Text by Vicki Ingham
Rescued from ruin, this roomy potting shed houses a gallery of garden-related collections along with potting supplies—and the occasional woodland critter.
Jack Fhillips really doesn’t mind if a squirrel family takes up residence in his potting shed. “I don’t like to kill anything, so my attitude is to let them be,” he says. The shed, which stands behind the garage of his vacation home in the Catskill Mountains, was probably originally a stable for a horse. It had double Dutch doors, a wooden trough, and a dirt floor but was almost falling down when the interior designer bought the property nearly 30 years ago.
Jack salvaged it, put in a new poured-concrete foundation and floor, and turned it into a “play space.” Although he enjoys planting containers of flowers to display on his deck, he says he’s not much of a gardener. “I love gardening as long as it’s done by others,” he admits.
His real passion is collecting. “Once I start on something, it’s hard to make me quit,” he confesses. Before collecting garden tools was trendy, Jack was acquiring antique sprinklers, watering cans, tools, and pots. “I found one rake that I thought was interesting, and the next thing I knew, I had 12. Some of the tools are fun, some are funky, some are junk, and some are just wonderful and have so much character.”
Miniature garden chairs hang on the wall as art, and birdhouses crowd one corner of the shed, offering an array of architectural styles that please Jack’s eye. Objects don’t need to have a pedigree or lofty price point to join his collections. It’s all about shape, texture, and character—especially character. Cracked garden pots and weather-beaten sprinkling cans have “the essence of things that are ‘for real’ in a society that is so plastic,” Jack says. Squirrely tooth marks just add to the patina.