An outdoor retreat

Greenhouse Cottage

Don Viens has literally built a cottage industry in his own backyard. After constructing a greenhouse for his wife’s floral company from scrap materials, Don created a backyard retreat business.

His fantastic cottages have earned him a reputation for recycling with creativity. “I enjoy using lots of color and playful elements and letting my sheds take shape from the materials I find,” he says.

About This Cottage
Location: Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Size: 12 feet by 18 feet
Who designed it? Craftman Don Viens

A greenhouse cottage

Starry-Night Retreat

As for the original greenhouse that started it all, Don and his wife, Lisa, have transformed it into a starry-night retreat. “It’s beautiful to feel the light of the sun setting, then rising in the morning,” he says. “In winter, it’s the coziest place in the world. We lie in bed and watch the snow falling on the roof.”

Words of Wisdom: “Don’t be afraid to use whatever you have on hand, from wood or steel to canvas and glass,” he says. “The use of different colors and materials is what makes the cottages come to life.”

A tree house getaway

Sky-High Escape

When he had the idea to build a tree house, Peter and Ivey Bahouth immediately contacted friends with building expertise and started planning and gathering materials, such as old windows, doors, and shingles.

“We had so many ideas -- we wanted a sitting room, a bedroom. We wanted a tin roof and a roof you could see through,” Peter says. To accommodate their wish list, Peter and Ivey constructed three separate tree houses connected by rope bridges.

About This Cottage
Location: Atlanta, GA
Size: 12 feet by 15 feet
Who designed it? Homeowner Peter Bahouth

A full-sized bed against wide windows

Tree House Bedroom

Peter and Ivey’s favorite tree house features a full-size bed that rolls through open French doors onto a platform surrounded by gauzy white curtains and nature’s own wallpaper. “When you’re up here at night, you could be anywhere in the world,” he says.

Words of Wisdom: Let the tree determine what and how you build. “On the planning end, use your imagination for whatever you want,” he says, “whether it’s a calm place to read or a perch for bird-watching.”

A shed transformed into a guest room

Transformed Shed

Michael Pelkey’s Key West cottage had everything he needed -- except a guest bedroom. So he didn’t waste any time transforming the shed out back into exactly what he knew his visitors would love.

“It was just a flat-roofed shed, but it did have running water and a washing machine,” he says. At 8 feet by 9 feet, there wasn’t a lot of floor space, but he wanted his guests to have a full-size, comfortable bed.

To accommodate the need for sleeping space and storage, Michael built the bed on a platform with drawers below. On all the walls, he added built-in bookshelves to display reading materials and decorative objects.

About This Cottage
Location: Key West, Fla.
Size: 8 feet by 9 feet
Who designed it? Homeowner Michael Pelkey

A gabled roof adds light

Guest House

To add extra light, Michael chose a gabled roof over its flat predecessor. Now, sunlight pours through arched, Gothic Revival-style windows, and a small one tucked in a bookshelf gives guests a peek at the brilliant hibiscus in his backyard.

Words of Wisdom: Install a tin roof in your backyard retreat. “It’s such a peaceful place to relax when it’s raining,” he says.

A garage retreat

Garage Retreat

The idea of a traditional garage wasn’t particularly appealing to Sandi Cook and her husband, John Greci, but they loved the seclusion of the small shed at the end of their driveway. The couple decided to transform the garage into a garden sitting room.

To maximize natural light and privacy, architect Katie Hutchison chose oversize glazed doors that slide on tracks and large double-hung windows that match those on the main house.

Anout This Cottage
Location: Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts
Who designed it? Architect Katie Hutchison of Salem, Massachusetts

A garage retreat

Inviting Outdoor Room

For the back walls bordering their neighbor’s property, she used smaller windows mounted high. “People can be so close and not even realize we’re in here,” says Sandi.

Words of Wisdom: Use outdoor materials and indoor furnishings, like a sisal rug on a stone floor, to create an inviting room that blurs the line between inside and out.

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