Backyard Bliss

Article excerpt

Garden designer Rebecca" Sweet turned an old toolshed into a place to work, play, and be inspired

A PARTY IS under way at Rebecca Sweet's house in Los Altos, California. But while the guys hover around a buffet table near the kitchen, most of the women have followed Sweet across the back garden to the woodsy cottage she jokingly calls her "chick shack."

Inside, the sunny, inviting spot bears little resemblance to the run-down toolshed it was when Sweet and her husband, Tom Urban, bought the property from her parents 13 years ago. "It was nearly a man cave," Sweet says. "I decided to take a stand against all that nonsense - ha!" Besides, she adds, she needed an office for her landscape-design business, Harmony in the Garden.

Happily, Urban agreed, and together the couple converted the structure into the backyard retreat it is now. They pushed up the ceiling to create a peaked roof; installed skylights and recycled windows; hung window boxes on outside walls with planting beds beneath; and created an outdoor potting table and tool storage area behind the shed near the back fence.

Sweet painted the shack's walls a soft lemon yellow, and filled the space with family treasures, favorite photos, and natural objects. "In order to feel relaxed and inspired, I need an environment that soothes all my senses," she explains. "Here I'm surrounded with things that bring me joy."

As the sounds of birds chirping and a fountain burbling come in from outside, more party guests wander into her little oasis and plop down on the big sea-grass sofa. This shack, it appears, truly has become a chick magnet. "When my girlfriends come over," says Sweet, "we invariably end up here with aglassofwine."

[Sidebar]

before The flat roof needed fixing, but the 12- by 18-foot shed was structurally sound. (That's Sweet as a child, sitting on the steps with her mom.)

after Sweet and her daughter, Emily, 17, frequently hang out in the space together. …