A garden-loving couple create the perfect place to have a soak and putter with their plants year-round
“This project was a real labor of love,” garden designer and landscaper Bob Trainor says. After he married and moved in with his wife, Lisa, the two poured passion into the garden. However, there was one bad apple in the mix — a dilapidated shed in the middle of everything that had become a magnet for junk. The couple saw the potential for a dreamy space. And after an extensive renovation, it serves as a cozy and light room where they soak in the hot tub, read and enjoy the view of their lovely garden. As another part of the project, Bob fulfilled a dream of having a greenhouse, where the two of them can enjoy puttering with their plants all year long.
Greenhouse Spa 1: Bob Trainor, original photo on Houzz
Photos by Bob Trainor
Garden Shed at a Glance
What happens here: Bob and Lisa Trainor soak in the hot tub, tend to seedlings, enjoy growing fresh herbs and wintering their potted plants, let their tropical plants thrive, display their collections and antiques, read and take in the view from this garden shed
Location: Wrentham, Massachusetts
Size: Shed: 224 square feet (20.8 square meters); greenhouse: 240 square feet (22.2 square meters)
The vintage letters seen here hint at what’s inside. Bob and Lisa enjoy collecting antiques and vintage garden ephemera, from enamel signs to antique seed packet racks. “We really pushed the garden theme,” Bob says. Even on the coldest snowy days, they can enjoy their shared love of gardening in the new greenhouse.
Greenhouse Spa 2: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz
BEFORE: “The shed was a sore thumb in a beautiful garden,” Bob says. It originally had a screened-in area that wasn’t really big enough to hang out on or enjoy, and the interior had become a spot filled with junk.
Greenhouse Spa 3: Bob Trainor, original photo on Houzz
AFTER: Working with their contracting friends Dave and Mike Bernier, they took the original shed down to its studs and collaborated on the new design. “We enlisted their help with the carpentry and execution of this project. We had a unique relationship where they were very patient with our rough plans and design-as-we-go approach,” Bob says. “Lisa and I would present them with ideas, and they would find the solution and complete the carpentry phase of the work.”
The Bernier brothers did the rough framing, while Bob and Lisa handled other parts of the project. “While they did rough framing, I did painting and prep work,” Bob says. “While they did the finish carpentry, Lisa and I worked on lighting and decorating. It was definitely a collaboration of many talents.”
The process has resulted in a charming building that is a big asset to the home. Sliding French doors on two sides, a green tin roof and a cupola have transformed the old shed into an architectural gem.
The couple also collaborated on the yard design, creating an eclectic garden full of their favorite trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials and annuals. In front of the shed is a birdbath with a recirculating fountain.
A heated greenhouse extends off the side of the building.
Greenhouse Spa 4: Bob Trainor, original photo on Houzz
They keep the greenhouse at a steady 50 degrees Fahrenheit all winter. They like to store their ferns and exotic palms here for the winter, grow fresh herbs for cooking, overwinter plants, prepare seedlings in the spring for planting and just generally putter around with their plants. The ground is ⅜-inch pea gravel.
Weathered boards and vintage garden signs give the exterior and shed character. The couple got them from a local vendor, but the signs came from a 100-year-old barn in Pennsylvania.
One of the couple’s favorite things to do on the weekends is go antiquing. Bob picked up many of the vintage signs at a nursery when it went out of business. The weathered boards add a cozy factor.
Greenhouse Spa 5: Before Photo, original photo on Houzz
BEFORE: Now that you’ve gotten a good gander at the refurbished shed and new greenhouse, let’s take another look at that “before” situation just for fun.
Greenhouse Spa 6: Bob Trainor, original photo on Houzz
AFTER: The house has a deck that connects to this patio, and the flow out to the shed is easy. This second set of sliding French doors provides a nice view, and the couple’s daughters and their friends enjoy hopping from the hot tub out to the patio too.
Another set of sliding glass doors offers direct access off the patio. Now the shed is a lovely asset that helps create one side of this garden room. The cupola is functional and decorative — the windows are opened by remote control, and it serves as a chimney for the hot tub’s steam.
Greenhouse Spa 7: Bob Trainor, original photo on Houzz
The spa shed serves several purposes. First and foremost, it’s a dreamy place for a nice soak protected from the weather all year. Second, Bob and Lisa love to hang out in the chairs and read while enjoying the view of the garden. Third, it gave the lifelong collectors a place to show off and use some of their favorite antiques, like the wooden bench seen here. “It gives us a great place to sit and pull off our boots,” Bob says. Fourth, it’s a warm spot to keep their tropical plant collection during the winter. Many of those plants make their way out to the patio during the warmer months.
The original floor was concrete in bad shape. Bob and Lisa decided concrete was a good flooring material for a room with a hot tub and plants, so they just resurfaced it. They added a special touch, pressing fern leaves into it to leave botanical imprints on the floor.
A French pocket door separates the spa room from the greenhouse. This allows the spa space to share the light from the greenhouse, while two separate heating units allow the couple to keep the two spaces different temperatures. The walls in the spa room are very well insulated.
Lights fashioned from terra-cotta pots add a whimsical touch. The seed rack on the right side of the door is an antique, as is the green cabinet on the right. “We picked it up not really knowing what we’d use it for, and it had been in the basement for a while,” Bob says. They refashioned the piece to cover the utility panel.
“It’s such a great place to take the chill off and soak after working outside in all kinds of weather,” Bob says. “It’s magic — you’re protected from the elements, but you feel like you’re outside.”
Greenhouse Spa 8: Bob Trainor, original photo on Houzz
The couple love to find salvaged architectural pieces as well. They backlit the stained glass window so they can enjoy its cozy glow when they are having a nighttime soak. They found the eyebrow window at an architectural salvage spot in New Hampshire.
The weathered barn board warms the space, while white beadboard lightens up the ceiling. “It feels rustic and quaint in here,” Bob says. The sliding doors have screens, and keeping everything open means the shed is cool and breezy enough to use on hot summer days.
A shelf over the doors provides a spot for a collection of vintage toy trucks.
However, in the meantime, Bob and Lisa are happy to have their little year-round oasis while they wait for spring.
Design: Lisa and Bob Trainer; Bob owns Garden Tech Horticultural Services
Contracting and carpentry: D R Bernier Contracting