On my trip to Cuba in 2017, we had a tour of a tobacco and coffee farm to which we hiked in for our visit. The tobacco was harvested and hung to dry in a big old barn that resembled a lath house. I fell in love with the lath design that provided good shade and air circulation while creating magical light and shadows throughout the interior space. I began to research and study lath houses, and finally four years later in 2021, I designed and built the new lath shade house on the farm.

Everything one builds here in Florida has to be constructed to endure hurricane force winds. I was happy to know from my research that many lath houses built in Florida long ago had withstood the wrath of hurricanes. I suspected this was primarily due to the lath spacing that allowed the wind to move through the building, as opposed to meeting walls of resistance. I researched various roof designs and chose the pyramid-hip roof as the best design to handle big winds.

I had the perfect spot where the ground was already raised, just waiting for a lath shade house. I settled on a 14’ x 14’ size, and we had just enough pavers from the old patio to give the lath house a nice paver floor. Before we could build anything, we had to gather piles of pressure treated 1 x 2s and set up for staining them all. I had saved a photo of a fabulous green lath house, and was determined to find such a green stain. I finally found an exceptional water-based stain made by a company called Luminos in Spain, and the green color was perfect. We set up saw horses in the shade, and settled in for many hours and days of staining and sealing piles of 1 x 2 slats. My builder, Mitch, began to build the roof as soon as the wood pieces were dry, and I was hard-pressed to keep up with a steady supply for him. I even recruited my house guest at the time to lend a hand. By the time we were done, I was seeing the green stain in my dreams at night!

I made a last minute decision to add clear corrugated panels to the inside of the roof, which we secured into place with more 1 x 2s. Ah, more staining! While I was not entirely confident in this decision, I was concerned that the torrential Florida rains would create a mold issue and an over abundance of lingering moisture. I have since installed a mist irrigation system with a shutoff valve so that I can now control the moisture levels.

The lath shade house all came together beautifully after Mitch designed and built an exquisite door, I topped the pyramid roof off with a mermaid weather vane and the sunlight upon the green stain shined with luminosity.


custom door



weather vane


My new lath shade house is now a magical space that is home to exotic orchids and other subtropical shade plants, both flowering and edible, and provides a place for me to start seedlings. I had custom made, clear vinyl tarps made to hang on the exterior sides in winter when the cold snaps arrive. Best of all, it is a serene spot to sit in the late afternoon, protected from the rain, and listen to the soothing sound of the water fountain splashing in the pond. The light pouring through the slats creates kaleidoscope patterns, and one feels transported into another dimension when gazing out upon the farm from inside. The new lath shade house is truly a splendid addition to Sweetgrass farm and garden.


inside lath house