Turning An Old Toolshed Into A Dinner Cottage

A backyard toolshed is transformed into a charming dinner cottage.

It might have remained a toolshed or shelter for lawn chairs and bikes had a less creative eye landed upon it. McGuire painted several small things before deciding on a color for the cottage, which becomes an indoor/outdoor room when the weather allows.

Out for Dinner
Stylist Laura McGuire transformed an old toolshed into a cottage for candlelight dinners.

Metalic-threaded antique Indian saris are layered on the window and table. Swedish neoclassic-style chairs add a pop of bright blue.

For two years, Laura McGuire glared at the dilapidated toolshed at the far end of her M street backyard. At the time, the 120-square-foot shed was used for storage, cluttered with worn kitchen appliances and cast-off tables and chairs. That’s when the former fashion stylist, clothing buyer, and textiles dealer, hit upon the notion of a room in continual decorative evolution, one that could be changed seasonally or at whim. “I saw a need in my life to find something to change – in a beautiful way,” says McGuire, who bought her 70-year-old house in 2002.

The Dinner Cottage, as she calls it, is a transporting environment for entertaining, a serene haven wrapped in pretty rose-colored draperies and dotted with well-chosen objects, just-bought and antique. “It’s a mix of whatever works: new and cheap, old and cool,” says McGuire, who describes her style as California hippie meets continental Europe with a dash of Southern gentility. She has changed the colors in the cottage three times, most recently switching the dusky pinks to bold aquas. Something yellow or even entirely white is gestating now. Color dictates the mood of the space, followed by accessories.

Anchored by a rectangular Mennonite table and flanked by slipper chairs dressed in McGuire-designed cotton slipcovers, the tiny space functions as a place to dine, seating just five. It hosted a celebration this past New Year’s Eve, a baby shower, a pink Casbah party for girls, and it continues to welcome guests monthly for intimate dinners, even in summer when the air-conditioning kicks in.

Laura McGuire lived in California for ten years, where she worked as a clothing buyer and wardrobe stylest.

The evolving dinner cottage sparked an idea for a new business, designing a line of slipcovered dining chairs. It was a natural fit given her background in fashion and fabrics. McGuire’s line, which debuted this spring, is available in select stores, including La Vie Boheme in Montecito, California, and on the web at www.maisondecouture.net. The slipcovers are sewn from new and antique textiles, and they feature monogrammed aprons on the chair backs.

Inspiration comes from wherever McGuire’s life takes her, most recently to Paris, where she scoured flea markets and wandered the countryside. All of the colors, sights, and sounds are jumbling around in my head, she says, musing over the notion of producing one-of-a-kind pieces from swatches of fabric.

Meanwhile, the cottage sits in her yard, a talisman of sorts. “This little room has affected me in a tremendous way,” she says. “It is a special space, something I did purely for myself.”

 

Laura McGuire’s Remodeling Tips

A funky shell lantern hangs above a painted French dresser, which provides storage for linens as well as a stage for tablescapes.

Many of Dallas vintage homes have freestanding garages, guest quarters, and sheds that can be handily converted to showpiece rooms. Before you begin remodeling:

* Define how the space will be used. Be clear about what you want and craft a thorough design plan, including locations for entryways, windows, lighting, electric outlets, and closets.

* Consider the surrounding garden areas. When McGuire gutted the structure, the root systems of two small trees were disrupted.

* Determine a realistic budget before you begin. Figure out what you can do yourself and what you will need to hire workers to do. McGuire whitewashed and sealed her new pine floor herself but still spent three times as much as she had intended.

* Know your limits. Be honest about what you can do without help, considering tools, preparation, clean-up, and overall time.

* When you decorate, choose what you love and it will all work together. McGuire proves this with her mix of ethnic artifacts, French and English antiques, and seashells.

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Same Cottage, Take 2
Laura McGuire transforms her pink and pretty dinner cottage into a Moorish-inspired salon with yards of blue and white fabrics.

The combination of blue and white unites the room, despite the varied textures.

A double-layered Indian tent from Wisteria floats over a corner. She sewed down-stuffed cushions, from fabric purchased at Silk Trading Compnay, for the iron garden chairs and uses a ceramic garden stool as a table. The electric chartreuse of viburnum adds fresh punch, preventing the wisteria, lilac, and hydrangea from looking dowdy.

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