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before and after

Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat

by Annie Werbler

When Natalie Woo and Thibault Jousse found a home in Mountain View, California near their work at Google, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity despite the property’s lack of an art studio for after-hours watercolor illustration work. The home comfortably fit the whole family including their spirited 12-year-old son Lucas and energetic white Golden Retriever Koji, so Natalie sought to find a creative solution for carving out her own painting space. She decided to build a simple structure that would be spacious enough to work in, but not so large that its construction would require a permit from the city. The garden behind the house was the perfect setting – full of life with lush grass (though dryer now with the drought), fragrant rose bushes, and sage, rosemary, and hydrangea plants dotting its perimeter.

Natalie purchased the 8×10′ Tuff Shed Premier PRO Ranch retreat in March, and an experienced contractor erected the structure in a day and a half. The wooden shell and painted exterior side walls had to be completed before Natalie could tackle the fun part – figuring out how to finish the interior. Thibault’s parents had planned a two-week visit in July, and were eager to help the couple insulate and paint the shed while also adding electrical wiring so it would be fully functional with lighting and an internet connection for any conceivable project. They couldn’t wait to get started so came in June instead, and within a week, everything was completed. The insulation installed, drywall in tact, and electricity run. Natalie wanted a serene paint palette and opted for the Lazy Days by Valspar wallcolor – a light, pastel green. The shed’s flooring needed to be durable, easy to clean, and able to hide paint drips, so Thibault sourced a Home Depot light gray marbled linoleum square tile with the added benefit of easy peel-and-stick installation.

Since the retreat is a small space, Natalie optimizes storage for all her canvases, paper materials, and painting supplies in a way that still feels like a personalized expression of her whimsical aesthetic. She is productive in the shed, but also finds herself inspired by the beautiful outdoor garden and interior wall dedicated to clippings from magazines and beyond. She also takes inspiration from the elements in the space put there by those people closest to her – from her husband’s elbow grease, to her in-laws’ finishing work, to small trinkets from her grandmother. The finishing touch of her own painted floral mural rounds out the studio to make it her own. —Annie

Photography by Natalie Woo and Thibault Jousse

Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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Natalie Woo's artist workspace retreat is equipped with a desktop computer, IKEA shelving, a wall calendar, and visual inspiration from books, as well as a golden floral mural painting that makes her own whimsical mark.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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The inspiration wall shows magazine tearouts for color ideas and a shelf on which to set art pieces for review from a distance. A comfortable custom-illustrated throw pillow features Natalie's own design.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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Natalie painted this floral mural depicting mums and hydrangeas in gold and black. She used Ralph Lauren Parlor Gold Metallic and Liquitex Basics Acrylic Black for the details on top of a Valspar Lazy Days background color that covers the interior walls throughout the shed.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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A piano keyboard is hidden under the work table for use on days during which Natalie wants to play relaxing music. A white IKEA floating shelf holds Cuyana orange gift boxes among other organizational and decorative items.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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Posters collected from craft fairs, Natalie's personal illustrations, and her travels to Croatia decorate this wall alongside pretty wrapping paper keepsakes from her wedding.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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A miniature bonsai with its sleepy panda figurine reminds the hardworking homeowner to take a break.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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This handmade Chinese lantern by Natalie and her grandmother acts as a constant reminder of happy times from her childhood.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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Golden Retriever Koji guards the retreat's large painted door before it was outfitted with an organizational system featuring rods for hanging fine papers and wallcoverings.
Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat, on Design*Sponge
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In the garden, the compact 8x10' Tuff Shed Premier PRO Ranch art studio was finished to match the paint color of the main house.

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