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The Summerhouse

In the spring of 2010 I suggested to  my husband that it might be nice to have a summerhouse in our small back garden.  I had seen several summerhouses in magazines, in particular these in the August issue of Country Living magazine that year.

And so we went to look for some in various garden centres, but found that they were grossly overpriced for the quality of craftsmanship (or lack of craftsmanship to be frank.)  Husband, a retired engineer, said that he could make a better one himself, and so that is what he did.  Of course, it turned out more expensive than buying one off-the-peg, so to speak, but it is much better quality.

We have a small terrace at the back of our garden and the first job was to extend this slightly so that we’d still have room for a table and chairs.

Husband clearing some of the shrubs in order to extend our small terrace (July 2010)

And, of course, he designed the summerhouse himself.  I said that I didn’t one that looked remotely like a little Swiss Chalet, with curly-wurly bits, or a balustrade outside –  not that where was sufficient space for such a creation, we were literally between a rock and a hard place, i.e. a walnut tree and the boundary wall to our garden!

And so our summerhouse was designed to look like a cross between a garden shed and a beach hut.  As space was so limited, it is only 8ft by 6ft, but it’s just large enough for two chairs, a table, and a trolley for a small TV.

Quite a lot of work had been done to get to this stage, above; husband made the window frame on the right, but he bought the doors ready-made, the only things which were ready-made (we had to replace these, but that comes later.)

Husband fixing the roof in place (2010)

And the whole building was insulated, even between the floorboards as well as the roof and walls (2010)

Once the insulation was in place and electricity laid on, the walls were completed with hardboard and the whole building painted inside and out and the floor stained.

Of course, this had been a mini-building site for several weeks, between July and November 2010, and so the grass was a bit torn up, but never mind, we knew it would grow again.  This is how the summerhouse looked when it had received it’s coats of paint, Farrow & Ball’s Vert de Terre for the walls and Clunch for the doors, window frame and around the roof.

As I mentioned, the doors didn’t last.  We couldn’t find suitable external doors, only internal doors, and even though they received several undercoats of paint and then a top coat, they quickly rotted and so husband decided to make a pair of doors himself …

This is a photo I have used before, so apologies to those who have already seen it … this photo, taken one evening in summer a few years ago, shows the replacement doors that husband made. They are not quite the same as the original doors but I actually prefer them; they are less ornate, more in keeping with a simple summerhouse.

This is the view from the kitchen window and you can see here the steamer chairs which husband is currently renovating.  Beyond our garden wall is our neighbour’s garage, so this makes our small back garden quite private.

It is a very small garden, about 30ft by 20ft, but it’s large enough for us to enjoy some grass, flowers and the shade of our walnut tree.

Four years ago we bought two new chairs for the summerhouse in a sale at our local garden centre – mostly these things are sold in ‘sets’ but there were two chairs on offer, ideal for what we wanted …

Which brings me to today because, after our walk this morning, I decided to clean out the summerhouse. So I removed all the contents, the chairs, the rug, the tea trolley with the TV, and then gave the little room a good sweep and then steam-cleaned the floor.  I shook out the rug, wiped down the shelf, washed the window, and put all the furniture back.  It didn’t look much different but I knew that at least it had received one good clean out this year!

The more observant among you will notice the peripatetic jug of roses, which has moved from our bedroom, to the study and now to the summerhouse!   As you can also see, it was very sunny this afternoon.

On the table is not only a lamp, but also a CD player.  I would like this on a shelf in due course so that I can place the lamp centrally again, but it’s not essential, and husband has so many jobs lined up that I don’t like to add this to his list!

The pictures are watercolours of birds which my husband painted when he retired, 20 years ago.  I love them. He copied them from pictures by the wonderful wildlife artist, Basil Ede.

What amazed me is that until he retired husband had never painted anything in his life (I  mean watercolours, not rooms with Dulux or Farrow & Ball!)

The small picture on the right, next to the clock, is a hand-painted greetings’ card from the early 1930s when an uncle (whom I never met) was living and working in Peru and sent home to his father and my mother (his sister) this card, along with another one, and my mother kept them and eventually had the pair framed.   They now hang on either side of the doors in the summerhouse.

The tea trolley is one that my mother had. Husband almost took it to the tip when we were clearing her house after her death, but I suggested he paint it and it is now serving as a TV table.

So, when I say I’m off to the summerhouse with a cup of tea, or to watch Royal Ascot or Wimbledon (both in due course), you will know where I am!

Photo with original doors (2011)

Until next time.



About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Thanks for showing how the summerhouse came to be and the tour of it now. Such a lovely little retreat, right in your own backyard.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      It’s a dear little summerhouse, and I love it all the more because my husband designed it and made it for me himself, it wasn’t a flat-pack. Of course, not all people are as able as he is, and have to rely on read-made or flat-pack, I’m just very fortunate he is able to do such things.

  2. What a gorgeous wee room and what a clever husband you have! I can think of few things more enjoyable than being able to relax in an outdoor room with a good book on a lovely summer’s day – oh, and with a good cup of tea and a biscuit as well!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Glad you like my little summerhouse, Margaret, and yes, he’s a clever chap. In our previous bungalow – OK, he was much younger, only in his early 40s at the time – he built on an extension which, as the land sloped, had a small room underneath which our boys used as a playroom, and this extension was our bedroom. In doing this, he had to change the bathroom around, and he did all that, too, with just a little help from a friend to help with the block work. A summerhouse, therefore, was no problem to him but of course, he was in his 70s when he built that and now, 8 years later, he admits he’d not want to start building it today. I love it, and when we work in the garden we always open the summerhouse and have tea or coffee there.

  3. I enjoyed this tour of your lovely summer house. It looks like the perfect place to spend an afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book. Your husband is a very talented builder. I hope you’re enjoying some spring sunshine. Regards, Pat

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, Pat, the sunshine is lovely and we will do some work in our small garden today – I have to empty all the pots and then go to the garden centre for some plants. Our garden is too small to have a greenhouse or a potting shed as well as the summerhouse and the tool shed, unfortunately. But we can’t have everything and some people don’t even have any outside space, so we’re happy with what we have. And yes, the summerhouse is the perfect place for a cup of tea and a good book.

  4. Your summer house looks perfect, a real little haven in your own back garden. All I have is a garden shed for the lawn mower etc! I don’t tend to sit outside for long anyway because I keep bobbing up and down when I spot something that needs doing. I’m essentially lazy but also a bit of a fiddler 😉

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I confess I’m not a ‘real’ gardener, Alison, although I love our little garden. I simply can’t bend and get down on my knees because of arthritis, so I have to rely on husband doing the work and just saying where I want things putting. And because we don’t have a greenhouse or a potting shed, I can’t over-winter things, either. I just don’t want my windowsills in the house filled with plants in the winter, either, where I might keep some if I took cuttings. I’d rather just go and get a whole new array of plants each spring/summer. Much of the garden is shrub and herbaceous, so I only need to get annuals for the pots, and they add a splash of colour. But I do love my little summerhouse, I still find it hard to believe at times that after asking husband to build one (i.e. pester would be a better word) I actually have one!

  5. What a smashing summerhouse Margaret, just the right size and very cosy, must be lovely to sit in there on a wet day and read whilst listening to the rain hitting the roof.
    I now have summerhouse envy ☺️

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      It’s a lovely little tiny house, Elaine, and yesterday I felt a bit like Mole at the beginning The Wind in the Willows, “spring cleaning his little house.” I would’ve liked it to have been a bit larger so we could have steamer chairs in there so we could actually lie down and snooze, but we just didn’t have the space for anything larger between the walnut tree and the wall, and if it had been made longer, towards the table, then we’d have had to have dug out some plants which give privacy and shade and there wouldn’t have been sufficient room for the table and chairs, either. Yes, we’ve been in there when it’s raining, but mainly when it’s sunny, or in the early autumn when I’m planting bulbs in the pots and we have hot Bovril in there rather than tea or coffee.

  6. Love your summerhouse Margaret, your husband did a brilliant job, a perfect sanctuary.
    A summerhouse is on my future wish list.

  7. Your Summerhouse is a lovely place to escape to on a warm summer afternoon.
    You are giving me ideas! X

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      A summerhouse is such fun, Dot. You can feel you have gone out from the house when you are only across the garden. It could be a sewing room, or a writing room, any kind of hobby room, but I just like to read in there. In fact, I’ve just come indoors to make a cup of tea … husband came up from the garage where he’s been sanding the steamer chairs, and he found I’d nodded off in the afternoon sunshine although I was in the summerhouse, but with the doors open. Now for a cup of tea and some ginger cake.

  8. Thank you for another interesting post. So interesting to see and hear how other retired couples allocate their time. So much pleasure to be had in appreciating the things we do regularly.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      We seem to work a lot, too, Jill, as well as sitting in the summerhouse. Husband helps our adult sons, too (they both have homes of their own as well as a shared business) and it is only recently that he has started to agree to get help sometimes, such as someone to paint the garden wall rather than doing it himself. He always has projects on the go, he’s never idle. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I didn’t add that husband created the little summerhouse while in recovery from open heart surgery (repaired mitral valve and double by-pass.)

  9. Mary-Louise Mielcarz

    Hello Margaret,

    I was enjoying the tour of your charming summer house aad then you showed your Mother’s tea trolley. I also am the proud owner of my Mother’s tea trolley. I think they are one of the best inventions, you can literally transform them for any use and they can be easily moved from place to place in whatever situation is called for. Right now, it is holding an oriental lamp and family photos, but, if we are having a get together on the porch, it can be moved outside to hold drinks and sundries. Family members gave me a funny look when I said I wanted it but I knew what it could do and I get the bonus of seeing my Mother every time I look at it.


    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, Mary-Louise, tea trolleys are such useful items of furniture. We have another one in our bed sitting room and that has another small TV on it. And yes, they can be transformed into extra surfaces for drinks or food in seconds. The one we bought, second hand in a charity shop, has little flaps on each side, so that top can be transformed into a small table (it is painted the same colour as the one in the summerhouse). I think the one in the summerhouse was one that someone gave my mother, she certainly didn’t buy it new, and it was an awful dirty brown colour, little wonder husband thought it only fit for the tip! But with a lick of paint, it’s been transformed.

  10. What a beautiful retreat,you definitely have an eye for colour and have you a cat or did have one? Or was he/she passing through? We emptied our water butts thisevening to give everything a good watering,long may the dry weather continue although it’s dropping ten degrees tomorrow.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you for your lovely comments, Margaret. Apart from the two chairs in the summerhouse, which we bought four years ago, all the items are what I’ve managed to use from our house, i.e. surplus to requirements. The Persian rug was one my late uncle gave us as a wedding present in 1964 – it was 2nd hand to him when he bought it in 1939 and for the first 21 years that we had it, it was in our hall in our previous home and then it was the hearthrug in our home where we live now. The table between the chairs was one my mother gave us – she had been given it by a neighbour – and we used to have it in our bedroom in our previous home as a TV table but about 28 years ago we had it restored (it had been painted) by a cabinetmaker back to the original wood, and then polished. We also have a little stool/table which was my mother’s, and of course, the pictures from Peru are hand-painted greetings’ cards from the 1930s. Oh, the lamp is new – bought that for next-to-nothing in Dunelm (chain of inexpensive homewares store in the UK) and one item, a lovely large coffee cup and saucer, too large really to drink from, more a fun thing (it’s on the shelf) was a present from one of our sons.
      The cat you can see was one which belonged to our neighbour (sadly the cat has since died, she was a dear little thing). She just happened to be strolling through when I took the photo.
      You mention rain – after quite a hot day yesterday, we have awakened to rain this morning. Seldom are two days alike in the UK!

  11. Hello Margaret,
    I love reading your blog! I live in Illinois, US, and we are finally enjoying spring after what seemed like a long, cold winter. Sunday was “Mothers Day” here and my daughter sent me the most beautiful flower arrangement to brighten up my home…..I thought of you and your many lovely flower arrangements throughout your home! I love all the pictures of them on your blog. Your summerhouse is very welcoming, cozy, and relaxing….Just the perfect spot to spend hours with a good book! I see in your final picture a visitor to your summerhouse…..that cute kitty (smile)…..I love cats….had one for years but at present, do not have a pet. I just wondered if that kitty is your pet….or maybe just a “visitor” from your neighbor?

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Nancy, in Illinois, and thank you so much for leaving a comment (and I’m delighted you enjoy reading my blog.) How lovely that your daughter sent you some gorgeous flowers for Mother’s Day (which is a different day from our Mothering Sunday in the UK) – flowers make all the difference to a room don’t they? I think we are fortunate in the UK, too, that flowers for the home, especially from the large chains of supermarkets, are relatively inexpensive, and the pleasure they give – well, to me and my husband – far outweighs their cost.
      Yes, Maisie, our neighbour’s cat (she has since died … the cat, not the neighbour!) sneaked onto the photo! She was a dear little thing. We used to have cats (a large ginger tom called Charlie – named after King Charles 1, a cavalier of a cat – and Oliver – named after Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan of a cat as he was grey with white ‘shirt and socks’, i.e. the white hair on his front and his paws) but we no longer have any cats. However, there are many cats in the neighbourhood and they often pass through our garden. We spent time in the summerhouse yesterday afternoon when it became too hot to do anything only sit and read.

  12. Your summerhouse – I love that name! is so charming & Mr Powell’s artwork is amazing. I am always fascinated by other people’s inherent gifts.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Ratnamurti, yes, I love my little summerhouse. I say “my” even though we share it, because unless I’d asked husband to build it, I don’t think he’d have bothered, but he knew how much I wanted one and so designed it (on his computer), costed it out, bought all the timber, etc, and built it for me. From beginning to end, from clearing the shrubs and extending the little terrace, to my moving some bits of furniture in, it was from mid-July to early-November that year (2010) so it didn’t get made overnight, but it’s sturdy and much better built than those we saw in the garden centres.
      He would like to get back to doing some painting (watercolour) but it’s finding the time – he’s always so busy doing other things (currently he’s renovating our wooden steamer chairs for the garden. Photos of those will doubtless appear in due course, with their new pale green cushions.)

  13. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

    Yours is a truly lovely summerhouse …a little home from home. My husband built one but it’s at the top of the. Garden and was rarely used. I think if we’d had it close to the French doors we may have made better use of it. Anyhow, after a particularly bad winter ruined the shed, we decided to use the summerhouse as a shed. It’s a rather grand shed…insulated, lined and with wall lights!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Our little summerhouse, Eloise, is just sufficiently close to the house to make it easy to carry cups and books out there, yet far enough away to feel separate from the house. What a shame that a bad winter ruined your summerhouse but even as a shed it’s being useful to you.

  14. Oh that is such a pretty and peaceful haven you have both created. I enjoyed seeing the photos and reading the description of its construction. You are both fortunate to be so clever and creative. I noticed a cat in the last photograph – was it yours ?

    I’ve just read all of the comments and your replies so no need to answer my querie about the cat ha ha. My cat is also called Maisie – although like many cats she doesn’t always come when called, only when she feels like it 😉

    I hope you get plenty of lovely weather to enjoy your summerhouse and garden. It’s 8:17am on Friday morning, the sun is shining and the sky is a magical blue so it looks like we’re in for a beautiful autumn day xx

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I do think I’m fortunate in having a husband who, for the most part, can turn his hands to doing almost anything when it comes to things around the house, Lara. He even built an extension to our previous home, but that was when he was in his early 40s, he’d not attempt that now in his 80s, of course, I think I really fell on my feet when I met him! Of course, he kindly says the same thing about me, but I know I’ve got the best deal, ha ha! I mean, most people can learn to cook and clean and keep house, but it takes a lot of skill to know how to build with all the relevant tasks involved there. In his working life he trained to become a shipwright in Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, and then did National Service (the last but one intake to be called up in the late 1950s – it had been deferred several times because he was studying, but eventually he got his call up papers, aged 24) and then, after we met, he applied for work closer to where I lived and became a draughtsman and then an engineer in an electronics factory, and remained there for the next 35 years until retirement. Through his work he travelled abroad, mainly to Europe but also to Japan. He loved his work, but he also loves retirement, and has been retired now for just over 20 years.
      Maisie was a dear little cat, sadly she died some time ago. But we see lots of cats around and some of them, the rascals, use our garden as a loo.
      This morning is a little cloudy, but I’m hoping it will brighten up later on.

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