7 Tips for Creating a Rustic Garden

Written by Maria Rummel
Updated April 26, 2016
rustic garden shed
A rustic garden shed is the perfect summer escape. (Photo courtesy of Mark Gaynor at Living Vintage)

Try these rustic design and gardening tips to transform your outdoor spaces.

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Trinity Holmes of Circa ’34 wanted to use her garden barn for more than potting and storage. With some help from her husband, she moved the shed across her yard.

The old garden barn now sits under a large oak tree, and Trinity uses the rustic garden retreat to wind down after a long day with her three young kids. There she can do work, or enjoy dinner and a glass of wine with her girlfriends. 

Rustic gardens and outdoor spaces like Trinity’s have increased in popularity over the last few years. Mark Gaynor and Kim Whitley-Gaynor have made a life designing these types of rustic spaces with their business Living Vintage.

Mark says they always begin with discussing the client’s wants, needs and dreams for their space. 

These rustic design tips and garden ideas will help take you past the dreaming phase and get you started on building the perfect backyard escape. 

1. Plan for a rustic garden paradise

Ask yourself how you’d like to use the new space. Trinity loves to use her shed as a home office, while blogger Kath Bosko of The Olde Weeping Cedar designed her shed so she had a place to spend long hours planting and potting.

Add a porch to your garden shed for an additional outdoor space to relax or entertain guests. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Holmes at Circa '34)

Gaynor also suggests thinking about the materials you want to use, and to decide if the space is intended to blend in or stand out from the surroundings.

Head outside to plan your garden. Take a look around to really get a feel for what you want to build and where it should go.

2. Find shade to build a she-shed

Keep your outdoor oasis comfortable by choosing a place with lots of shade. Holmes’ enjoys sitting out on her shed’s pergola covered patio. The large oak over her shed provides much needed shade and tranquility on the hottest days of summer. 

3. Claim the outdoor space as your own

Consider a rustic garden as your personal space, not a family home. “You can be more free spirited,” Holmes says. Take chances and use items that reflect your personality that don’t work with your home decor

flowers on garden shed porch
Bringing plants on to the porch with rustic accessories can help tie a garden and shed into one space. (Photo courtesy of Kath Bosko at The Olde Weeping Cedar)

4. Repurpose to create rustic decor

Rustic gardens and sheds are a wonderful home for salvaged materials, in both the structure and the décor. 

Holmes suggests using up spare materials from your previous projects. Holmes and her husband crafted the Dutch door for her shed with spare pallet wood.  

“Old barn tin, 100-year-old siding, and old bricks for the foundation all have both structural and aesthetic function in the overall building,” Gaynor says. 

When using these reclaimed and repurposed materials for structural support, it is important to find out how to care for the materials so the building stays in tact over the years. 

Blue garden shed
Garden tools make for functional and authentic decor. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Holmes at Circa '34)

Repurposed décor requires less specific care and still incorporates rustic design ideas. Bosko says to go with what draws your eye. “You can put flowers in almost anything... granite wear bowls, a ladle, even an old chair.” 

5. Shop around for garden accents

There is no a one-stop shop for all rustic garden accessories. Both Holmes and Bosko found items around their old country properties to use for their sheds. 

Thrift stores, antique shops and garage sales are also great places to hunt for garden accents.

6. Know the elements

Collect things that will withstand or age nicely with the elements. A garden shed or patio isn’t the best space for a brand new couch. 

Still try to keep outdoor spaces cozy and comfortable with smaller items such as decorative pillows and blankets. These items can easily be brought inside or covered with plastic if a storm arrives.

7. Allow the garden to grow

Bosko says her shed is an ongoing project. “I keep adding on to it how ever I want,” she says. She enjoys that every season gives her an opportunity to decorate the potting shed in a new way.


Wood birdhouse and purple flowers
Galvanized pots and old wood are easily repurposed as rustic decor. Even if the pot is rusted, it can still be used. (Photo courtesy of Kath Bosko at The Olde Weeping Cedar)

Summer has finally arrived and a repurposed garden shed is perfect place to enjoy every minute, from clasping a fresh cup of coffee and listening to the birds sing at sunrise, to spending warm nights stargazing on the porch. 

What is your favorite outdoor space to spend time in? Let us know in the comments below! 

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