An Iowa homeowner transformed a purchased shed into a relaxing hangout with clever DIY projects and cottage-style decorating ideas.

By Lacey Howard
May 13, 2020
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"I guess I was bored and needed a project," Karen Zimmerman, a self-diagnosed "tiny house freak," says of her backyard shed. "I love decorating and many of the projects in my fixer-upper bungalow were done." The Altoona, Iowa, resident's stay-busy attitude landed an 8×14-foot shed in her backyard.

Credit: Pete Krumhardt

Karen personalized a stock building plan and hired a builder. "I wanted the roof to be more pitched and I wanted an overhang over the front door, like a house," she says. "I drew up what I wanted and he built it, and we took it from there."

Once the structure was built, Karen and her husband, Doug, wired the building for electricity and added insulation, then covered the interior with 4×8-foot wood panels that have the look of horizontal shiplap. "I'm fairly impatient to get things done," Karen says. "I had the back half of the shed painted and pictures hung before my husband finished the walls at the front!"

Credit: Pete Krumhardt

On the exterior, Karen created a front porch by building a ground-level deck the width of the shed. Inspired by Pinterest, she decided her new shed was already in need of a makeover. "When it was first built it had regular siding on it. I loved the look of shake shingles and knew it needed to be changed." The couple used real cedar shake, stapling each one in place. "I was told it wouldn't take long, but let's just say I was misinformed," Karen says with a laugh. "I'd say it took about a week, and then I had to paint a sealer on top. That may not seem long, but to me it was an eternity!"

Karen bought old corrugated tin on Facebook Marketplace to use on the underside of the portico and in the garden closet at the rear of the shed.

Credit: Pete Krumhardt

A half-light door painted teal blue was the finishing touch to Karen's vision. "Adding the walkway and the deck makes it look like a cottage," she says. "And the view of it from our main house is great. I appreciate my shed as much for the yard art it provides as the interior itself."

Credit: Pete Krumhardt

A loft that extends above the 2×8-foot outdoor-access closet at the back of the shed offers bonus sleeping space when needed. Karen carpeted the loft and adds a twin camper-style mattress for sleeping. Guests reach the space via a vintage ladder.

Karen included a TV with DVD player mounted over the door, easily seen from the daybed. She also surrounded herself with photos of her "favorite people: family and good girlfriends" to boost enjoyment of the private space.

Credit: Pete Krumhardt

"The furnishings are a collection of things," Karen says of her shed's interior. "I had the daybed. I bought the little table and painted it white. My husband got the locker, which I use to store crafts supplies, from a friend." Windows offer a cross breeze.

Credit: Pete Krumhardt

Hooks and a bench just inside the door create a drop zone for shoes and coats. Shiplap-look wall panels come in 4×8-foot sheets for easy installation. Karen painted the walls Sherwin-Williams Dorian Gray (SW 7017).

Credit: Peter Krumhardt

Pegboard allows you to customize storage spaces (even backs of doors) with easily movable hooks and shelves. "I use the storage closet at the back of the shed for gardening tools and outdoor decorations. It's nice to have a separate space for these things," Karen says of the pegboard-lined 2×8-foot closet. The back wall of the closet is shared with the interior of her cozy shed; it's the wall with the daybed. The ceiling of the closet is the underside of part of the sleeping loft.

Karen uses the shed as her own personal getaway in which to relax alone or with friends. "It's a great place to take a nap, work on crafts, or drink wine and watch movies with friends," she says.

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