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Shed should be useful while feeding your soul

Debra Prinzing, author of "Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways: Big Ideas for Small Backyard Destinations," who blogs at, offers these design tips for adding a shed:

* Check local building codes. Sheds are usually categorized as an "accessory building" or "temporary building." There may be a maximum size (often 100- to 200- square feet) under which you can build a backyard shed without a permit. Adding electricity, water or other utilities likely requires a building permit. And be sure to ask how close the shed can be located to your property line or main residence.

* Consider the shed's architectural role in the landscape. Is it a design focal point or intentionally hidden from view? Will its walls support vines and climbing roses? Or will the shed be a backdrop for displaying flowerpots, artwork or sculpture? Will it camouflage an unsightly view?

* Choose its placement in the landscape: Can you orient it to allow sunlight to stream through the windows, or will it be nestled beneath a shade tree? Is the ground level, or will you need to excavate or add fill?

* Think carefully about the interiors. Many people build architectural wonders and leave the inner spaces looking ordinary. It's fine to expose the rafters and studs, but can you paint them or mount shelves and hooks for displaying collections?

* Add details that emulate those of your primary residence. Windows should be operable so you can adjust temperatures, create ventilation and -- most important -- hear the sounds of your garden while inside.

As with your home, make sure the doorway linking your "inner sanctum" with the "outdoor world" is symbolic of shelter, safety and haven. Don't settle for an ordinary door from a big-box home center when you can find something special. A salvaged door, especially one with multipaned glass, is a nice choice.

* Remember, this is an outdoor structure. It's OK if you have a cement floor, but consider staining it with an accent color and adding a drain in the center for easy cleanup of gardening projects. Shed floors can be finished with wooden planks, colorful vinyl tile, terra cotta pavers, flagstone, wall-to-wall carpeting or pigmented concrete.

* Give yourself a work surface. Add a counter or potting bench, using the dimensions and proportions of your kitchen counter as a guide. Allow depth to accommodate stacks of pots or a row of gardening books. Are there enough shelves overhead or storage cabinets underneath? Cover the countertops in a durable material, such as copper or galvanized metal sheeting.

* Add ornamentation: Artwork, inside and out, will adorn "a shed of your own" and make it a personal expression of your style.

* Make it comfortable: Even if your shed is mainly home to your gardening projects, designate one corner for R&R. Include a bench with cushions or a wicker chair and good reading lamp (of course, this means electricity). Create a sacred place that nurtures your spirit and feeds your soul.

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