A tiny garden house of your own

Small but elegant structures in the backyard.

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There's something sooo appealing about the idea of having a tiny -- but elegant -- getaway in the backyard. A structure just large enough to hold comfortable seating, shelves of garden books, and a small sampling of whatever else is important in your life. A place where you can escape from it all without going very far.

I spent the whole weekend dreaming about such a possibility, thanks to Friday's New York Times and an idea-filled new book that arrived the same day.

The Times article, The Next Little Thing?, featured 73- to 800-square-foot buildings often used as beach chalets, playhouses, or offices. The word "cute" often came to mind when reading about these little dwelling places.

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They're very appealing, but I honestly can't imagine paring my life down to  300 square feet on a permanent basis, although I applaud those who can.

On the other hand, Debra Prinzing's book, "Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways" (Clarkson Potter, $30), showcases 28  little retreats that anyone with space and money can construct in the backyard.

As William Wright's photos show,  these aren't prefab repositories of old shovels and mildewed garden gloves, but the stuff of dreams -- stylish shelters and studios, and even pavilions for garden entertaining.

As someone who was once sorely tempted to buy a house that I really didn't like simply because it had a wonderful freestanding workshop out back, the first project featured in the book appealed to me most.

It's a stucco studio that a landscape architect created from a 400-square-foot garage.

I could see myself working there. I could even see myself being able to afford something similar. The others were great -- I oohed and aahed over them and would love to own any one of them -- but didn't feel  the same personal connection.

Because of it's so well-written and beautifully photographed, this book has earned a permanent place on my bookshelves. I'll be leafing through over and over, dreaming of the possibilities.

Debra's blog, Shed Style, has become must reading for me, too, to keep up on this trend.

Some other sites for those who want to learn more about tiny structures:

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, where you can take a video tour of the owner's little house.

Small House Style keeps up with what's going on in the field around the world.

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