In case you were wondering...

In case you were wondering...

This blog exists to encourage all those who have ever wanted--and needed!--a tiny getaway close to home. A workshop, playhouse, garden shed, sanctuary, mini-greenhouse, studio, home office; whatever it is you need, it IS doable, with some sacrifice, imagination, and compromise.

It helps if you're handy, too.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


...we do need a separate permit for electricity, which I figured (though why it wasn't on the original permit I dunno. Apparently the electrician has to apply for that.)

Said electrician stopped by yesterday, and offered info and suggestions (he thought I could probably go get the permit, but no.) He said the wire either had to be buried 18" deep or put in a conduit, 2-3" deep, which would be great. Not so worried about cutting the phone line, in that case.

Only the codes apparently say 18" deep. Period. So a trencher, and right across the phone lines. After the electrician gets the permit and schedules us...

(If I disappear for a while, you'll know why. No phone, no 'net.)

I'll be really glad to have all those t's crossed and i's dotted and be able to use the Serenity Shed for, well, serenity!

It's good to have an angel for backup...

...and I've got a couple of them. Joseph's one!

I made this angel 30 years ago or more, when my town's Nativity scene was destroyed in a flood (this IS a river town!) Christmas was coming, and I knew I'd miss the creche at the entrance to our downtown; I volunteered.

I used to do some artwork for the City; brochures, designs, signs and such, so they knew my work; they were happy to accept my offer.

We got marine plywood so it would withstand weather, I drew the figures on it, and they cut out the shapes I'd drawn and returned them to me. It was a rush, but I managed to get everything done in time...except the angel.

The rest of the figures were painted in full color; this one only had the gesso on it, so I decided I'd finish at leisure, and do pen and sepia ink on white; aiming for a bit of an androgynous effect, but it does look fairly feminine...

As it turned out, the angel never became part of the creche--I believe the feeling was that it was too big, so it remained with me all these years. It went up on the wall of my old farmhouse, and then became part of my late husband's angel collection in our bedroom after we moved to town--it made quite a statement on a bedroom wall!

Eventually, after he died, I redecorated that room so it was just mine...and the angel came down so I could strip wallpaper and re-paint. It's leaned against the wall in the dining room for years...until now. The perfect spot appeared, and Joseph loved the idea of being able to see it from the window by his computer.

It goes with the intention toward serenity, here...

The ironic thing? That Nativity, too, was ruined in a flood, in storage in the basement of our City Hall. The angel on the shed is all that's left.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Location, location...location??

Sooooo....perception counts for a lot. Attitude, too. Focus.

Our little shed looks as if it's in an idyllic wooded setting, and it is...sort of.

It used to be a narrow city lot with a house on it much like this one, but it burned years ago. Then I bought it to prevent an apartment house being built where there's scarcely any parking now. Then it was my garden. THEN the trees grew now it's a sort of wooded setting, yep...

But I do have to focus my attention...

This is looking back West, towards the house we live's wonderfully close, which is why we're building here!

Looking East, at the base of the wooded hillside that has a house on it to the far left, I discovered an amazing stand of jewelweed! You'd think it was on a creek bank...of course as much rain as we've gotten this year, it sort of is. All the runoff from the hill comes down the alley. (Unless it's TOO much and then the street out front is a river, as are our yards, and basements are wading pools.)

Out in front of the shed's French doors and just beyond the small volunteer mulberry that offers its cool sweetness in the morning, this is what I see looking North. The alley isn't a through one, and isn't maintained by the City, though it used to be. We keep our end of it mowed and picked up...

That's our fence to the left, and the light diagonal at right is the road leading up the hill...also the path of all the runoff, of course, and the occasional vehicle that loses control on the turn when it's wet, icy, or snowy. EEP.

Looking South, however, there are cars, garages, trash cans, houses, and three houses down, the small, somewhat noisy state highway (especially during rush hour--or as Joseph calls it, the Excelsior Springs Rush Minute. You can tell he commuted to D.C. for years, can't you!). Hence the extended storage area on the South side of the shed! Blocks a lot of that...and offers privacy.

One of our longtime neighbors down that way can't seem to talk below a shout when he's outdoors. Sometimes it's a laughing shout, sometimes it erupts into violence. After all these years, I've learned to ignore it...but still go check it out when I see flashing lights of police cars or ambulances.

So not entirely idyllic, but the idea is that you learn to focus, and concentrate on the positive, and don't hold out for perfection.

As they used to say, it's "close enough for jazz." (Or is that "close enough for government work..."?)

Nice little space...

Ten by ten IS quite small, but we plan to use the space well and keep things in scale. I might actually even stick with foldable chairs (though not THIS one, it's not comfortable) so I can have room to do yoga inside when the weather changes. The desk/drawing table is quite small and light, so I can move it against the wall if I want.

It's a delightfully cool, fresh morning, after our days of heat and humidity; this morning on the tiny deck with birdsong, leaf-whispers, my coffee and yoga (don't say it!) was a rather wonderful glimpse of things to come.

I will be glad to be finished, though...I know it's moved quickly, but still...this week should bring the steps outdoors, the doors fitted, the back window in place, insulation and interior walls. We're using thin wood underlayment meant for floors, because it's simple and inexpensive and we had several sheets on hand, left from our other projects. Mark is afraid it will be boring, but once it's painted and has shelves, etc., it will be fine. We can always add texture if we're so moved, but I don't think we will.

Feels like the start of a lovely week.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

So...which makes more sense? use things you have on hand already--doors, doorknobs, hinges, beadboard, etc.--or to buy new, more shedlike ones? (I know, no real need to answer that, just finding it odd that recycling elements elevates a project from one level to another. )

The small door, the French doors (which will let me start seedlings away from the hungry kittehs if so moved), and both windows are recycled. Ditto the hinges, and doorknobs, some of which are "new" (but not to us) and some old. Some of the plywood is re-purposed. Some of the insulation will be, as well. Seems like a good idea to me...

And more deciding...

The front of the shed is mostly stained...won't be using that stain on the deck or French doors, though. Not wild about how orange it is (the original sample was less so, and more transparent...different brand, I think), and hoping it will mellow.
We sure don't need more of it.

Meanwhile, what to do about the French doors?? I really like natural wood, though the other door and the two windows have white trim.

So I did a quick-and-dirty Photoshop Elements tweak to see how white would look there too. Good, I think, but not quite as elegant. (OK, I know, "elegant shed" is a bit of an oxymoron. So sue me!) The white shows more how much we had to cut off the bottom of the doors to make them fit, too...

Doesn't have to be decided right this second, anyway...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

By the end of the week...


Yah, I've got a thing about stained glass, always have. I like it that this one is fairly simple but really sturdy. It was in great shape except for the glaziers' putty, which Joseph replaced.
This will open out like an awning; hinges are at the top.

New back window's ready to go in. (This is the first thing I see when I come out of the gate in the back yard.) Already the cross-ventilation is a big improvement! Our old shed gets mildewy because it doesn't have much.
(And because it's on a concrete pad, Joseph says.)

I'm thinking I don't want the little roof over the door after all, though. I love standing there and looking up at the trees...couldn't do that if there were a roof.

This whole project unfolds and evolves and tells me what we need to do. It's like a symphony with different parts; I play mine, Mark plays his, Joseph his, and serendipity offers a bit of unexpected sweet adagio with a change in tempo.

Mark contributes an antique doorknob, Joseph finds a simple old brass one for the outside of the door, I rediscover a bit of wood trim I'd saved for 20 years or so. Things turn up in unexpected places, ready to be incorporated.

This is TRULY satisfying...the little window is in and trimmed. It got moved a bit since it needed to open and I wasn't clear on that...hey, I knew it, doncha read my mind? :-) I really appreciate advice from one of my architect friends, Jeanette ("Mistress of Longears"), especially since she advised pretty much what I wanted to do anyway. :-D

So the little stained glass window is now a tad lower and a tad closer to the door, and it looks great! Jeanette and I both thought it would be awkwardly close to the roofline if we moved it the other way, and this way it relates better to the door.

I'll still do SOMETHING below it...shelf, windowbox, sculpture, something...but just for fun, now. (Joseph says I am the Fenestration Queen; if a window is oddly placed or the wrong size, it DOES really bother me.)

Since he had his tools here anyway, Mark the Magic-Maker went ahead and cut the hole and made the frame for the back window...LOVE the extra light and cross-ventilation. We knew it would be low on that wall, but that's where my little desk will be and I'll be seated--so it's just right!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Feeling closer to a LOT

The outdoor storage has a door, now...looks good! I'm glad Mark did it his way instead of mine, this looks a LOT better. Very handsome. May keep a little grill, charcoal, or folding chairs in there, who knows? (Knowing my neighborhood, nothing of real value...and to lock, or not to lock?)

The fractured window works just as I hoped it would--this is the view from the door. (J. says it looks too much like the druggies whose house it came from...)

And now we have the French doors and the small door hung!

The window's going to have to be moved because Mark didn't realize I meant for it to be opened; the stained glass window fits it exactly as it is, with no frame, etc. We'll have to make the opening larger, and move it to the left a bit, closer to the door, and since we have to move it anyway, it'll come down, slightly. It's a win-win, really...

I'm liking the big double doors natural wood, though--we'd planned to paint them white like the rest of the trim, but I guess we can do that later if we want...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mark's a genius, by the way...

How he can take my rough sketches, definitely NOT to scale, and make a reality that is both pleasing and practical just amazes me. I'm NOT an architect, I didn't draw out specs, just ideas and suggestions and basic size and shape...

And here's this THING in the side yard that looks very much like my original sketch--only better. Real.

Thanks, kiddo...

French Doors are in...

These are doors Mark picked up at a garage sale in the neighborhood, and had stored in his chicken house. Glad we could make use of them, with some tweaking...they're handsome, and less expensive than the ones we saw at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore (and much more so than new!)

We've found some great buys at ReStore, and donated some things, too...a great way to recycle, and to help. (I've checked out Freecycle and Craigslist for this project too, but I really like to SEE what I'm getting. Hence the flea markets and ReStore!)

And we're glad we're making forward progress again. After the Stop Order yesterday, the guy told him he could go ahead and work on the doors, just not attach them till everything was OK'd. Once it WAS, they were ready to go and Mark screwed them into place. Today, we'll probably get the small door that J. finished in place, MAYBE the window, and get some staining done. Funny that the small deck was what was the big troublemaker...

Meanwhile, I try to concentrate on work..."bread labor" as Helen and Scott Nearing used to call it.

I'm glad I like my "daily bread"!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dot your i's, cross your t's...AGAIN, even if you thought you had already...

This probably shows just how much fun today was. Mind you, we'd checked the building codes, called City Hall, and talked to the president of the P & Z commission--no problem, or so we thought. Appears to have been a communications problem somewhere!

The guy who issued the stop work order said we had to submit a site plan, and they needed to have inspected the foundations and what-all...(eeek, there's sort of a building on them now!)

I hardly got a thing done all day but dealing with inspectors, officials, permits, and forms. And telling the same story over and over about 4 or 5 times. And sweetly suggesting they update and clarify their website info on codes...(the wee tiny deck was what caused the problem, I think. You don't need a permit for a shed under 120 square feet, which ours is, but decks do require one, and "sheds don't have decks." Even one that's only a 4 x 5 feet, thereabouts, extension to put a couple of folding chairs on, siiigh.)

But all's well that ends. Here's the building permit we weren't supposed to need. :-P

We're back in business, I now know the nice new P & Z guy a lot better (he asked if I'd be willing to serve on the commission!), and the City building guy, and I know to go direct to City Hall, in person, no matter what, because no matter how well you think you've researched the thing, no matter if you're sure you have all your ducks in a row, you've overlooked something or there's a conflict of opinion, understanding, or interpretation.

Later, the very nice, very conscientious City councilman/president of the P & Z commission made a special stop by the house to see what on earth was the problem. (He'd been told it was fine, too, but eep, who knew the tiny deck could be a glitch?) When he left, after viewing the shed and decklet, we were both still scratching our heads a bit...

But full speed ahead, tomorrow, "God willing and the creek don't rise," as my dad used to say! (By the way, Joseph said it helps that I'm a sweet little silver-haired lady with big blue eyes. I don't know about that, but I DID keep my cool better than either of the guys!)

New links we like...

Don't miss the terrific links in the column at left, it's a new addition to this blog!

If you like sheds and tiny houses, you'll find plenty to inspire you there...

By the end of the day...

Joseph had the small door painted and the stained glass window repaired with glazing putty...can't wait to see them in place!

...and Mark had gotten most of the trim on the shed--except around the windows and doors of course, I think that comes almost last, till we move inside. (See that surprised little window? :-P )

Here you can see the red cedar trim around the rafters and on the corners. It helps seal the building's cracks; we'll stuff insulation in from the back/inside, too. (You can also see the bit of 2 x 4 that fills the gap where Mark had to cut the opening larger. Ah well...)

WOW, I love this effect--it reminds me of a Japanese tea house! I know the doors won't slide like that, but yum, it's going to be lovely. (And yep, this is before cutting down the doors to fit. But they're leaning against the eaves outside, not yet where they go...) Mark picked them up at an auction some time back, and they'd been hiding in his chicken house. Happily, they came with a good threshold, too.

Now then...paint them to match the other white trim, or do spar varnish to protect them from the weather and maintain the nice wood look...hmmmmmmmmmmmmm....more decisions!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Little decisions...

wurra, wurra, wurra...

...seems like there are always a lot of them! Soooo...the recycled French doors are JUST too big for the opening. Guess we're going to enlarge the opening a little and cut down the doors a little, and hit a happy medium!

Do the French doors open in our out? J. wanted out, for more room, I wanted the generous overhangs for protection from the weather (I learned my lesson with the cabin--no overhang so rot problems...). So, in.

We haven't decided on the small door yet...if we have the tiny porch overhang, will the door hit it if it opens out? If it opens in, will the doorknob break the glass in the French door?

If we have the overhang, will Joseph hit his head on it?

What kind of hinges for the windows?

What kind of trim on the sharp edges of the roof, on the outside storage? It's not an issue elsewhere, but it is there, because it's low and we'll be using that space a lot...

How will we seal the ridge? Do we want ventilation, or no leaks or wasps?

What to do about that too-high, too-small stained glass window that will look PERFECT from the inside but rather surprised from outside since it's so far off the ground?

Well, so we decide, step by step, as we go along. And meanwhile I try to get my paying work done so I can afford to make a decision like the red-cedar trim instead of the too-narrow recycled stuff... :-)

Today's photos

We tend not to waste, and happily our carpenter friend feels the same. This shows a notch in a not-important-load-bearing 2 x 4 that didn't work as a rafter; worked fine for a bit of additional support above the door, and it'll be covered.

The roof worked as I hoped it would with the 2 x 4 rafters supporting the beadboard ceiling and rigid insulation, with spacer to screw the metal roofing to. (Interestingly, I could feel the difference in temp once the insulation went on. YEAH! Not bad for something with an R-value of 5-ish...)

All that's covered with lovely red cedar now. Mark had hoped to re-use some stuff he had on hand, but it turned out to be too narrow. We opted for new, which will get stained but won't have to be painted.

Here's the new window propped against the back wall where it will go just to the left, a bit asymmetrically. Originally when we saw it last week we were trying to find something to fit between the existing studs. Not happening! This will be lots more light,'s white on the outside, so it won't even need painting (the door and the stained glass window are both already a weathered white--we like the well-loved look. It's patina!)

R-11 insulation waiting to be installed, at left...nasty job when it's as hot and humid as it's gotten now that it's officially summer, but oh well...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Solstice Journal Noodling

The skeleton of the shed was in place when I did the sketch at upper left, but I did the sketch of the roof detail at upper right to show Mark was I was thinking we'd do. Originally he'd thought just to nail the metal roof to the rafters, but--COLD, and hard to heat even with a little woodstove, so no.

The graphed detail at top is a not-to-scale rendering of where the shed is in relation to our house--the shed's a lot smaller than the house! I can just walk through the gate and in the back door...see the dotted red line?

The deck, sills, and floor joists are "YellaWood," treated white pine that should last a lower right is a sketch of the roof as it's turning out, plus a detail of the screws with washers that hold the metal in place, and the odd joined nails that fit the nail gun. (My, does THAT ever make things move faster! We had no such mechanical help 20+ years ago when I built the cabin!)

And at lower left, noodling a bit about the odd window placement--looks perfect INSIDE, a bit surprised on the outside. Maybe a window box, shelf, or bit of sculpture will ground it...

Today we found the perfect window for the back wall, which will mount on hinges like an awning...and cheap! Good condition, sturdy, for $15 in the flea market...

I attempted a spreadsheet, but it is NOT my area of expertise!

I do like to document and plan and explore possibilities in my journal before we commit to them--guess I'm really a visual person, through and through. I don't know what I'm doing till I've drawn it on paper...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Joseph, taking care of details

Both the old door, which was free, and the used window have to be refurbished and repaired; J. took off all the metal stuff on the door so he can sand it, and had to knock layers and layers of paint off the window's hinges before he could get them off!

Yesterday, after the storm, we sat out in the shed with his Guinness and my shandy, reading. Suddenly I heard birds squawking and fussing, and two (robins? Who knows, they were FAST!) flew right in the door hole and out the front opening, chasing eachother into the woods! We could feel the wind from their wings...

I've sat out there and watched a fat squirrel harvest mulberries, and the turkey vultures fly over at treetop level...I'm going to like this, a lot. I've always loved our back yard, but there's almost no way to just sit by a window and delight in it, in our house. There's a door with glass in it, in the hall that leads outside, but no way to sit there and dream...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Two Days' Work

More progress!

This is the bead board ceiling almost in place--we'll paint it white to maximize light and to cover the lumberyard's markings on the rafters...

The outdoor storage is taking shape; ceiling's about half on here.

The lumberyard delivered the rigid tongue-and-groove insulation and the metal roofing just as Mark was ready for it! It really looked bright out there when he got all the insulation me goofy, but I'm glad it was the blue stuff instead of the pink. Other than breast cancer awareness, I'm not much of a pink person!

Obviously, it's a lot darker inside with a roof!
Gotta find another window for that back wall...

And now, Saturday, most of the roof is in place...

I didn't expect anything much to get done today, but I'd misunderstood Mark--he came this morning shortly after we got back from the cabin, to try to get as much of the metal roof on as he could before the skies opened again...

We chose metal roofing for a number of reasons--partly because I've lived with it at the cabin for 20+ years and it seems to be almost indestructible unless a tree falls on it. Then it just dents a little...(yep, had that happen at the cabin...) I also love the look--very shed-like, don't you think?--and the sound of rain on the roof...

So life is good; got lots done, had wonderful coffee, sunshine, and quiet, got closeup photos of damselflies at the cabin, then I got to sit in the shed and listen to the rain. AFTER the white-out, buckets-of-rain downpour. (What's WITH this year, anyway??)

J's off to the grocery store and to stop by a Legion function, and I'm taking my Shandy, my journal, and my book to the shed...

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 17 progress

...not bad for half a day! Here, Mark's enclosing the outdoor storage, for wood and whatever (folding chairs? BBQ stuff? Not sure, but I know we'll put SOMETHING in it!)

The siding is up in both eaves now, too, though not firmly nailed in place. We talked about roofing and finish (paint, stain?) yesterday, so some of that will be today's work, God willing! I think we'll stain it red cedar for now, to seal the siding, and then if we want to paint it later, we can. J. likes white, and I do too, but...maybe after we've lived with the natural state for a while. We may paint the trim white, and probably will.

Not much work over the weekend, what with Father's Day and all, but progress feels good!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A ceremony of building...topping out.

We got the ridgebeam a couple of days ago, so it was time for that venerable building ceremony of topping out, which dates back at least to the 14th Century. Yesterday morning, we went to the cabin to check on things and to find a young cedar to use for honoring the shed; this one volunteered, Joseph said, and it did look perfect. We snipped it and put it in water till evening.

Then when things wound down a bit and night was coming on, we borrowed Mark's ladder and J. climbed to the peak, evergreen and hammer in hand. It looked bonny up there!

Writer Michael Pollan describes the tradition HERE--and thanks to our friend Nona Parry for the link! I'd read Pollan's, book, A Place of My Own; the Architecture of Daydreams and enjoyed it a year or so ago, but passed it on.

Eric Sloane (American Barns and Covered Bridges, A Reverence for Wood) writes about the tradition, which is apparently almost universal, too, but not sure where that old book from the 70s is in our overflowing home library. It lives on in Mexico, the Southwest, and in Scotland--no wonder it looked so bonny above our little shed.

Even ironworkers putting up skyscrapers with barely a stick of wood in them often top out the highest point of a project with a live evergreen. So of course I needed to follow suit...

The skies opened up shortly after this, dropping so much water that there was nearly a whiteout! You could barely hear the thunder for the drumming on the roof...

But our little green banner survived the night and the storm.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2 steps forward...

...and one back, isn't that how it goes? Mark's not coming today--he had workmen coming to HIS house, and he had to wait for them. And now it's hot and muggy, soooo...tomorrow.

Impatient soul that I am, I'm anxious to get to the part I can do, painting and tweaking--and to have my life back, actually. I know, it's only really been a little over a week. What can I say?! I'm a charter member of the Short Attention Span Theatre...

But we HAVE made a lot of progress, so I'll just hush now, OK?

Day before yesterday...inside, looking north...
(Can't do that now, because most of the south wall is mostly up!)

More walls (the south one's almost finished), and the decking is done...

My sweetie Joseph helps Mark hold up a siding panel to nail it into's rough-sawn, tongue-and-groove plywoodish paneling, same as my 30 year old shed.

So yeah, we're getting there. Feels glacially slow, but that's just because I have so much else to do, and would like to be USING the place!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Site plan

...for those who have tried to figure out where the bathroom should be! You can see where we live (the center rectangle with the sidewalk going straight in, the former drug house we're rehabbing--highly intermittently--with the curved walk, and the tiny new shed at upper right on the vacant lot I bought when the house next door burned down. (There was talk of building an apartment building on that small lot, on a street where there is ALREADY not enough parking!)

The dotted line goes from the shed to the back door.

I forgot the back porches on both houses, siiigh...

And this is not to scale, at all! The houses are larger in relation to the shed, but oh well...I didn't want to count all those tiny squares!

You can click on the image to see it larger...

Monday, June 14, 2010

It didn't rain!

Wow, rafters. It's really taking shape!

This is the view from the South, looking toward the back yard.

We found the neat old window at the flea market in town'll be next to the door.
It needs work, as does the door, but hey, J's handy!

It was wet this morning, but Mark came before noon and got a LOT more done. He'd stopped by yesterday and done some on rafter placement and angles, and then today--worked like gangbusters!

As always, you make design changes and decisions as you go along...the outdoor storage extends further and the deck is shallower than I'd originally imagined, so there won't be a bench there, but that's OK. More privacy, actually...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bits and pieces

Detail work...we're rehabbing the old door we took off the house next door when we made a small back room into a bathroom. (No need for outdoor access!) It'll work fine for the north door on the shed.


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