The Potting Shed

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The potting shed or the summer kitchen; in my mind it has two names and two jobs but today it is wearing its gardener’s hat! One of the best things about old houses in France is that they very often come with a host of outbuildings and the moment I saw our house, this little old structure captured my attention.

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When we bought our property, this little building was slightly dilapidated and being tucked away in a corner it seemed it had no real purpose any longer apart from housing the water-pump; but for me, it was surrounded by an aura of romance. We quickly christened it the Summer Kitchen with all sorts of ideas springing to mind, none of which really came to fruition in our first few years here.

Originally this was the laundry, and I am going way back, long before we lived here. Two years ago I shared a post showing how we started working on this space and that, I am sorry to say, is where the work ended. Somehow nothing further had been done; plans were made and never put into practice. Slowly it became a dumping ground, the leaves blew in, the mess grew and we all just sort of closed our eyes, never finding the time to do anything about it. Sure we roasted some chestnuts in the autumn and the odd marshmallow. But still I just looked at it lovingly and admired its facade; the wisteria in the spring, the hollyhocks in the summer. I watched the lizards scurrying across the old terracotta roof and I paid great attention to the plants all around, and yet the inside remained as it was.P7370606P7370605Then last month on a wet grey Sunday I lit the fire for warmth and I set to work. I knew all along what I wanted to achieve and suddenly nothing was going to stand in my way. The hours flew by and before I knew it dusk was falling and I was still working hard. I was covered in dust, I’d seen far too many spiders and cobwebs for my liking and my clothes were filthy but I couldn’t stop. P7370615

Outside the doors the rubbish bags filled up and things started to take shape and this

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slowly turned into this, a piece of machinery that plays a very integral role. This is our garden watering system from the well which is situated just outside. Originally water was brought up from the well into the old zinc tank by hand thanks to the enormous wheel. In the mid 1900’s things became a great deal easier and by the 1950’s an electric pump had been added.

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It may seem a very old fashioned and antiquated system but it works! And you know what they say, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and this system certainly isn’t broken. We have had the electrics all upgraded but nothing else has changed and water is brought into the holding tank by opening up various valves which build up the pressure; it all seems quite a laborious task to the uninitiated but once one gets the hang of it, it couldn’t actually be simpler! We kept the old electric box just for posterity, and although it is no longer connected it is a great reminder of what once was!P7380917

As darkness fell Roddy brought me a glass of wine and we stood by the dying embers in the grate looking around and taking stock. This old armoire had found its way in here last year. I suggested we remove the doors and make shelves out of some old planks

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and the rest was plain sailing. Over the next few days everything fell into place. We put the old doors to good use, joining them underneath to make them solid we simply rested them on some trestle legs to make a big rugged table. P7380945

Suddenly this place has become my pride and joy, I find I am drawn to it all the time; this is where I potted up dozens of geraniums, and it’s where I arrange great bundles of cut blossom.

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The ancient cobbles have been worn smooth in places from centuries of wear and tear, their colour is a subtle shade that would be hard to mimic with modern alternatives.P7380919

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On a warm spring day it is remarkably cool inside and during the slightly unseasonably chilly weather I treat myself by lighting the fire with old vine clippings stored in a box in the corner.P7380271P7380991

There is always some inquisitive person who comes by to see what I am up to!P7380997

The one bit of bling that I couldn’t resist was an old chandelier. I found this at a local brocante several years ago. It was the end of the day and the vendor was loading everything into his van. I happened to be passing by as the chandelier going into its box and I enquired how much he wanted for it. Keen to have a final purchase at the end of what had probably been a very long day, he was more than happy to negotiate the price and I managed to grab myself something of a bargain. And although Roddy hung it two years ago he has only just wired it up and it is finally being put to good use!P7390033P7390031P7380903P7380236P7380234

And whilst homework and life continues in the house, I can often be found not too far away in the evenings in my new favourite haven, now that I have ambient lighting, warmth and a table and chairs. I thought about music but there is no need I have an orchestra right outside; the birds sing constantly. This week I have heard the cuckoo calling and the hoopoes are nesting once more in our garden. For me it really is these simple things that make life so special.

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140 thoughts on “The Potting Shed

  • I am in love with your potting she’d, what I wouldn’t give to have somewhere like that in my garden, I would spend every hour there I could.

  • How lovely to turn a sows ear into that charming silk purse. I can see the creative juices flowing as you pot up plants, snip flowers into vases and daydream whilst birds cheer you on. Just lovely.

    • Yes the fireplace works perfectly, Roddy knows when I am very happily ensconced as he can see smoke curling from the chimney when he looks out of the kitchen window! It is a real bonus to have such a great working fireplace! xx

    • Thanks so much Linda, it has been such fun to finally share this with everyone, I am so happy with the results and truly in love with my potting shed/summer kitchen! xx

  • Wow, I love your potting shed or what ever you chose to name it. A fire in the oven and a chandelier are the makings of a Love affair that will never end.

    • I think you might be right Alice, I am totally in love with it, plus it was wonderful to have somewhere to pot up plants when it was raining and with the fire alight, somewhere that was warm, that was utter luxury! xx

  • A delightful read! Beautiful ‘bones’ to work with & creative use of things available. Truly the ‘French’ way. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks so much Barb, it was so much fun to do! Now of course I don’t know why it took me so long! My favourite is the table because it is such a good place to work. xx

  • Lovely post…I cannot place your potting shed…bottom left of your garden?
    Ps. We are now 40 miles from Rouen and will stop there for the night.

    • It is half way down on the left, sort of in line with the pond! Hope you had a good night in Rouen, what a journey!! But one one more day and the sun is shining! xx

  • Absolutely beautiful and delightful…wish I had this old romantic building in my own yard. I am in love with it. Happy for you. You have transformed it wonderfully. Beautiful post…as usual. You never disappoint. Your blog is my escape. Sigh….

    • Thanks so much, this little place has become my dream literally, it is such fun to work in there and finally after so many years we have a hanging light, what a difference that makes! Hope the sun is shining with you, amazingly it is here after what seems to be another spell of awful weather! Have a lovely weekend xx

    • It is the perfect place to unwind in the evening with one of my favourite things to do, pottering around with a few plants, now that I can be warm in the cooler months at the same time, it is perfect! xx

  • I am so envious of that absolutely gorgeous “shed”, each picture was a joy. Thank you for another fabulous post.

  • Congratulations on all of your accomplishments! I do envy you for all of this, but especially the hoopoes!

    • Thanks so much Jim, the hoopoes are quite literally the icing on the cake for Roddy and I, to see them wander across the garden is incredible, of course I never manage to take a photo in time, but I will do!! Anyway, photo or not, it is fabulous to have them here. xx

    • Ahh yes I forgot the frogs, we do have frogs chattering away, both tree frogs and the ones that live in our pond. We also have the sound of crickets in the summer, and these are one of my favourites. There is always so much to listen to if we just actually listen! xx

  • When I am hassled and need to find a quiet place in my mind this “shed” is what I will think of – can I live there?

  • Love it. You gave it a new charming life and repurpose. I imagine setting up dinner in there on some evening when the garden is too chilly… or ending in there for coffees and dessert after dinner in the garden. Sigh.

    • We have ended up in there on several occasions to roast some marshmallows. Now it is finished I think we will indeed use it so much more and for cooking over the fire too. xx

    • Thank you, I think the fact that it has probably stood for over 200 years certainly helps! To think that the floor is almost certainly well over a 100 years old is wonderful, and the fireplace is the icing on the cake! However, I am sure you shed is equally fabulous, enjoy it. xx

  • Oh I’m excited for you! What a lovely place brought back to life!
    I’m relaxed just looking at all that hard work that paid off! And I’m sure your kitty likes the new place too!

    • Your posts always bring me such joy! I have dreamed of having a shed like that. Thanks for the lovely pictures!!

      • I am so glad Cheryl, it is always lovely to hear that people enjoy my posts. I think from reading all of these comments, that she sheds are very common and I think they can be made special no matter what they look like. xx

    • Thank you, I am very happy to have the cats wander in, it means there will never be any mice in there and I hate mice!! He was so curious he jumped straight up onto the table to see what I was doing! xx

  • How wonderful. Yes it’s the perfect – She Shed – the chandelier is the icing on the cake. Next month, there will be a fund raising tour of…she sheds…to raise money for a women’s shelter here. I can not imagine any of them will have the charm, antiquity or fire place as yours. The cobbles on the floor are perfectly, imperfect. Looking forward to seeing more of it.
    Ali Xxx

    • BRAVO Ali; this is the perfect comment to this post – and I do hope you raise lots and lots of money for a women’s shelter! There are still plenty of really good and kind hearted people around who help making our world a place worthy of living in it.

    • What a fabulous idea, I love the way things work on your island, I hope that lots of money is raised, a great cause, and I can imagine there will be some wonderful she sheds, oh I wish I was just an hour’s car ride away, or boat ride, I would love to come and join you xx

  • I love little corners to just sit and reflect. The over and the chandelier and freshen potted plants just make it for me. You have brought it back to life.
    Cheers😃😘💐

  • Your photos are magical, this is the sort of place I can only dream of and that chandelier, what a good find, so unexpected in a potting shed which makes it all the more perfect. Just loved this, all of it.

    • Thanks so much Sharon, I love the little bit of bling the chandelier brings, I think it is rather unexpected and is just perfect for me! Plus it was such a good buy, happy to have finally got it all wired in! xx

  • I love it! How completely charmimg! The cobblestone floor is gorgeous and the chandelier adds an unrivaled warmth. You will be potting up a storm.

    • Thanks so much Nancy, now if only you could come over and see it in person, that would really be the icing on the cake for me. I am still keeping my fingers crossed it will happen. This summer ??? xxxx

  • Oh Lordy, this is magic. Although I start sneezing with my eyes on the gorgeous wisteria blooms, I too am drawn to your summer kitchen – I HAVE visited it when we were over there. I didn’t think that the fireplace was in working order – but then that chandelier, that’s really the cherry on top of the gâteau 🙂
    I love that you re-use the old pots, they are the best, strong, sturdy, holding in the water due to their thick clay walls. I’m hesitating to plant much this year, not knowing how things will develop.
    Your family truly has the REAL LOVE an old place so badly needs. It’s a lot of work but the rewards are so worth every effort. What I love in your place is the mix of old trees, stone arches, the many shrubs & raised beds, the tables & chairs everywhere, the stone displays filled with succulents on the one hand, and then the young lives everywhere, children, pets, hens, the birds in the trees, the ‘clocher’ with its deep comfy ringing…. and your appreciation is the well earned merit for all your input.
    I so wish we could come again, soon, sooner….
    How is sweet Evie? Is she holding court? Are the kids swooning and mooning over the babies? And good old Bentley? I DO hope he is still master of his little harem 😉
    With great love and much longing
    K

    • Yes Kiki, longing is the perfect word, I also long to return. It is truly as Susan describes the property….with all the animals, feathered and fur. It is a magical place…
      Ali x

    • Yes it is very much working, we have always used the fireplace, amidst the mess!! I think you absolutely love all the same things that we love in the garden. Today I actually spent an entire afternoon working in it, the roses are starting to bloom, I planted the entire vegetable garden, the terrace tubs are full of annuals, it is my favourite time of year! I wish you could come again much much sooner rather than later, this spring or summer? Bentley is being very good, Evie is a fabulous mother and it’s not just the children swooning over puppies, we all are, they are complete time wasters and beyond gorgeous and growing so fast! xx

  • I just want to move into the poshest (is that even a word?) shed in France, I could live there very happily with the fire and chandelier! It’s beautiful, and so peaceful too, no wonder you love it. Your photos are gorgeous too, as ever. xxx

    • Ha ha! Now first of all I want to know did you have a wonderful time in Paris? I really hope so, I am guessing you are either back home or very nearly. Hopefully to some warmer spring weather. We thought about turning the summer kitchen/potting shed into a small studio, but I think the cost will be far too high because we would have to move everything for the well. But it would make the most wonderful hideaway! xx

      • I’m still in Paris, just 3 weeks and 3 days to go now! Having a wonderful time, I’m in the 3 eme, so very central. The weather has been so changeable, just 11c a few days ago, and now it’s 26c, you never know what it’s going to be when you wake up! I don’t speak French very well, but everyone has been so helpful and friendly, I do try though, which seems to be appreciated.Hope you’re enjoying good weather this weekend too, Susan. xx

        • Oooh you still have a while to go. Yes the weather has been very strange this year, we had the heatwave and then it got so chilly again that we were lighting the fire in the evening once more last week! Now it is warm again and today we enjoyed 27C, so much the same as you. It is meant to be a lovely week here, I planted out all of the vegetables which was fun and a sure sign spring is here! So glad you are having fun, I know how much the French really appreciate anyone trying to speak their language, I am sure you are getting by just perfectly. xx

    • Ha ha, I had never even heard of a she shed before until I read all of these comments! But I guess if one can have a man cave we can have a she shed, and this is definitely my domaine!! xx

  • I was just wondering if French cats differ in any way from American cats? I guess they understand French, but I wonder if they have other differences. Probably not.

    • We are certainly a couple of weeks behind last year here too. The cherries which normally ripen in May are a long way off and the roses are only just coming into flower. How long are you spending in La Rochelle, always fabulous at any time of year in my opinion but June is extra special, before it gets too crowded but the weather should be gorgeous! xx

  • Well done, you!! You’re the Martha Stewart of France. I wouldn’t ever have thought of putting a chandelier there, but it works. I lift my virtual wine glass to you. (It has to be virtual, as I have to go in to work for 5 hours tonight.) 🙂

    janet

    • Ha ha!! I love the chandelier in there, I am not normally one for bling at all, but I love this as it is so unexpected, plus it is old and worn and just sort of works. Thanks for the virtual toast! xx

  • Envy is a sin, isn’t it. (Father, I have sinned!) i will return to this posting again and again. Beautiful!!!

  • Your shed looked like my shed still looks! What a charming place to enjoy and utilize. Now if I could just work the same kind of magic on mine? I don’t think so!

    • Ha ha, ours was chaos for so long, and I think the messier it got so everyone just dumped even more stuff in there! Hopefully it will now stay this way, it has to as it has fast become one of my favourite places in the garden! xx

    • Thanks so much, I am so happy to have finally got the chandelier wired in and working, it has hung there unloved and ignored since I bought it three years ago! The crystals took a lot of cleaning!! xx

  • You are incredible — everything you touch turns into poetry! You bring such an artfulness to your home, yet somehow everything retains its effortlessness and simplicity. Normally I would be just a tiny bit envious of another woman who was so blessed with these gifts, but in your case I’m too busy swooning with admiration and delight. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, I wish it really were that simple, trust me there is an awful lot of trial and error and mistakes involved! And this is a family home, there is always plenty of mess and chaos!! But it’s a happy home so it’s a happy mess! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • So lovely and romantic too! I love the fact that you can really get it as dirty as you want and it doesn’t matter! The shutter/door/table can take any dirt sent its way…as can the floor. What a perfect place to keep all the gardening paraphernalia!

    • That is one of the best things about it, I can cover the table in compost and it can fall on the floor, I have a dustpan and brush and I just sweep it up, but it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to get done straight away, it is a real gardening shed xx

  • Oh Susan, this is just fabulous. I could totally see the photos and text on the glossy pages of a gorgeous coffee table book. Well done you, and hi to you all!

    • Thanks so much Alison, I think you flatter me far too much! Hope you get back here one day to see it in person. No doubt autumn is upon you, hopefully a good one and not too much rain! Enjoy your weekend xx

      • I’ve just had a few days in Sydney where it was lovely and warm on two of the days, but quite cool on the other. It’s certainly autumnal here, but at that ‘Ooh, should I wear winter clothes yet?’ stage. I have a cold and sore throat and am feeling quite miserable today… spring in France has a ring to it!

        • It’s that in between stage, when layers are vital! Hope your cold is feeling better, it’s that time of year isn’t it, you have my sympathy, get well soon and enjoy the last day of your weekend. Meanwhile, yes we are loving spring, it has seemed a long time coming this year! xx

  • Susan,
    A wonderful post filled with so much love and warmth.
    These are the moments and memories that bring ones home to “life.”
    In fact, I couldn’t think of any “lovlier” place to pot flowers than in this charming “electrifying” shed.
    Happy Potting! 🌷🌸

    • Thanks so much Stephanie, I can tell you this has fast become one of my favourite places. I have just planted a couple of climbing roses up the front so in a couple of years I hope it will be really gorgeous and fragrant too! xx

  • I’m sooooo happy for you! It’s magical!!! I spent the entire day gardening yesterday – heavenly. This is so charming and inviting and peaceful and beautiful – and SPECIAL! And Rory came to see what you what beautiful potting you were up to. I love the chandelier so much – and the shelving! SO perfect. So much wonderful time will be spent there.
    Wonderful work!!!!
    Your gardens are wonderful by the way!!!

    • Rory just jumped up, he was quite intrigued and I am so happy he pops in every now and then, I know there will be no mice, as you know how I HATE them! I spent the afternoon gardening today, utter heaven I agree. Hopefully you have some wonderful spring weather. Big hugs to everyone xxx

  • What a lovely post to read at 1 AM Susan. The job you did just risen up my imagination to do so. I see a lovable place to live with a whole green backyard, just because I am living at crowded town here in Indonesia. Hope to have like old house kind you have with lovable green surrounded. And the beautiful chandelier.
    Warm regard, Fitri, Indonesia.

    • Thanks so much Fitri, we are lucky to live in a village but also to have a big garden and lots of green space. Indonesia is such a beautiful country, I have a friend who lived there for a few years, somewhere I have never visited but would love to. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Fabulous hideout for you! Great place to wile away the hours doing whatever you want. Would be a great area for painting or repairing furniture. Ah, your mirror can be restored in that shed.

    I must say, Susan you have marked your territory with that lovely chandelier.

    • You know Patty you are so right, it is a fabulous place to do so many things and in the winter with the fire going it is warm, that is the best for me. Roddy was working in their last night repairing a broken pipe to the pump and I could see the warm glow from the chandelier from the kitchen window. It was a wonderful sight! xx

  • What a beautiful space! I absolutely love that you’ve kept the historical touches intact, I feel like they really add to the charm. The chandelier you picked adds just the right amount of elegance to your oasis. Absolutely gorgeous!

  • It happened again. My favourite post ever I say. Until the next favourite post ever! This is just too lovely and you have inspired me. I think I now have a place for the chandelier I grabbed for a bargain!

    • Ha ha, well I am rather happy to hear this! But most of all I am delighted that this has inspired you to find a home for your chandelier. Put them in unexpected places and they create the maximum impact is my new theory!! xx

  • So agree that it is so often the simple things in life that are the most pleasureable. I think most of my blogs are born out of everyday moments. Our homes may be very different and in very different locations but I think what we put into them comes from the heart in the same way. I always love the sense of romance your pictures portray. x

  • A potting shed with a chandelier and an open fire- how perfect. I would love to get my hands dirty in there, potting up some cuttings and maybe grilling an aubergine in the spent colas of the fireplace at the same time. It is inspiring Susan.

  • What a lovely space….I love that something has taken time to grow and reclaim life and purpose. I too am slowly and respectfully bringing back to life a house and garden which had lost it’s soul, albeit a modern in a relatively new land. The joy of transformation is delightful and palatable. I am really enjoying your posts ☺️

  • I enjoyed very much reading all about this wonderful garden nook and the pictures were great as you progressed along the way. Your right music would just spoil the mood of complete enjoyment of your surroundings, let the birds bring you the music of life.

  • I LOVED this post! What a beautiful shed and the perfect spot to enjoy your gardening. Those floors are stunning and the addition of the chandelier is perfection. Thank you so much for sharing at the May Take Me Away party! It’s always great to have you!
    Shelley

  • I adore it! A potting shed. A place to read. A place to write. Have a glass of wine. Sit quietly. Dream. Listen.

  • Well this is really spooky! On Sunday, Clive and I were discussing a potting bench! We have taken possession of an oak door, not old, but a planked cottage door, and unwanted by our son. In the end it was not right for the cupboard door we thought it would be for, so I thought, could we make a potting bench as I desperately need one? Or rather, would Clive make a potting bench with it!! He will! So there’s been much measuring and discussing so hopefully, once we get home from our holiday, it will materialise. The door is currently sitting on two trestles looking rather large and out of proportion, but at least we know it won’t be wasted. We also have 5 old chunky oak spindles that we found in the garden when we moved here. So we are going to incorporate those into the design as well. I love your potting shed, and the fire is wonderful. I can just imagine how lovely and calming it is for you to be out there potting your plants and immersing yourself in the birdsong around you. Magic!

    • Oh how funny! You must make it into a potting bench, it will be so useful. You have no idea how much I have used the table since Roddy made it. I tis now my go to place every time I pot up anything, and then I can just sweep it clean, and if I leave it a day it doesn’t matter, it has totally changed everything and it is fast becoming one of my favourite places in the garden! xx

  • Your outbuilding is charming! Ours still look like a dumping ground…hopefully to be dealt with when house renovations are finally finished (if that ever happens). The photos are so lovely, I am not surprised that you have found a new haven.

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