NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – When Karen King plants her last geranium for the day, she seldom goes inside her main house to rest and relax.

Instead, she heads for her garden house, a small retreat where she listens to music on her iPod and sinks into the comfort of a cushioned chair.

King’s dream garden house happened after husband Bernie Anderson finally built his yearned-for garage at their home along the waterfront in Hampton, Va.

That meant they didn’t need the 12-by-12 storage shed, but they wanted to keep the structure because it was built to last.

“I’m the gardener in the family, so it became my project,” King said. “Whenever it’s nice, I’m usually outside doing something, so I always liked the idea of an outdoor room.”

Before its makeover, the shed was a catchall space for lawn chairs, grill, unused flowerpots, bags of potting soil and crates of odds and ends. It had two small windows, two solid doors, no electricity, bare walls and a concrete floor.

After its makeover, the garden house looks like it belongs in Southern Living magazine. It has sliding doors with screens on three sides, tiled floor, bead board walls, electricity, lights and an overhead fan. Local art decorates the walls.

“I’d always wanted a fountain and finally installed a disappearing one outside the garden house,” King said.

“The garden house is now a great place to dine, read, play games, have a glass of wine or watch the ships come and go in the Hampton Roads harbor.”

Once the garden house was the way she likes it, King decided it was time to enlarge the deck on the house and landscape the yard so it all ties together. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 destroyed much of what was in the yard, so King pretty much had a clean palette to work with.

A professional landscaper put in a new paver patio and walkways that meander from the front driveway, alongside the Trex deck, by the garden house and past the back of the house to Anderson’s garage. Each turn of the walkway yields pleasant surprises like baths, feeders and houses for birds, as well as lots of flowering plants.

Wax myrtles planted after the hurricane provide privacy along the property line and look especially nice pruned into small, multi-trunked trees. They are also where King hangs birdhouses for nesting wrens.

“I love to garden,” said King, now retired and also an avid golfer. “When I worked, my job was pretty intense and working in the yard was a great stress reliever for me.

“I love trying new plants and see what works, what doesn’t.

“My husband seldom ventures into the yard, so it’s my personal space. He has his manly garage and I have the garden house. Works for both of us.”