by Debra Prinzing

“When you were a kid, did you have a secret hideout? A fort, a tree house, or even a blanket draped
over the card table where you and your friends (imaginary or real) could steal away from adults’ peering eyes?”

This question strikes a chord with people. “Yes,” said one woman, host of her own radio show on an NPR affiliate. “But my hideout was the coat closet of the Manhattan apartment where I grew up.”

“Sure,” exclaimed another radio host. “It was the giant box our refrigerator came in and I had hours of fun playing inside.”

Now that we’re grownups, we need those personal hideaways and havens more than ever. Rather than building a house addition or “trading up” for a larger home, many of us simply plan an escape to the great outdoors.

It’s not so much about amassing more space as it is about having a door to close. And maybe enjoying views through a small window that overlooks the herb garden. That would be nice.

You can repurpose a conventional potting shed and use it for your private passion, say to practice yoga or to finally set up the long-ignored easel and begin painting again.

Or, you might build something from scratch that could otherwise be called a pavilion, studio, cottage or summerhouse – or folly.

Think about what’s missing in your life and perhaps you can devote the tricked-out mini-barn to that activity.

To my friend John Akers, a Seattle carpenter and self-described “glorified recycler” who has designed and constructed dozens of tiny garden buildings in the past decade (including several sheds featured in our book), these reimagined shacks have attained a higher purpose.

“I’ve seen so many situations where people have slowed down because of adding a shed to their property,” John observes. “They experience something intangible when entering their sheds. Maybe it transports them to a simpler time.” John sums up his observations with a laugh:“I guess you could say my motto is ‘build a shed and change your life.’”

Amen, Brother.

So here’s my challenge question to Garden Rant readers. The winner will receive a signed copy of Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, along with a set of cool note cards featuring Bill Wright’s photography.

“What’s your dream shed and how will you use it?”

When I posed this question to an audience at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show last year, I was thrilled with the clever, innovative and heartfelt suggestions offered by way of handwritten notes and sketches on index cards. Many addressed a sensible space solution; others were purely frivolous, and all evoked a personal wish for individual expression. Here are some of my favorite ideas: a quilter’s haven, a garden reading room, a yoga retreat, an entertainment hut, and a gallery for displaying thirty birdhouses.

I look forward to hearing how you imagine your own elegant hideaway.