When most people think of a garden shed, they more than likely conjure up simple images of utilitarian boxes stored with barely-used tools and oodles of clutter. However, when Maryland-based practice Gardner Architects was tasked with installing a small garden shed for homeowners in the community of Bethesda, they came up with a gorgeous 100-square-foot shed that not only blends in harmoniously with the main home, but actively helps manage stormwater runoff to be re-used as irrigation for the native plants found on the property.
Although the task of building a garden shed may seem pretty straightforward at first, in reality, the team from Gardner Architects came up against quite a few challenges before they could get to work on the design. First and foremost, the landscape surrounding the main home is comprised of dense woodland, which the homeowners wanted to protect at all costs, meaning that no trees could be removed to make space for the shed. The solution then was to build the shed just mere steps away from the home, preserving all of the trees found on the property’s .34 acres.
As part of a recent renovation of the main house, the shed design would become part of a larger master plan for managing rainwater on the property. Working with Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, the resulting shed design was created to be respectful to the ecology of the home’s surroundings. To protect the natural vegetation, for example, the design team hired an arborist to help the construction process avoid damaging any underground tree roots.
The structure is set into a small corner just steps away from the main home. Extremely compact at just 100 square feet, the shed is clad in tight-knot board-and-batten siding. Sliding doors made from cedar boards were set on metal tracks to open completely, making it easier to access.
To embed the design with a proper rainwater rerouting system, the roof was slightly slanted to allow water to slowly run down the hillside, where it would be re-routed into a drain made out of large stones. The system allows the water to slowly be absorbed into the planting beds located between the shed and the main house.
In addition to its rainwater system, the project also centered around protecting the natural setting to attract healthy critters to the area. “Site maintenance is also a component of a natural habitat,” Honeyman said. “We have left tree snags onsite to attract insects and the birds attracted to them. Not clearing the underbrush and leaf litter provides environments for a multitude of insects to overwinter.” Now that the structure is completed, the homeowners will be working with the landscaping team to add a pollinator garden to the property.
Photography by John Cole