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Gazebos as focal points for garden self-expression

  • Steven Baker of Santa Rosa saw red in this gazebo as it sat in a disabled state after he purchased a home in Fountaingrove several years ago. Not wanting to tear it down he started a slow process to refurbish the gazebo, Thursday Aug. 8, 2013 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

In 2000, Steven Baker had a simple, open-air playhouse built for his three kids, then all under 10. He and his wife, Melania Kang, would occasionally come out to the little gazebo to decompress at the end of a long day.

Then as the kids grew, the backyard getaway became like an abandoned house slowly deteriorating within plain and painful view of the big windows in their Fountaingrove home.

"It hadn't been used in years," said Baker, who with his wife owns popular neighborhood eatery Chloe's Cafe in San Francisco. "The doors were off. It leaked. Some windows were missing and it was essentially used as storage. There was lots of dust and cobwebs. It was a real eyesore."

Garden Gazebos

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But earlier this year, Baker was struck with an inspiration. With some paint and a bit of inspired creativity, he set about redeveloping that blighted corner of his yard into an outdoor room for reading, intimate conversations and occasionally a little nap on a sleeping platform he built himself.

It looks like a Chinese temple, with bright red walls and mustard yellow trim and resin dragons bought at an Asian grocery store affixed at the corners of the roof.

Baker is like a lot of homeowners who find themselves with abandoned or unused space in their yards. A gazebo is one way to make good use of forgotten outdoor real estate, by providing a focal point and shady refuge.

The word "gazebo" dates back to mid-18th-century England and is a mix of the English word "gaze" with the Latin word "ebo," meaning "I shall," according to the Amish Gazebo Shop, a major online purveyor of quality gazebo kits based in Pennsylvania.

It's an appropriate name for these little open structures that offer great 360-degree views of the garden.

Also known as summerhouses, screen houses, kiosks, pavilions, grottos, pagodas, pergolas and belvederes, gazebos are among the most popular of garden buildings.

Lori Bowden said when she bought her house in Santa Rosa the first thing she did was pour a slab of concrete in the backyard.


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