Before & After: An Art Studio Garden Retreat

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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

  1. H. M. Willow says:

    I love this! I lived in Mountain View for all of high school and I just love seeing such a beautiful space in a place thats near to my heart. Enjoy your studio! -Haley

  2. Natalie Woo says:

    Thanks so much Haley! I’m a Bay Area local as well and so happy a little piece of my world connected to your heart.

  3. Laura says:

    Absolutely love everything in that studio!! The wall looks like wall paper, it is gorgeous! You should totally do prints for textiles and wallpapers 😍

    1. Natalie Woo says:

      Thank you Laura and thanks so much for the idea! I haven’t really thought about it, but it sounds exciting :)

  4. Its so amazing!! I Really hope to had an design like that in my home

    1. Natalie Woo says:

      Thanks Cara! You can definitely do this for your home :)

  5. Aidel.K says:

    This is wonderful on so many levels! Great use of small space. It’s so sweet that family was eager to help get the studio ready. Seeing Natialie’s artwork, I understand why her family was eager to provide her a space–it’s beautiful!

    1. Natalie Woo says:

      Thanks so much Aidel! I feel so fortunate and I appreciate your kind words.

  6. Jen O says:

    I’ve long lusted after those sheds out in front of the big box stores. It’s inspiring to see how creative energy can convert one into such a sweet studio space.

    1. Natalie Woo says:

      Thank you Jen! You should definitely consider one :)

  7. Diana says:

    I love my tuff shed. We got one with a loft, which provides endless storage. Such a great budget option.

    1. Natalie Woo says:

      That was the first one I saw and dreamed of having the loft Tuff Shed :). Enjoy!

  8. What a charming space! Natalie, I love that you have carved out a space where you can be creative. AND! that you that you have the energy and focus to have a creative outlet after working all day and being a mom! Doubly impressed!! :-)

  9. Natalie Woo says:

    Thanks so much for your kind words Kristin! And I admire you for running a lovely design firm and raising three boys (amazing) :)

  10. Pia says:

    I had no idea a Tuff Shed could be transformed into a beautiful inspiring space like this. It saves on space yet looks very functional. You and your family did an amazing job!

    1. Natalie Woo says:

      Thanks Pia! Our imaginations are limitless :)

  11. Sharon says:

    Wow! What a story and what a makeover! :) Fantastic

  12. yvonne says:

    Very cool natalie…I can just see you painting there with nature to inspire you. Enjoy!

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