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February 27, 2009
Originally published in The Prefab Issue
Out Back

From city slickers to country bumpkins, homeowners have always longed for a special place from which to escape the toils of day-to-day life.

Garden editor Debra Prinzing.
Garden editor Debra Prinzing.
Photo by 
Garden editor Debra Prinzing.
Garden editor Debra Prinzing.

In 1783, Marie-Antoinette notoriously commissioned architect Richard Mique to design a Petit Hameau (Little Hamlet) of small buildings on the grounds of the Petit Trianon at the Palace of Versailles. Fleeing the scrutiny of the royal court, Marie and her attendants would run off to the mock farm, dressing up as milkmaids and shepherdesses and pretending to live “normal” peasant lives—–which we can only assume involved eating cake.

Nearly 150 years later, British author Virginia Woolf heralded the benefits of a private abode in her 1929 book A Room of One’s Own with its famous phrase “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

A more modern, unisex version of backyard escapism comes in the form of miniature prefabricated outbuildings. “The traditional definition of a shed is a lean-to or stand-alone structure that provides shelter or storage,” says Debra Prinzing, a freelance garden and design writer and our expert reviewer this month. “I tried to come up with a contemporary definition: a space that contains whatever you’re passionate about.”

We’ve rounded up four of the mini-modulars that make the perfect homes (but not too far) away from home.

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