BY DANIELLE POPE
There’s nothing like living through a pandemic to force people to take a hard look at their space. Whether working from home, accommodating guests or revitalizing hobbies, people today are assessing what’s missing so they can better enjoy where they live. The verdict: a need for more usable space outside the home.
Once known as “she sheds,” “man caves,” detached studios or bunkies, these backyard outbuildings — often sitting at just 100 square feet in size — can augment the usable space on a property to give homeowners a chic chance to escape their typical four walls.
That need has been proven by companies like PacRim Log Structures, which has seen a 600 per cent increase in the sales of their luxury outbuildings from 2019 to 2021 — from 55 buildings sold in 2019-2020, to 325 erected in 2020-2021.
“Many people come to us looking for office space. They need to be able to walk out their door and feel like they are going to work,” says Cher Rowe, operations manager for PacRim. “Folks are also moving home, because they can’t go back to school, so they need more space, and some are finally focusing on their hobbies and need room for that.”
While the idea of sneaking off to a tool shed for garden therapy is nothing new, Rowe says homeowners today want the elevated feeling of being inside an attractive, purpose-built space that allows them an escape from the everyday inertia — or cabin fever — that might come from being housebound.
“These sheds really aren’t for storage — this is a building that can last you for a good 20 years, and might even transform in function over time from what you first intended to what you need,” she says.
Kyle Knorr, owner of Langford-based kSheds, has also seen an increase in demand. Whether he’s crafting a “Cedar”-style west coast cabin shed, a high-end “Hardie” to match the exterior of a home, or a “Rancher” to help people find more space, these projects can get as elaborate as a client imagines.
“I’ve seen these buildings totally change the functionality of a home,” says Knorr. “For people who have just moved, it’s a great way to get organized, and if you’re running a business, there’s very little prep needed before you can move into your own home office.”
The buildings are used for everything from a private getaway space to massage therapy room, yoga studio, gym hut and hobby house. Those in the industry say the applications are unlimited, and most companies will custom-create for specific needs.
“One client was a well-known pianist, and he wanted a small building he could use as a music studio to play in with his musician friends,” says Aaron Morson, head of operations for The Shed Guys out of Duncan. “For that kind of mini studio, we’re opting for a pressure-treated floor system to protect the instruments, insulation for soundproofing and moisture-reducing walls — because in this climate, almost everyone has to think about how to deal with the wet.”
What’s surprising about these buildings isn’t just their practicality but the ease at which they can appear. In most municipalities, any shed up to 100 square feet does not require a permit. While builds range from complete kits to custom modifications, most take only a couple days to complete. And while structures can range in size from 35-square-foot add-ons to 1,600-square-foot cabins, many owners will go the extra mile to install electrical and plumbing elements to complete the space.
“You have to follow municipal bylaws and build within setbacks, but these sheds are surprisingly easy to incorporate into your property,” says Rowe. “We had one client who installed three — one for each of her kids — so they could customize them and enjoy them over the holidays.”
That customization can range from colour choice to adding porches, skylights and oversized windows to baseboard heating or selecting a peaked, barn or sloped roof to match the look of the main house. While most homeowners decorate their own interiors to taste, some involve professional designers to finish the job.
“The best thing you can do is go into a showroom and walk through some of the spaces and get a feel for how this might work for you,” says Rowe. “We can always add in things like extra windows, but it’s best to experience it yourself. There really are endless possibilities and these buildings can make a huge difference to the way you live.”
Before you start
To ensure it will fit your needs, consider these questions before diving into the search for your own luxury outbuilding:
- How much space can I build on and what are my municipal restrictions?
- What is my ideal function for this building?
- What size can accommodate this need?
- What style do I like? Does it match with my property?
- What will my budget allow?