Designing the World’s Most Pretentious Garden Shed


The new garden shed, under construction.

At the very top of my “honey-do” list is a much needed garden shed to store tools, pots, fertilizer and chicken feed. After years of dragging my heels for years, the project went from napkin sketch to construction in under a week.

I set as my goal to build the world’s most pretentious garden shed and, as much as possible, to use salvaged materials. Yes, I’m crazy. I have to admit that when British hedge fund manager Crispen Odey tried to build a $250,000 neo-classical chicken coop at the height of the 2008 economic crisis I couldn’t help but admire the design.


For ideas I thumbed through a coffee table book of 18th century French revolutionary architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s oddball sketches But fabricating a waterproof sphere from used headboards and pallets is beyond my carpentry abilities. Nevertheless, I came up with a few scribbles:


Thankfully, most of my thoughtstylings stay in the sketchbook like the idea of a 20-foot tall observation chair on top of the shed. Kelly pointed out that the neighbors might not like that idea.

After dashing off a few sketches I created a Pinterest board to gather more notions, mostly from Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden, Little Sparta:
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The garden shed design I settled on is a kind of mashup of Ian Hamilton Finlay and the front of an “airplane” bungalow (a common type of house in our neighborhood).

Next it was time to put the idea into Sketchup. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sketchup rocks. All DIYers should know how to use it. With Sketchup I was able to come up with a framing plan that allowed me to cut all the pieces out of the hot sun in the comfort of my garage workshop. Then I just had to carry my stack of pre-cut lumber up the hill and hammer it together.

garden shed 3

Another goal of mine was not to hoard materials ahead of time. I’ve been aided by two great resources, Reuse People of America and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They both hoard materials so you don’t have to. Those two resources have kept me mostly out of the big orange store. And all of the doors I needed came from the street.

I’ll post an update and maybe even a video tour when I finish construction. Rents are so high in our neighborhood that Kelly and I might just move into the shed and rent out the house!

Leave a comment


  1. I remember hearing about your columns a few years back. So glad you are putting them to good use. An observation chair? One person? I would have added a deck. Maybe not 20 feet though. Can’t wait to see the finished project. My last garden shed was made from discarded windows. I heard the new owners of my old house tore it out.

  2. I like a good folly and I think your shed falls in that class of architecture- “Folly architecture, from the French word for ‘foolish,’ is eccentric and extravagant architecture with an appearance that far overshadows its purpose.” Well done!

  3. Oh gawd. Put those columns to their highest and best use as a bonfire. Kelly. Make him staaaahhhhpppp. LOLOLOL

  4. What a handsome shed!

    We have just finished our second chicken coop this year and I was thinking it was a bit over the top – foundation sturdy enough to support a semi truck, fully insulated (1″foam), front interior wall of hardware cloth to allow plenty of ventilation in summer, 96 square feet of chicken comfort, interior wall to protect against drafts – but it lacks the classic style of your fine structure. I won’t show your photo to the husband lest he feel he’s been outdone 😉

    • What I also have is a husband who spent decades working in industrial and commercial construction. He not only has the knowledge and the skills, but also all the tools. There’s no project around here that doesn’t get supersized.

      I’ll admit that the insulation was my idea. We live on a mountain top in Vermont; last February 13, late at night, our thermometer registered -30F and the stiff wind made it even more dangerous. I did not want the girls to get chilled by a draft in the coop.

  5. I’m laughing that you all remember him proudly dragging home those damned columns from the dumpster in front of the House-Which-Became-the-House-of-the-Cinemetographer-of-Revenant. And yes, we’ve only been tripping over them for the last two years or whatever. I’m so grateful that they’ve finally been put to use, and we won’t have to be buried with them.

    And most importantly, I’m grateful for my shed!!! Thank you, honey!

  6. Pingback: Shedcropolis: A Garden Shed Made From (Mostly) Salvaged Materials | Root Simple

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