Shed Inspiration

The Cabin of Curiosities

Taking inspiration from the wunderkammers of the Renaissance, we styled the Kew Darwin shed as an enchanting haven for free thinking.

Chamber of Wonders

A wunderkammer is a “chamber of wonders.” Like museums, they bring together collections of extraordinary objects for private contemplation and pleasure.

In the past, art collectors also displayed their treasures in wunderkammer. Paintings and objet d’art sitting alongside natural wonders, exotic imports of the New World, fine creations of craftsmen, personal keepsakes, and memento mori. These cabinets were designed to show wealth, taste and an inquiring mind.

No self-respecting naturalist, prince, or wealthy merchant was without a cabinet of curiosity.

Our scheme for the Darwin embraces these ideas and captivating history to create a cabin of curiosities any budding botanist, naturalist or collector would be proud.

Arm chair inside styled Kew Potting Shed

The Origin of the Darwin

The Darwin is exclusive to Malvern Garden Buildings and has been designed, in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, to be the ultimate garden shed.

Named after the English naturalist, geologist and biologist whose theories changed the world, it seems fitting that the interior styling of this premium garden building encourages wonder and resonance, much as the cabinets of curiosity did.

The beauty of this look is that what appears to be an odd conglomeration of items to the outside world is your three-dimensional mind map. A truly unique display, each object wonderful in itself and at the same time revealing the secrets of your world.

Juxtaposing objects on display on the integral shelves and desk stimulates creativity, innovation and discovery. Stop people in their tracks with this styling that says look at all these amazing things! What a worldly person the collector must be. What a profound understanding of the world he or she must possess!

Sourcing your collection

We used framed botanical prints, dusty bound volumes of books, candles, apothecary-style bottles, bell jars, shells, coral, specimens in resin, crystals, vintage suitcases, air plants and verdant green plants to style the space.

The rug, throw and cushion added texture and accent colours to the room set.

The team also raided bookshelves, attics and cupboards to unearth family heirlooms and keepsakes.

You may already have a whole inventory of finds and treasure to curate but if you haven’t great places to source similar treasures and quirky items are Rockett St George and Graham & Green.

The thinking behind the Wunderkammer

Two clashing world views shaped the Wunderkammer of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These were new scientific discovery and ancient magic.

Anatomist Frederick Ruysch’s cabinet of curiosities displayed body parts and preserved organs next to exotic birds, butterflies and plants. He created tiny scenes from his artefacts like small skeletons crying into handkerchiefs, wearing strings of pearls, or playing the violin. These creations were intended to communicate themes or ideas – for example life is short.

Modern day sensibilities might rule out taxidermy and colonial style pillaging of natural resources but when creating this look it is as much about showmanship as the science of the natural world. Think along the lines of PT Barnum’s museum and aim to create the 8th wonder of the world!

Shelf holding picture frames and a magnifying glass inside the Kew Potting Shed

How to create your own “Wonder Room”

  • This look is all about maximalism – luxury and excess.
  • Add opulent soft furnishings for texture and comfort.
  • Fill the space with fabulous artefacts you’ve collected through your life. Choose objects for their beauty rather than function.
  • Group similar objects together or arrange your collections to spark memories, evoke wonder and provoke new, intriguing ideas.

For more inspiration on idiosyncratic ordering and dense displays of original cabinets of curiosities visit the Pitt Rivers Museum.


View our other inspiration styling posts such as; @fox_and_peel’s Monochrome Studio or The Gin Palace or @foresthillflat’s Garden Room

Sign up for our outdoor living zine filled with trend updates, owner stories and expert gardening advice!

  • Every month we'll serve up a little slice of outdoor living luxury to include trend inspiration, owner insights and outdoor living expert tips and more delivered straight to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time using the link at the end of each issue. For further details, review our Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.