Garden hideaway ideas: From cabin porn to parachutes

With this inaugural posting from my new and improved blog (formerly RhymesWithLinnaeus.com), I want to state for the record that Ministry Of The Fence may be adding greener perspectives on gardens and gardening but there will continue to be a strong appreciation for both the sublime and, yes, the unserious. So what better way to kick off the new year and this new blog than to explore sublimely unserious green–thinking garden hideaways. Hey, winter has put a cold hold on gardening in general so why not give in to a good garden project fantasy in the comfort of your armchair?

336 pages of DIY inspiration.

336 pages of DIY eye candy.

Get the juices flowing, so to speak, with a troll through some cabin porn. Its OK. Cabin Porn is now a thing. Started a couple of years ago as a scrapbook of building inspirations, the collective Tumblr feed began attracting interest. A lot of interest. To the tune of more than 350,000 followers. And now there’s the Cabin Porn book. Tagline: Inspiration For Your Quiet Place Somewhere. Give yourself a quick zap to the senses by scrolling down the Cabin Porn website’s archive featuring every kind of personal refuge submitted from an amazing variety of countries.

Then look out your window and decide where you might want to create your ″quiet place″. Granted, the cabins you’ve just drooled over are, for the most part, way out in the middle of spectacular countryside. But there are good reasons to consider building right in your own backyard.

  1. When you decide to build your hideaway in your backyard rather than the remote countryside, you not only reduce your gas consumption from potentially a lot to nada, you also get to hide away while leaving the countryside free of yet another hideaway.
  2. Rather than building a remote cabin, you can recycle an existing building such as a garden shed or garage (see below). It’s a much greener option than starting from scratch (and can save you money).
  3. A hideaway in your own garden can be a permanent fixture or a temporary refuge—your choice. And, whether you spring for a fancy gazebo or stay light and flexible by using a decommissioned parachute as a kind of free–form tent each year (see below), you can reuse your refuge whenever the whim strikes. Either gazebo or parachute can be a kids’ sleepover shelter, a party lounge and a work–from–home office depending on your need at the moment.

Here are some of my favourite hideaway ideas and, yes, I have unabashedly included some of my own projects.

THE RECLAIMED GARAGE: Turning old stand–alone garages into garden escapes/studios is a popular thing to do in Toronto, it seems. At the home I owned before I moved in with my guy, the tiny backyard included an old wooden single car garage with broken doors and an uneven concrete pad that had cracked and started to heave. I took off the two walls facing into the garden and, rather than pulling up the broken concrete, simply built a floating wood deck on top. As a freelancer, I worked out of this office from spring through fall, even when it was raining. Pure heaven. And for such a tiny garden, overlooked by my towering neighbours in that densely packed urban Toronto neighbourhood, my garage–cum–office/party shed gave me a great deal of extra privacy. (Click on any photo for more details.)

THE ELEGANT PORTAL: Some garden hideaways are transportive. Technically, the mysterious Gothic structure (below) is a folly but I like to think it is an absolute truth. You can’t fake a good garden hideaway. It is the expression of pure garden love. (Click on any photo for more details.)

THE EXOTIC RETREAT: A garden hideaway may be only a stroll away from your home but it has the potential to take you very far away. This backyard retreat is close to the heart of downtown Toronto but it exuded a tropical feeling thanks in no small part to the bright Bali–style fabrics used for the furnishings. A water feature, running the length of the garden bed flanking the rear of the property, emptied into a small pool at one side of the building. Stepping stones were placed so that you could walk directly from the hideaway, over the pool into a green jungle of perennials. (Click on any photo for more details.)

THE HUMBLE WORK HIDEAWAY: Vegetable garden sheds are arguably the hardest working of hideaways. And, yes, I believe they do double duty as hideaways. All the best ones I have had the pleasure to explore were furnished with at least a folding chair and a kettle or a bottle of wine. They’re also marvellous expressions of their owner’s creative whimsy. The shed, below left, has a roof that keeps going and going. Love it. And the two photos below right, taken from outside and inside the shed, are of my dear cousin Anne’s garden allotment in southern England. She told me once that this garden is a little piece of heaven. I believe her. (Click on any photo for more details.)

HIDEAWAYS DISGUISED AS OTHER THINGS: No snickering here, please. I’m sure you’d agree that a loo can be a very comfortable hideaway, particularly when it’s fitted with a lovely stained glass skylight for maximum reading and pondering pleasure, as you can see on the building at right. The generously proportioned firewood shelter, at left, with its screening walls covered in blooming clematis, has enough room for a winter’s worth of wood plus a couple of chairs and a table. (Click on any photo for more details.)

THE EPHEMERAL HIDEAWAY: Can you hide in plain sight? Depends on how tall your garden grows. At the height of summer, this welcoming bench can only be seen once you’re practically sitting on top of it. I love how the “walls” framing the bench have been recycled from an old screen. (Click on any photo for more details.)

THE FOLD–’EM–UP–AND–PUT–’EM–AWAY HIDEAWAYS: Sometimes you just want to hideaway for awhile. Or maybe you’re just not interested in a permanent hideaway in your garden. That’s OK. There are a gazillion ways to create your own pop–up retreat. Here are two of my favourites. The poolside lounge (spied during a garden tour in downtown Toronto) is very chic indeed but it does get the job done. And then, there’s my parachute. It’s decommissioned meaning you can’t jump out of a plane with it any more. But it still works a charm as a big, billowing tent/privacy screen/personal Circus Big Top. As a Girl Scout in Washington, me and a dozen other giggling tweens would sleep under one huge decommissioned parachute during our epic Puget Sound canoe trips. It sheltered us from wind and rain and looked absolutely awesome. So, as a fully grown woman, of course I had to have one. If you can get your hands on one, you can be in hideaway heaven. The cords within the sleeves that crisscross over the entire chute make hanging it up in trees easy. Just don’t hang it up in a strong wind. It will set sail.

STILL GOT CABIN FEVER?: Go for it. But do consider building it at the back of your own garden. In your own garden, anything is possible. Let me know about your favourite garden hideaway!

Cabin style birdhouse

Still want a cabin? Don’t forget your feathered friends! (Photographed July, 2014.)

4 thoughts on “Garden hideaway ideas: From cabin porn to parachutes

  1. Welcome back and love this post! We are still finishing up our ‘quick garage project’ that turned an old wood shop into a studio for guests, but these images have me thinking I may need to do something on the ‘ephemeral’ side for summer. Hmmm…

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  2. I have to come back and look at all of these wonderful retreats in closer detail! I love your freelance office/garage! Cabin Porn is definitely one of my favorite books! I am lucky enough to own a wild property on a lake and that’s where I’ll be weekends this summer – in my little very primitive and rustic cabin. But someday it will be a wonderful lake house. I love the new name of your blog, too.

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    • Thanks, Kathy! I must admit I do miss my outdoor office. But I’m eyeing our garden shed now. I think it would be a great hideaway with a few windows put in. But then I’d have to get another shed for all the garden tools! We have a cottage on a lake, too. Some day we’d love to live there at least part time. Thanks for your support. I’m having fun with my blog’s new name. Much appreciated.

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