Brillion, WI

I have a cabin up in northern Wisconsin that has an outhouse fairly close to the cabin. It's basically what greets you when you drive in. For years I've bugged the hubby to get rid of the eyesore even tho I was told numerous times it was grandfathered in and you never know if you'd need to use it. (My reply was if so, I'm outta here). We've been using it as my "yard barn."

Then one day I was watching a gardening show and it featured all these outhouses that people had saved and "fixed up." That's all it took. I was on a mission. This past summer I reroofed it and planned to paint it green and white to match the cabin. Well, after I cleared out all the stuff we'd accumulated using it as a yard barn I was so dismayed to find that it could pretty easily be put back into use, i.e., the floor does not continue towards the back. Then, when I'd cleaned out the brush out behind it I found there was missing wood. Seems this outhouse has a drive thru, or reach thru. Anyway, after I got the roof done (which is basically all that's holding it up) I lost most of my enthusiasm.

So here's where I need your help. I'm thinking I'll just grow flowers and vines all over it and continue to use it for rakes, etc. I need ideas on what to do to camouflage it. I thought of window boxes down the side but I'm not sure it will support them. You basically see the door and one side which are basically northwest. The "open" back is facing south but there's thick woods so basically no sun. I thought a vine back there would be great but I'm not sure what would grow in dense shade. I wish I had a picture of it but we always made sure it never appeared in our photos. Any ideas? I know there's traditional flowers for outhouses (highly perfumed). I'll try to post a pic in a couple months when the snow goes down.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

The long time traditional flower would be hollyhocks. It's how people knew where to find it without having to ask.

Have fun and please post photos!

Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

I would grow fleece vine aka Silver Lace Vine, botanically named Polygonum aubertii - this vine is amazing, and when in bloom, looks like a snow bank. It is a quick-growing vine and not expensive, and should be hardy in your area with lots of mulch. It does well in shade.

(Pat) Kennewick, WA(Zone 5b)

I think I'd still LIKE the outhouse as an out building. You could "reinforce" the back with piece of plywood cut to size. I don't know, outhouses have a certain "charm" to them!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

They really do! I was a young kid when friends of my parents were building a home and they hadn't yet installed a bathroom. When we visited and the time came that I had to "go" my mom took me to the outhouse. What a shock! I was so afraid I'd fall in but that seems to be a common fear with little kids.

I did avail myself of this one, on the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec. What a lovely view it has.

Here are some others but I didn't see flowering plants, vines or shrubs around any of them:

Thumbnail by pirl
Victoria Harbour, ON

I had given to me aged barn board and tin..made me self an outhouse, bit bigger than the norm..set it the back forty on my property, in summer it houses garden art and plants. Garden surrounds it..

Come winter, excellent storage area!

Will see if I've a photo somewhere..

Look forward to seeing what you come up with

Newark, DE

I have to agree with Arlene. My family was from the sountern Appalachian Mtns. and so outhouses were at most of my relatives because they had no indoor plumbing back then. One did have a pump at the sink but most of them, you still had to go outside to even get water. My cousin was 8 before she ever saw a toilet and cried when she did because she was "afraid" of it. LOL

Anyway, you already have the structure, albeit needing some repair, so why not make it useable? No, you don't have to dig a hole and no it won't smell, but there are advantages beyond just an extra toilet. Here is a video of a company that makes composting toilets. They make all kinds but what you'd want is the first one they show - a self contained unit.


Now you have seen what it is so here's how you can make one on your own - search on YouTube for "composting toilet" and you'll find LOTS of ideas.


You can cover each "trip" with dirt, saw dust, wood ash from a fireplace, or peat (which they say is best) or any combination. That blocks the odor and starts the composting process. It works better if there is a drain at the bottom for the urine but it will work either way.

Now you have an extra toilet at your cabin and an easy free way to make compost for any flowers or garden you want. Oh and yeah you could still store rakes in there too, just hang them from the walls.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

How cute about the 8 year old crying over her first sight of a real toilet. The sound of flushing it had to be scary when she wasn't used to it.

Victoria Harbour, ON

Links were very informative, thanks..
Mine is for decorative purposes only..kids thought I was a bit off kilter when they saw me making mine..one of these days they will put me in a home. Lol

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

First house we ever owned had an outhouse and we moved in first of Jan. BRRRRR. After we finished remodeling the house we took it down and planted a tree in that spot.

If I were still in R.I. and had that same house I certainly would not have taken it down. Ideal garden tool shed or storage.
Just good memeories.


Brillion, WI

Wow, it's already May and I'm still waiting for winter to go away! As far as making it useable, I'm just too old for that now. I like indoor plumbing. I thought of hollyhocks (that's what I remember too) but I'm not sure they'll live in the sandy soil. Silver lace vine might work. I have one at home here but it doesn't really get enough sun to thrive very well. Whatever I plant, I'm guessing if its roots get down below the shed it will flourish even if the base is in sand. Once we get rid of this never ending winter I'll be up there and get some pics and post them. Meanwhile, thanks for the ideas ('cept that one of using it LOL).

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

Second place we bought had a larger outhouse not far from road. So I made it into a bus waiting stop for my kids. During the winter it was handy to keep them out of bad weather. Haven't even seen one since I moved to Fl.


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