro Solair chairs on sale from The Modern Shop. I was sooooo relieved because I’ve always wanted these, and wasn’t sure what I was going to put here that would look decent enough to photograph. Score x 4!

Throwing in a progress shot below. You can see why this was absolute hell to paint. Add in 8 windows to get the full picture of how much time I spent painting.

Anke says:

Fabulous, I love the painted floorboards, the hanging chair, the cushions… everything. You must be spending at least half of your daytime in there now!

KiM says:

Thanks Anke! The weather is getting a bit too cool to hang out in it in the evenings but I am trying to work from home a couple days a week and spend it in there (like the next 2 days since the weather is reasonable)

Faizan says:

Absolutely amazing and inspirational. Love the paint, windows, door, love everything. Hope you get to enjoy it for many summers to come

KiM says:

Thanks alot Faizan! It’s going to get alot of use for as long as we’re in this house

Suzanne Melton says:

Kim, you and your husband did a fantastic job!

Not only in creating the design, but in finding the coolest materials.

This is a perfect example of not needing an unlimited budget to create something unique that does its job while being beautiful.

We were at Costco yesterday and they were selling a very generic-looking shed at the front entrance: $2,199.

KiM says:

OMG Suzanne thank you so much for the kind words! I think in the end the materials cost us about $1500. And I love that you will never find the same thing anywhere else. And definitively not at Costco.

Kathy says:

Most importantly: how do the cats like it? (Or are your kitties indoor-only?)

KiM says:

The cats have their catio to hang out in so I prefer this to be more my zone but I have brought some of them out to the shed and so far Felix really likes it 🙂

axie says:

Fantastic Kim!! You and your husband are so talented! Great design, inside and out. I absolutely love those windows- well, all of it, but especially those WINDOWS!

Good job, I can’t wait to see snow pics.. 🙂

KiM says:

Thanks axie! The windows are epic 🙂 I’m hoping this thing holds up in the winter and we’ve been trying to find a propane fire pit for the deck so we can hang out there a bit in winter but maybe pointless given how much I detest the cold. But yes maybe I’ll just enjoy it from afar via photos LOL

Long live the bitch barn!

KiM says:

🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼

atma says:

This is so cool, you’re such an artist, and can I come over for movie nights? (just kidding on the movie nights of course 🙂 )

KiM says:

😊thanks so much atma! Someone on IG suggested starting a club so we can all meet in the she-shed LOL I should just start a movie club

ru says:

Oh Kim, best she-shed av seen and what a wonderful story! Inspirational….

KiM says:

Thanks so much!!!

mary says:

Did you need to get any permit to build this free standing shed?

KiM says:

We made sure it was small enough it didn’t require a permit.

Susann says:

That looks so inviting and so unique! You and your husband are an great team!

KiM says:

Thanks so much Susann!!! XO

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