Imagine a family farm. There's a farmhouse, but also sheds and outbuildings to serve specific needs–everything from tools and tractors to livestock and feed. Now that idea of purpose-built structures could presage a similar trend for single-family homeowners.
Few of us need to store grain or shelter animals larger than a dog in our backyards. Still, we humans have never quite given up the shed, even though it may be little more than a lean-to holding rakes and shovels or a double-doored Rubbermaid shed that stores bicycles and holiday decorations.
You can find dealers across the country that already sell such simple structures. In California, Hayward Lumber's truss plant started building custom sheds a few years ago. Elsewhere, dealers may team up with a local handyman who knocks together sheds using lumber that was returned to the yard. Such sales will continue and likely will expand given the increasing popularity of indoor/outdoor living spaces. But at the same time, a number of recent, seemingly unconnected developments signal a trend toward homeowners adding a modest enclosed outbuilding that beckons with its promise of shelter, solitude and the space to follow individual pursuits.
Yesterday's shed has morphed into a summerhouse or gazebo, or perhaps a small writer's nook or hobbyist's workshop tucked into a corner of the backyard, where its owner can retreat from the main house to enjoy a favorite endeavor away from the hubbub of family life.
Meanwhile, for telecommuting Americans it's not hard to imagine the appeal of a work shed outside the main house. A WorldatWork survey found 17.2 million Americans worked from home or remotely at least one day a month in 2008, up 39% from 2006 levels. That finding may be low; the Telework Research Network estimates 20 million to 30 million people currently work from home at least one day a week.
In gardening-mad Great Britain, where sheds for potting up plants and starting seeds have long been members of the family, the shed at the bottom of the garden is starting to become the office at the bottom of the garden, at least some of the time. Five years ago, English journalist Alex Johnson coined the term "shedworkers" to define people who were taking advantage of new technology to work from home in small garden sheds or outbuildings. Johnson has both a blog (www.shedworking.co.uk) and a book (Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution) on the phenomenon.
Companies such as Britain's Decorated Shed have sprung up to meet this need by offering snug, high-tech structures, typically clad in red cedar, that can be fitted with a bathroom, kitchen, and radiant-floor heating. In America, Design Within Reach sells the KitHaus, a prefab, one-room 9x13 foot aluminum structure, fully insulated and pre-wired that comes with decking, louvers, and canopies.
Those sheds aren't cheap–Decorated Shed's 8x9-foot Office/Studio costs roughly $27,000, and its elegant 17x20-foot Curved Lodge fetches $43,500, while the KitHaus ranges from a base model of $32,450 up to a fully decked-out version for over $49,000. But there are more modest alternatives:
- At Studio Shed in Boulder, Colo., partners Mike Koenig and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski produce and sell modular, modern looking sheds that their customers are using for everything from storage to yoga studios. Prices rang e from $3,800 to $20,000, based on size (6 feet to 30 feet per side).
- MetroShed offers a similar flatpack modern shed, with many customization options.
- In Raleigh, N.C., the husband and wife owners of Carolina Yard Barns offer a variety of more traditional designs, including classic barn, Victorian cottage and New England salt box style sheds for $1,500 to about $7,000.