Retired elementary school teacher Cynthia Jones always thought that their 2000 square-foot home outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee had plenty of space. But when her husband Jim took three weeks off to help her recover from orthopedic surgery, she wasn’t so sure.
“Just three weeks of being holed up together at home made me realize that, when we’re both retired, it would be like this every day! In such close quarters, we’d go crazy or get divorced!”
Cynthia has a private practice as a tutor of gifted children with learning issues. Her husband, who works as a public historian, also writes books on Tennessee history, which he’ll continue to do in retirement.
“I realized that working out of the corner of the bedroom was no longer an option. We needed a real home office that we could share.”
Cynthia mentioned her dilemma to her son, now working in California. He told her about friends in Washington, D.C. who’d just built a prefab Studio Shed home office in their backyard, and showed her Studio-Shed.com.
Cynthia dove into the project with the type of application and discipline that had earned her a spot in the National Teachers Hall of Fame and an overseas post as a Master Teacher in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Teacher Program.
She called her son’s friends and quizzed them on their experience. She researched prefab. She called the Studio Shed support team.
Over the following months, she devoured Studio Shed’s website. “I read every part of the website, including the technical detail and every Shed Story,” she said. In particular, she made use of Studio Shed’s online 3D Shed Configurator. “What’s so great is you choose options to customize your space, while the configurator costs out what you’ve designed. What you want isn’t always what you can afford. It helps you make decisions.”
Six months later her decisions were made. Cynthia placed an order for a 10-foot by 12-foot Signature Series model. Her goal was to create an open, airy studio where her students could settle in, looking out at the gardens while processing new information.
She chose brown-gray beetle-kill pine siding, big operable windows, a full glass door, whitewashed beech flooring, the bronze aluminum trim package, an efficient Mitsubishi heating/cooling unit for year-round comfort, plus the lifestyle interior package providing all wiring, lighting, trim and finishing materials.
“Even though dropping $12,000 to $15,000 is not easy,” said Cynthia, “I had full confidence that Studio Shed would deliver a good product.”
A DIY Project Begins
The original plan was to engage a local contractor. But, with the construction boom in Nashville and Murfreesboro, too, she could not find one contractor who would take on her small prefab job.
Cynthia decided to self-contract. It was the first of many times the job took on a different trajectory, only to leap back on track by happenchance and close small town relationships.
Her delivery date looming, Studio Shed advised she address the foundation first, as the slab would need time to cure. But local cement firms were so busy they didn’t even return her calls.
She mentioned this to the father of a young boy she tutored. “He laughed. ‘Don’t you know I do cement for a living? We agreed to barter tutoring for labor. He showed up with a backhoe and cement truck and we were done.
As crew, she enlisted neighbor Tim and his son. Then the son landed a great new job, and the only team member with any real building experience was gone. Cynthia found his replacement during a surprise visit from one of her former 3rd and 4th grade students.
“Nik was such a smart kid, but what a handful,” said Cynthia. Now he was a 32-year-old ex-Marine complete with wife and baby boy. She mentioned her new backyard office and the trouble she was having finding construction help. “He said, ‘Mrs. Jones, don’t you know what I did in Afghanistan? I built prefabs for the Marines!’”
Nik offered to add his expertise to Team Jones. Cynthia, Tim and Nik worked together odd evenings and weekends, as time allowed. They were impressed with Studio Shed’s materials, including the extra pieces and material the company included knowing that DIY teams sometimes made mistakes. Their biggest problem was that the front door leaked. Turns out they’d installed it backwards. “Studio Shed talked us through reinstalling the door and it went very well with the exception of one small scratch. They sent us some paint that matched perfectly and that was that.”
“Our office is strong and lovely,” says Cynthia. “This adventure was full of patience, coincidence, good luck and love. I had so much help from former students, friends and parents of kids I tutor. Friends or neighbors came by to help when a heavy piece needed more hands. I offered plenty of water, and the occasional gin and tonic. We got it done.”
As an end note, Cynthia’s Studio Shed construction days may not be over yet. She knows of at least two people who now want Studio Sheds of their own. Could be there’s more DIY ahead.