As many of you know, I have a small outbuilding in my backyard.
Over the years it has been a storage shed, a potting shed and a summer house. But back in 2014 I turned it into the photo cottage.
Initially I thought it would be the perfect spot for staging photos of my furniture. However, I was never really totally happy with the results. It seemed like the lighting was always wrong. At certain times of the day the giant red carriage house that is about 20′ away casts a pink light into the space (those walls above are white, not pink), at other times the sunlight poured in … but a little too much, which cast weird shadows.
Plus, over time that painted floor started looking really beat up.
I began using it less and less for staging photos. Last summer I realized I’d need to re-paint if I still wanted to use it that way, but I never did get around to doing that.
So this year I’ve decided to turn it back into a summer house.
What’s a summer house you ask?
a small, typically rustic building in a garden or park, used for sitting in during the summer months.
It’s small, it’s rustic, and it’s in the garden, so I think it qualifies.
Just so you have a starting point for reference, here’s how much I had let the place go …
Yikes! That’s embarassing.
Since I was having some ladies over to tour my garden this past Saturday (you’ll read more about that later in the week), I made a last minute decision to clean up this mess and turn the photo cottage back into a summer house using things I had on hand.
First I emptied everything out and used a shop vac to get rid of cobwebs. Next I scrubbed the floor and then hosed it down. One of the benefits to a wonky old shed like this is that you can just put the hose on the ‘jet’ setting and blast away. Wouldn’t it be convenient if we could clean our houses that way?
At this point, I admit that the paint is peeling and chipping everywhere and it really could use a fresh paint job. But since I won’t be using it for photos, it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Next up is the fun part, furnishing and decorating the space.
I had purchased this charming old strawberry basket at Reclaiming Beautiful last week and that was the inspiration for going with a green color scheme.
I have a few fabulous vintage green items to use as decor such as these crusty old garden tools …
And this chippy old bird cage …
So I started with re-painting the inside of the chippy cabinet that’s out there using Dixie Belle’s Kudzu.
It’s such a gorgeous green, and it created the perfect backdrop for the couple of pieces of chintzware that I hung on to after selling most of my non-collection 😉
You can read about the last time I gave this cabinet a makeover, and why the bottom is the original chippy paint and the top isn’t by checking out this post.
Next, I dug through the remaining stash of furniture out in my carriage house and pulled out a table. I purchased it back in 2016 at a garage sale. Back then I took a vote here on the blog and everyone thought I should leave the green legs ‘as is’. So I did that, but stripped the top and my sister gave it a coat of clear wax. We used it to display merchandise at the carriage house sale.
Once again I was tempted to leave the legs ‘as is’, especially since I was going with a green color scheme. But I didn’t love that precise shade of dark forest green. So I painted the base of the table with the Kudzu also. I sanded the heck out of it though, so I ended up with a distressed look that reveals a little bit of the darker green underneath.
Next I sanded the top of the table lightly and then used Fusion’s Liming Wax to brighten it up.
By the way, this is what I love about using wax on bare wood. After a few years of wear and tear you can sand it a bit, add a fresh coat of wax and it looks like new. If this were poly, you’d have to either strip it, or sand it all the way back to bare wood to re-coat it.
I used a chair that I already had on hand. It’s one that I use as a prop in many of my furniture photos. It’s not exactly the look I was going for, but for now it will do.
I had hung onto the chandelier that was out here before it became the photo cottage, and now I’m really glad I did because I still love it. It’s not actually wired up (there is no electric out here), but it’s still pretty to look at.
I used spray adhesive to glue photo copies of old black & white photos to the candle tubes. I had done this before, but the photos were badly faded after six years in storage, they needed to be freshened up.
I have to say, I have no idea if this would be a fire hazard on a functioning light fixture. However, since this one is just for show it doesn’t matter. But use caution if you’re going to try this on a real chandelier.
Finally, I dressed up some terracotta pots with a couple of Classic Vintage Label transfers and added some white geraniums. Somehow potted geraniums on a window ledge always make me happy.
It’s still looking somewhat empty in the summer house, but it’s a start.
Hopefully once I can get out there and find some garage/estate sales, I can add a few more pieces. I definitely need to find some things to hang on the walls.
But for now, it’s presentable. And it didn’t cost me a thing. Well … actually the geraniums were $1.68 each at Home Depot.
How about you, do you have a space at your house that you can refresh using things you already have on hand?