How to decorate your shed

How to decorate your shed

If you’ve always dreamed about decorating a garden room, how would you like some expert advice from a top interior designer? Here, courtesy of Sally Coulthard, author of 'Shed Decor' and 'Shed Chic', is the definitive guide to decorating your shed. 

This handy guide gives you advice about how to pick a style that suits your personality. We’ll help you choose the perfect colours and paints, find the right furnishings and transform a simple shed into an extra space for relaxing, working and entertaining.


How to create your dream shed

There’s a shed for everyone. Whether you want a home office or a kids’ playroom, a place for tools or a creative studio, the only limit is your imagination. 

A well-made Waltons shed is the perfect place to start. From that point on, it’s about creating an environment that meets your needs. Your dream shed is ultimately a place where you can express yourself, away from the constraints of a family home or shared space. The first step is to choose your overall style. For inspiration, have a look at these four tried-and-tested schemes – country, simple, vintage and retro. 

1. Country

Rustic shed interior with bedding
Antique furniture, patterned wallpaper and soft throws are accented with pops of floral colour
Photo credit: Hawth Bush Farm, taken from ‘Shed Decor’ by Sally Coulthard (Jacqui Small LLP)

RUSTIC, NATURAL and COSY, country style celebrates nature’s materials and motifs. Stick to calm, earthy colours for the backdrop – greens, browns, grey blues and creams. Rustic, hardwearing materials such as raw timber and galvanised metals are ideal for adding an outdoorsy vibe. Scrubbed pine tables, metal garden chairs, terracotta planters and rattan flooring all hit the right note. 

When it comes to fabrics, add pattern and colour with natural designs such as flowers, wildlife and leaves. The country look can be rustic and harmonious or strikingly mismatched with shots of red or tartan. Soften any hard furniture with chunky woollen throws, sheepskin rugs, natural linens and tweeds. 

2. Simple

Neutral and simple shed interior with bunk bed
A limited colour palette creates a calm and tranquil atmosphere
Photo credit: Stellan Herner, taken from ‘Shed Decor’ by Sally Coulthard (Jacqui Small LLP)

ELEGANT, MINIMAL and RELAXING, simple style epitomises the ‘less is more’ approach. Start with a blank canvas – white walls and ceiling – and soften with neutral flooring such as sisal or limed wooden boards. A monochrome colour palette is ideal. Whites, greys and blacks create a strong visual look onto which you can add the odd splash of colour. 

Minimalism and clutter don’t mix, so plan for lots of clever storage and keep decor unfussy. Keep pattern to a minimum and create interest by mixing textures – rough and smooth, hard and soft, natural and manmade. Mirrors, statement lighting and a bright rug can act as focal points.

3. Vintage

Vintage shed exterior with table and chairs
Relaxed vintage style celebrates floral patterns, pastel colours and painted furniture
Photo credit: Holly Joliffe, taken from ‘Shed Decor’ by Sally Coulthard (Jacqui Small LLP)

ROMANTIC, NOSTALGIC and HOMELY, vintage style is all about piling on the pattern and bringing in objects with a story. Mix blousy floral patterns and seaside stripes with crocheted blankets and patchwork. Painted furniture and salvaged pieces add character and period charm. 

A style that celebrates the past, vintage decor is designed to evoke memories of childhood and the cosiness of everyday life. Old advertising ephemera, retro toys, kitsch fabrics and cheerful, sweet shop colours all add to the mix. 

Vintage is also about handcrafted treasures – whether it’s your granny’s old throw or an embroidered cushion, a favourite sketch or a hand-painted chest of drawers, fill your shed with homespun goodies. 


1. Choose a specialist chalk paint - light grey or duck-egg blue work well.
2. Second hand shops and car boot sales are a good source of cheap wooden furniture.
3. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply the paint - many require no stripping, sanding or priming.
4. Leave to dry and then seal with wax.
5. Distress some areas with light sanding (if required).
6. Wax again.
7. Buff with a lint-free cloth.

4. Retro

Retro shed interior with patterned wallpaper
For a cool, retro style retreat use bold, mid-century colours and patterns
Photo credit: Carine Olander, taken from ‘Shed Decor’ by Sally Coulthard (Jacqui Small LLP)

COOL, BOLD and WITTY, retro style takes its inspiration from the best of mid-century design. Radical and inventive, fifties and sixties design mixed strong colours with iconic pieces of furniture and dazzling accessories. 

Blocks of bright shades are the ideal starting point, whether it’s a statement wall or a retro sofa. Try warm orange, teal, turquoise and sky blue for a classic mid-century look. 

Retro furniture revels in architectural lines, tapered legs and generous curves. Patterned fabrics are also key. Look for cushions, lampshades and curtains with atomic designs, stylised flowers and geometric shapes. And have fun with shed accessories. Starburst clocks, studio pottery, moulded plastic lamps and colour ball hooks are all perfect finishing touches.

Choosing a colour scheme

Colour wheel with warm colours and cool colours
Use the colour wheel to help co-ordinate your chosen scheme.

Stuck on which shade to choose? Here are three simple schemes based around the colour wheel:

  • Sophisticated – For a subtle, understated look, use one colour in different tones ranging from very dark to light. This technique works brilliantly with greys and neutrals but is effective with any colour. For an extra twist add the odd dash of one other bright colour.
  • Energetic – Pairs of contrasting colours add drama and fun to any shed. Pick a favourite colour and look across the colour wheel to find its complementary opposite. Always let one of the ‘colour pair’ dominate or add plenty of white space to keep things controlled.
  • Relaxing – For a calm, visually balanced scheme, use shades that are next to each other on the colour wheel. Greens, for example, work beautifully with grassy shades of yellow and blue. The same applies to purple, which sits comfortably with both pinks and warm blues.

10 shed smart furnishings

Blue patterned pillow with vase of sunflowers
Brightly coloured outdoor cushions inject style and comfort.
Photo credit: kezzabeth_blog / Instagram

Outdoor temperatures can be tough on fabrics and furniture, Here are ten key pieces perfectly suited to shed life:

  1. Patio rugs – Also called ‘outdoor’ rugs, these hard-wearing polypropylene woven mats are the perfect all-weather covering for shed floors.
  2. Old armchair – Everyone needs a spot to sit and ponder. Dig out an old armchair or scour flea markets for a vintage bargain. Loose covers or a throw will give any tired upholstery a lift.
  3. Solar lights – Whether it’s twinkly fairy lights or solar lanterns, these off-the-grid lamps will bring sparkle long after the sun’s gone down.
  4. Terracotta pots – These gardeners’ favourites make gorgeous storage for everything from craft tools to artists’ pencils. Lovely as rustic planters and vases too.
  5. Garden cushions – Water-repellent fabrics and easy-wash covers are perfect for shed soft furnishings and the instant way to add comfort.
  6. Bistro chairs – From sleek Tolix stools to French café chairs, stackable bistro seating is both robust and chic, and the ideal option for shed entertaining.
  7. Trestle tables – Adaptable and sturdy, trestle tables can be used for everything from a work desk to a potting bench, a dining spot to an art surface.
  8. Wax coated fabric – If your shed isn’t heated, make blinds, cushions and tablecloths with waxed cotton or lightweight oilcloth – it’s wipe-clean and resists mould.
  9. Pure wool throws – Cool in summer, warm in winter, pure wool blankets are the perfect portable accessory for chilly evenings or to add a seasonal splash of colour.
  10. Wire baskets – Industrial, cool and hugely practical for shed storage, wirework baskets and bins store all your stuff without compromising on looks. 

Exterior paints and finishes

Blue painted wooden shed
The colour and finish you choose should complement your scheme and preserve the life of your shed
Image: Shutterstock

  • WOOD OIL – The ultimate finish for fans of natural wood. It gently nourishes and enhances good quality timber, whilst protecting against the elements. 
  • VARNISH – Perfect if you want a hardwearing, easy to wipe and long lasting clear finish on smooth timber. Finishes range from high sheen to flat matt.
  • STAINS – A fantastic way to add fade-resistant, subtle colour to rough sawn or smooth timber. Most stains will also give your shed some protection against the weather. 
  • PAINTS – Gloss and eggshell finishes add high impact colour and excellent weather protection. Apply a block primer before the finish to prevent knots showing through. 

Two Waltons summerhouses
Sheds look great both varnished or painted

More help

Cosy garden room interior
Don’t hold back! Express yourself and create the garden room of your dreams
Photo credit: Carina Olander, taken from ‘Shed Decor’ by Sally Coulthard (Jacqui Small LLP)

You should now be able to decorate your shed to your own personal taste. Having a clear theme for your shed, and sticking to a colour palette will give you a comfortable space that you’ll want to spend time in.

Additional Resources

About the author: 

After reading Archaeology and Anthropology at Oxford University, Sally Coulthard channelled her love of old buildings and gardens into restoring, decorating and writing about characterful houses, crafts and outdoor spaces. 

Shed decor by Sally Coulthard book cover

Her inspirational bestselling book, ‘Shed Decor’, is available on Amazon.

Lead image: Courtesy of ‘Shed Decor’ by Sally Coulthard (Jacqui Small LLP)
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