Say, "garden shed," and what leaps to this earthbound mind is a humble structure with plenty of hooks and bins to store the arsenal it takes to bend nature to (wo)man's will. Apparently, that is not at all what Berkshire Botanical Garden trustee Matt Larkin meant when he asked a handful of design professionals to each take a humble garden shed and, in one week, transform it into something so wonderful it could remain on view for the entire season. The goal, according to BBG Executive Director Molly Boxer, was to illustrate, "how we can live in nature with style and a touch of whimsy." Whether a touch or a truckload, whimsy is the tie that binds the five sheds together. Each has been masterfully upholstered, shingled, thatched, painted, fenestrated, retro-fitted, and otherwise bent to its designer's will. The results, including Sarah and Peter Thorne's "Berkshire Artist's Retreat" (above), are pure delight. The photograph above and the one just below are by Reinout van Wagtendonk @ Berkshots.com.
Swedish Reading RetreatAnnie Selke of Pine Cone Hill in Lenox, had her shed hauled to her trusty carpentry shop, where the carpenters raised its roof to make room for clerestory windows all around, then poked a cupola into the peak. Selke also asked them to install solar-powered lighting in the cupola so it would be illuminated at night. Inside, book and magazine holders are tucked between studs, and two cushy banquette-style daybeds covered in pale fabrics await readers.
Berkshire Artist's HideawaySarah and Peter Thorne, designers from West Stockbridge, created a retreat for a mythical Berkshire artist, then filled it, aptly enough, with furnishings and art made by actual Berkshire artists and artisans. Like the rest of the sheds, the Thornes' may be won via silent auction. Bids open at $5,000. For those determined to win, $10,000 will halt the bidding.
Garden Blogger's RetreatMichael Devine of Michael Devine Home, purveyors of handprinted fabrics and accessories, has given his shed an Anglo-American twist, starting at the peak of the thatched roof with a pair of whippet effigies. The antiques-and-pale-fabric-filled interior suggest the sort of blogger who likes to tend to her toilette, then slip into suitable couture before committing flowery thoughts to computer screen. The winning bidder on this chic shed will get the dogs and the building, including the mirrors and yards and yards of curtains. The furniture, however, must be purchased separately.
18th Century Privy
Designers Dick Bories and James Shearron of Bories and Shearron, dug into the neo-classical bag of tricks to solve a problem as old as gardening itself—how to dignify the loo. To bring the exterior of their outhouse up to snuff, they added a cedar shake hip roof, articulated corner quoins and skirting boards. Inside, a floor-to-ceiling divided light and quality brass fittings elevate their 4-holer to a Jeffersonian ideal. An alternative use of the shed, as suggested by Matt Larkin: Close all lids, force yourself to forget what's under there, and pull in a table. Voila! a dinner party setting out of a dream.
Set designer Chase Booth, lately of Domino Magazine, seems to have had a stylish hermit, or perhaps a Buddhist on retreat, in mind when he designed his shed. Booth covered the floor with pine needles, making the structure seem as if it were growing out of the earth. This illusion is furthered by a ceiling of birch logs and outside a roof lost in a tangle of twigs. An enigmatic rear "window" is all mirrors and mullions obscured by staghorn ferns. However, inside, the window does not exist—all the better for looking inward?
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We celebrate the best of rural life in Berkshire, Columbia, northern Dutchess and northern Litchfield counties with a lively mix of features about food, parties and philanthropic social events, real estate, cultural arts, books, wellness, shopping, garden, community, excursions and lodgings, and the region’s best curated event listings. We take our readers on discoveries from one end of our region to the other. Rural Intelligence is the definitive online guide to all that's happening in the region.