Garden Inspiration

Designer Amy Aidinis Hirsch converts a bare-bones garage into a top-of-the-line potting shed.

How did you get started in home design? Initially, I wanted to be an architect. However, I decided interior design was a much more creative avenue for me. I grew up in a family of trades, my father being a plumbing and heating contractor. As a young girl, I had the opportunity to see large-scale homes under construction. They were always so raw and the potential was endless. There were always building plans around my dad’s office, and I would leaf through them.

How did this potting shed project come about? We began last summer after a few walks on the property. The homeowner really has a gift and passion for horticulture and truly embraces landscape design. In the detached garage, there was a small workbench for potting and prepping. Every time we came upon it, we would tease about how so much creativity comes from one small space. One day I was asked to come over, and the couple said,
“We have a project!” It turned out to be a very well-thought-out Father’s Day gift.

What was here when you started? Absolutely nothing. It was an empty shell—white sheetrock walls and a concrete floor. Since it was an open space, function drove the design: We needed a location for storage, a sink and a work surface.

Were the homeowners involved in the decision making? They were very involved, as well as their contractor. They are truly decisive, which makes my job that much easier. The flooring material had to be completely durable, and the lighting needed to be ample. We all came up with the idea of a series of lights above a shelf for growing bulbs. Believe it or not, those are Restoration Hardware farm sconces outfitted with grow bulbs for seeds.

What unique materials were used? We wanted a space that was as inviting as the home’s interiors without being overly decorated. I came up with the idea of sheathing everything in a reclaimed wood, not a stitch of sheetrock exposed. I wanted to use materials from nature. Hand-hewn antique pine, weathered grey, is from 80–100-year-old barns in Wisconsin. A stainless top, blue-stone floors—the more dirt the better. It’s a place where you can take a hose and wash it down.

How did you decide on the woods used? We knew we wanted something reclaimed. The homeowner found an image, and from there we explored all different types of woods. It was all about proportion and the size of boards, as well as the tone of the material. When dealing with reclaimed material, you do not always have the luxury of finding the exact sized board you specify—so compromise is part of the design. The homeowners’ favorite details are the rough-hewn ceiling beams that still have the notches from the original peg and mortise fastening technique.

And the complementary surfaces? Given that everything was sheathed in wood, alternative materials provide relief. The blue-stone floors were the right complement, and the insertion of the stainless countertop was also a nice contrast. The countertop gets better with age and use.

Tell me about that beautiful sink. I wanted it to look like it was made from one chunk of stone; my vision was soapstone. But, at the marble yard at Everest in Norwalk, I came across honed, leathered Jet Mist granite: It has such movement and great texture to the hand and is indestructible. Then, I selected a commercial restaurant faucet. It has a great scale, and you are able to maneuver it to accommodate watering cans, pots, etc.

What’s your favorite detail? I can’t say that I have one, since every aspect is so special on its own and collaboratively. Although, one very clever aspect came from the large double doors. Those are the existing garage doors that used to be on a typical electric garage carrier. We did not want to eliminate them, since they mirrored the two garage doors in the courtyard, so the contractor literally cut them in half. I love the idea that they swing open all year long.