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Elizabeth Harrison is a self-professed “magazine junkie.”
After moving into her Clermont home two years ago, she knew she wanted a garden house and she knew exactly how she wanted it to look.
“I wanted something really different and unique,” Harrison said. “It just came to me. It was the look that I wanted. I wanted it to look like it was old, like it had been here for 100 years just sitting out in the yard.”
Inspired by magazine photos, Harrison drew a picture of what she wanted and asked Jones Cottrell, owner of Clearview Construction in Clermont, to build it.
Cottrell said he was excited about the unusual request and was pleased with the end result.
Construction began in spring 2013 and was completed after three months.
Two large, metal arched doors open to reveal an interior decorated with antique furniture and artworks by Gainesville-based artist Jane Taylor. The 22-square-foot octagonal garden house is crowned by a 10-foot-tall copper roof. The foundation was made with antique bricks, weeping mortar makes the year-old structure seem timeless. Seven antique windows lift open while iron window grates below allow air to circulate through the space, making it comfortable year-round.
Cottrell said the shape of the garden house caused a bit of difficulty. He and his crew built the frame of the bell-shaped copper roof in his barn and then placed it on top of the building using a crane.
Harrison recalled how excited she was to see her vision become a reality when she watched the crew hand crimp the copper roof.
Her enthusiasm motivated the crew, Cottrell said.
“When you’re dealing with people like Elizabeth and the Harrisons who are excited about seeing something come to fruition that they’ve had in their minds, that’s a part of what makes it really exciting too,” Cottrell said. “That whole process is almost as exciting as building the building itself.”
Harrison said she enjoys antique shopping with her husband Doug, daughter Carly, son Casey and daughter-in-law Jessica Harrison, for items she can use to decorate the garden house.
The family frequently uses the space for eating meals or lounging to read a book. There is a strict “no cell phone” rule for visitors to the garden house.
“I was looking at different things over the years that other people have done and it just kind of came together,” Harrison said.
“I just took bits and pieces of ideas and let it come together. As I would find things like the iron (grates) at flea markets, I’d think ‘Oh that would look great here.’”
The garden surrounding the house is as carefully designed as the interior.
Sid Johnston, landscape designer with Trader Jack Marketplace and Sweet Water Nursery in Clermont, said he designed the garden for minimal maintenance.
The landscape is filled with flowering plants such as lavender, azaleas, hostas, Georgia Blue and Weeping Redbud, that will cover the ground as the plants grow.
“She wanted something to accent her garden house,” Johnston said, as he put the finishing touches on the landscape. “I visualized this and convinced her of colors and she let me go overboard I think. It turned out pretty. The garden house is very unusual. the plants just set that building up.