Sandy Fisher turned a gardener’s cottage into a cozy nook for reading and relaxing.
by Whitley Adkins | photographs by Richard Israel
Long before Pinterest, and before “she-sheds” became a thing, Sandy Fisher transformed an unused space in the backyard of her Barclay Downs home into a rustic retreat for herself — along with a few carpenter bees and, occasionally, birds looking for a spot to build a nest. Fisher, who worked for 25 years as manager and buyer for retail operations at The Mint Museum before retiring in 2014, moved into the home in October 1988 with her husband, George. Over the years, the Maryland native has filled the space with gifts from friends and decorative items purchased on trips to England and France. “There have been times I’ve been tempted to purchase more items and/or upgrade it with fancier things, but I like the charm of its rustic look,” Fisher says.
Fisher’s comments have been lightly edited.
“I know the term ‘she-shed’ is popular right now, but being an Anglophile, I have always preferred to call this my cottage. When we moved into our home 33 years ago, this space had a brown canvas hanging down and nothing inside except a few tools. Any garden tools could easily fit in the storage side of the cottage, and this space just seemed like it was waiting to be reimagined. I pulled down the rotten canvas and found the twig chair and the old school desk.
“Over time, I found and added decorative pieces. The mirrored window was found at a flea market. I bought the little tin at Giverny, Monet’s home, and it holds treats for our dog, Abby. My garden apron came from the beautiful English stately home, Chatsworth, and my garden knee pad was purchased at the Chelsea Flower Show. The daughter of a dear friend gave me St. Francis of Assisi after her mother passed away as an expression of our special friendship and remembrance of her lovely garden. My grandfather turned the wooden candlesticks, and the bench belonged to my mom. I especially like the little chandelier that is a new addition and gives the cottage a special charm at night.
“One of my favorite items in the cottage is Little Mr. Mouse, who holds up his umbrella with his tail while he reads, which is what I enjoy doing the most in the cottage. There are many memories to savor in this little corner of our yard.
“When not relaxing in the cottage, I’m a FWG — a term I made up — which is the abbreviation for ‘fair weather gardener.’ I love being in the garden in the spring to prune, plant and savor, just watching everything come alive again. But once it gets hot and humid and the bugs come out, I retreat inside.” SP