That eyesore of a backyard shed might be completely run-down, but you don’t need to scrap it just yet. Just ask shed renovation pros. “The dilapidated structure could actually be rehabbed into an attractive storage unit or, even better, a cool place to get going on your meditation resolution,” says Erika Kotite, author of the book She Sheds: A Room of Your Own and cofounder of design and lifestyle company She Shed Living.
Kotite says that the first step to embarking on a backyard shed reno is to clean it up. “You don’t know what you have until the vines are pulled, debris removed, and the interior is cleared of clutter and cobwebs,” she says. “If the shed is too small for humans to stand up comfortably in, then your options are limited for a hangout space. But it can still provide valuable storage and look great on the outside once you fix it up.”
Pros like Kotite and Dave Malcolm, founder of Shedplans, a shed construction site, offer easy-to-implement DIY tips that transform a decrepit shed into a shack you’ll love.
Update the door
Change the vibe of your shed with a door update, Malcolm says. On a limited budget but still want to make an impact? Paint the shed door in a bright color. If you can change it altogether, you’ve got options that add character to the shed. For a quaint Colonial spin, look to a Dutch door, a split door that’s divided in the middle, allowing the top portion to open while keeping the bottom portion closed.
Kotite likes French doors, either single or double, depending on the size of your shed. “They add instant glamour,” she says. She does caution that, while track barn doors look attractive, they’re tricky to install, and the hardware can be expensive.
Paint for personality
A coat of your favorite paint on that junky old shed can have a dramatic effect, according to Kotite. Channel your inner artist by adding a contrast for the trim. Dark gray pairs well with red, orange, deep green, and most pastels. If you’re a shabby-chic fan, use a cream for the shed body and install window boxes in natural wood tones.
Know your siding options
Choosing a siding is a key element of a shed update, but there are multiple factors to consider before picking one. Malcolm says that your siding should be water-resistant, durable, and easy to replace, yet aesthetically pleasing. You can achieve both with a bevel siding, tongue-and-groove boards, and board-and-batten siding. “These are all simple but efficient and nicer ways to update your siding without going overboard,” Malcolm says.
Consider an overhang
An overhang is the portion of the roof that continues beyond the wall and provides coverage for the space around your shed. Adding one boosts its aesthetic appeal and protects your windows, walls, and doors. Create a simple overhang with two brackets supporting an angled wood roof above the door. A striped awning contrasting against a perky paint job will add a touch of Slim Aarons panache.
Update windows and add trim
“Windowsills are the best place to decorate with planters, flowers, and more, and their trim can be the perfect spot for a pop of color,” Malcolm says. Adding an elaborate window trim—like corbels, brackets, and a pretty cupola—gives the shed a decorative element, Kotite says. A judicious sprinkle of shingles on the gable gives a plain shed a lift. If your boxlike shed lacks windows, consider adding one to stream in coveted natural light that not only enhances the interior atmosphere but gives the shed’s exterior much-needed character, Malcolm says.
Optimize storage with nooks
A shed’s original function may be storage, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a dumping ground for tools and patio furniture. Maximize storage space and add shed appeal by ditching freestanding cupboards, which take up precious space and add clutter. Instead, opt for built-ins and nooks—painting these the same color as shed walls creates a seamless, neat look. Floating shelves on the walls can do the trick too. Installing shelves at the base of a window creates the illusion of windowsills. For sneaky storage, take advantage of the space under the pitched roof. You can also add a loft platform, which can be hidden with a pretty curtain. For even more storage, Kotite advises framing a small weatherproof cabinet on the exterior back wall of your shed.
Don’t forget about lighting
Even if you don’t have full electrical on the shed, you can get creative with extension cords. String lights work beautifully and look fantastic running in parallel lines from the shed to your back patio. For the interior, look for chandeliers that have a plug-in cord. Another option is low-voltage lighting, which is often easier to install than standard voltage, Kotite says.
Nothing looks more forlorn than a shed “plopped” onto a yard with no discernable steps or pathway. Kotite recommends that DIYers anchor the shed to the landscape with a deck step, followed by a few pieces of flagstone suggestive of a path. “Potted plants are great visual anchors when clustered around a shed,” Kotite says. “They transform the structure into an intentional component of the garden.” Alternatively, surround the shed with a circle of mulch or pea gravel, making way for flower beds around its perimeter.