Sink into a tub ― in your own backyard bathhouse

Get ideas for turning a backyard shed into a soothing garden spa
Story by Peter O. Whiteley

A funky old storage building steps away from her back door gave homeowner Kathryn Allen a creative solution to a pesky problem.

“Our master bath had only a slender shower stall, and I was desperate for a bathtub,” she explains. In a moment of inspiration, she saw Cinderella potential in the backyard shed.

The 9- by 11-foot building was not in good shape, but it had charm. Kathryn and her husband, David, cleaned and painted it, put in a new terra-cotta tile floor, added schoolhouse (awning-type) windows, and trained Boston ivy on the outside walls.

Now it was ready to house the longawaited claw-foot tub, which the couple found at a restoration supply store.

Kathryn painted the shell of the 6-foot-long tub a soft gray-green to complement its satin nickel claw-and-ball feet. She added a floor-mounted faucet and handheld spray head from England.

Furnishings were selected for their patina of age and their ability to blend with the green tub and white walls (a hint of orange was mixed into the white to warm it up).

A tall mirror-door wardrobe serves as a linen cabinet; towels and washcloths are stored in its glass-fronted drawers. An upholstered chair from Italy, a weathered side table covered with jars and vases, a small washstand, and a potted timber bamboo plant provide rustic comfort with personality.

Outside, the ivycovered walls change with the season― soft green in spring, vivid red in fall, and skeletal brown in winter.

“It’s where I soothe away the stress of the day―and all our guests want to try it out too.”

How to create a soothing space

Candlelight:  Votive candles on a side table and pillar candles on tall metal stands add a flickering warm glow that sets the mood.

Quiet: This is a getaway from-it-all space that remains separate from the noises of the main home. No television or radio is allowed.

Tranquil colors and textures:  The furniture, tub, and display of tabletop vases all blend together in a wash of blue-greens. The warmth of the tiled floor repeats in the sprouting section of timber bamboo placed in one corner.

Thick bath linens:  There’s something luxurious and comforting about dense cotton towels and terry robes.

Space to stretch out:  A deep, 72-inchlong tub with a sloping back is just the spot to soak away tensions. old world elegance Edwardian-style plumbing fixtures― with their gleaming pipes and handles― add a vintage charm. 

Great garden cottages:  More creative backyard shelters, sheds, and retreats

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