Fifteen years after the Nienhouses bought their 1,300 square foot brick ranch house in Boulder, they were busting out its seams. Most critical was their complete lack of storage space. A previous owner had converted the attached garage to living space thus eliminating the only storage space in the house. Over time, with nowhere to put anything, they felt cramped and crowded in their own home.
The young couple with two active young boys needed a remedy, some way to reclaim elbow room and manage the stuff of modern families: seasonal tools and wardrobes, toys, sports equipment, musical instruments, art supplies, jewelry-making materials, and more.
“We kept thinking, let’s “pop the top” and add a second story,” said Barb Nienhouse. “But we never did. Life gets busy. And, what we needed was breathing room, not a bigger house. As a family we’re committed to living comfortably, but simply, without excess.”
Figuring they were better suited to prefabricated solutions, they began exploring options. At a Boulder eco-retailer they learned about Studio Shed, a company specializing in well-priced prefab sheds with sustainable, high-tech, high-design features. What especially appealed to them was adaptability. By picking and choosing features, they could design the structure of their dreams. Better yet, Studio Shed could advise on zoning and install it too.
They jumped. The structure they ordered is 26 feet across, exactly the same width as their 26 x 50 foot house. They chose a Studio Shed garage model, thinking of resale, though at the time, this model did not come with a finished interior option. (Garages with finished interiors are now an option from Studio Shed.)
Positioned across their backyard, perpendicular to the house, the modern structure combines a spacious garage area with garage door and a large open space accessed by two glass French doors.
Their 14’ x 26’ Collins Block Studio Shed gave them exactly what they needed at a price they could afford. Installed but with an unfinished interior, the shed was priced totally right for them, says Barb. They chose Studio Shed features that appealed to them: graphite exterior grey walls, white trim and bright red metal-trimmed French doors with double pane Low-E glass, operable 3’ by 3’ windows, and operable clerestory windows. To finish the interior, the Nienhouses hired local labor, bringing their total investment to approximately $35,000.
“The garage door side is positioned on the right side of the yard, so we moved our driveway to that side and now drive all the way back. Then we added giant cement pavers to form a patio and walkway between the house, deck and the shed. As a result, we use our yard a lot more now, we love it,” says Barb.
They still park outside and don’t mind a bit. Their customized garage model worked beautifully for their purposes: the end with the large garage space (and garage door) is dedicated to organized, intensive storage. The other end, screened off from the garage space, is luxuriously wide open.
And therein lies the surprise: now that they have all the storage they need, it’s that other side of their shed that most intrigues the Nienhouses. It’s the open space that has really changed their lives, says Barb.
“It’s our work space,” she says. “My husband reads and uses the space for creative projects, I do silver smithing. The boys do artwork and read. There’s no computer here, no TV, no Legos, only music and space to be creative. The doors open totally to the yard, where the boys play outside. Inside, we have work tables, my jewelry bench and a really sweet red felt-covered couch, the same red of the French doors. It’s a convertible, so the shed is our guest room too.
“What we gained is so much more than a shed or a garage. It’s our studio. For us, it’s where we go to be ourselves, to breathe, to be creative. Sometimes I just sit and look at our Studio Shed,” says Barb. “We love its design. If we do ever renovate, we will make the house look more like our shed!”