Shedding light on a garden escape

Bring a little cottage vibe to any backyard by transforming a shed into a private retreat.

by Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault | photography by Larry Arnal

After a year of lockdown in a house with four males (two of them growing teens, one with a waggy tail and all with an insatiable appetite), I was desperately craving a change of scene and a little retreat of my own that was comfortable, quiet and removed from the constant bellows of “I’m hungry,” “I’m bored,” and “I’m still hungry.” Since lockdown foiled any hopes of a cottage getaway this year, I decided to bring the cottage to my backyard by transforming my cluttered, underutilized shed into a private garden escape.

I had a dream of transforming the space into a multi-purpose retreat complete with a workbench to dabble with the occasional gardening and DIY project, a quaint sitting area where I could put my feet up to relax, and a stylish storage solution to stash necessary tools and yard equipment.

My main goal for the space was to make it feel like an extension of our home. But as with all of my design projects, I was determined to achieve my champagne dreams with only a modest root beer budget, so I quickly rolled up my sleeves and prepared to work some DIY magic.


First, I needed to come up with a solution to clad the uneven studs that was practical, durable and, of course, affordable. I started by installing 1/8-inch-thick hardboard in 4-inch-by-8-inch sheets, and then made my own faux shiplap panels by cutting the same material into 8-inch-wide strips on my table saw. I then installed the panels over the hardboard with vertical construction adhesive and a pin nailer, and sealed all the surfaces with Zinsser Perma White, which protects moisture prone areas such as sheds and is formulated specifically to prevent mould and mildew. I sprayed the same paint and primer finish on the ceiling rafters, and the end result was a bright, fresh interior for a fraction of the cost of traditional shiplap.


For the floor, I wanted a finish that would be practical and easy to clean, as well as something that was budget conscious without sacrificing quality and style. Although the existing plywood floor was filthy and stained with oil, I was confident I could transform it into something spectacular. After a little old-fashioned elbow grease and some KrudKutter cleaner, I filled all the holes and seams with Varathane wood filler and then primed the floor with Rust-Oleum Concrete and Garage Recoat Primer. The grey primer was a huge cosmetic improvement, but my final step was to apply RockSolid, a DIY-friendly coating that’s 20 times stronger than epoxy. Not only is it extremely durable, but the high gloss finish paired with the midnight black mica pigment to give the floor a sophisticated showroom worthy sparkle.


Finding a ready-made storage solution to house our gardening tools (and to fit the vibe of the space) proved challenging. So, when in doubt, DIY! I went on the hunt for a closed-door armoire or cupboard that could be customized with colour, and found the perfect secondhand find via an online liquidator. A once boring greige metal office cabinet got a fresh coat of glossy green Tremclad, a paint that’s designed specifically for metal surfaces. With all the shelves removed, it became the perfect place to store rakes, shovels, tools and more.


Adding a functional workbench to the space was a priority, but I Adding a functional workbench was a priority, but I was eager to find something that would strike a balance between a modern and rustic aesthetic. I didn’t want a precious work surface that would show every little scratch or scrape, so I married the clean lines of two white Ikea A-frame desk legs with a DIY distressed pine plank tabletop. By using three pine boards joined together with wood glue and metal mending plates, I then distressed the top with a wire brush before coating with Sun Bleached Varathane stain. The secret ingredient to create the weathered look was black Wood Grain Enhancer (to accentuate the distressing) and, with a topcoat of clear Triple Thick to seal and protect the surface, the desktop proved a quick and easy way to add bags of customized character.


Taking cues from nature, I created a simple DIY collage art wall featuring blooms straight from my garden. After drying and pressing various flowers and leaves, I displayed them in simple frames that each got a splash of colour with Painter’s Touch green spray paint. To add a sprinkle of colour, I applied a floral stencil pattern to a few of the photo mats using a foam brush and Chalked Paint in “Sensible Sage.”

From stud-to-shiplap walls, stained-to-sparkly floors and a greige-to-green cabinet, my little shed has transformed into the perfect cottage escape. Just a few steps from home.

Colour Guide

Shiplap wall: Perma White, Zinsser

Floor: Midnight Black, RockSolid

Workbench and crates: Sun Bleached, Varathane and Wood Grain Enhancer, Varathane

Metal cabinet: Gloss Green, Tremclad

Frames: Hunt Club Green, Painter’s Touch 2x

Photo mats: Sensible Sage, Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint

Sources Pillows, rug, rattan chair, face stool, round table, ladder, market basket, accessories Desk legs, desk chair, wall frames, crates, throw blanket, faux plants Hardboard, pegboard

Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault – a self-proclaimed DIY ninja whose design philosophy fuses ingenuity, quirk and quality on a budget – is the owner of design firm Hue La La and is a regular contributor to Cityline.