When my contractor pitched converting a Tuff Shed into a bedroom for my teenage stepson, I immediately rejected the idea. Henry sleeping in a shed of any kind would be equivalent to holding him hostage in the backyard like a kidnapping victim.
I imagined barn-style doors and plywood walls with exposed 2x4s, but my contractor assured me it would feel like a real room.
Our Los Angeles home sits on a private lake 40 miles outside the city. The house, built in 1938, originated as a hunting and fishing cabin, and has since been expanded to 1100 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bath. My younger stepson, Henry, was 16 when we started the adoption process, and while we planned to have the baby sleep in our room for the first several months, we knew we needed to add a third bedroom, lest we end up with a toddler and a college student sharing bunk beds. But our neighborhood’s renovation requirements, along with LA county code and FEMA floodplain guidelines, made an addition nearly impossible. Every plan we designed resulted in a very expensive, very tiny bedroom. That was until my brilliant contractor, Cory Risvold, pitched the idea of building-out a Tuff Shed from Home Depot.
It’s the mythical mancave come to life.
The guidelines and permits required for a Tuff Shed were not as stringent as those required for a traditional add-on, allowing multiple options for the location and size of the bedroom. Not to mention affordability. Risvold used an existing concrete pad as the foundation for the structure and customized the dimensions based on our space. We added drywall, vinyl flooring, and electricity, along with smooth exterior walls to match the house. We chose not to include AC or heat, instead opting for two Dutch doors to promote airflow and a space heater for chilly evenings.
Henry can enter his room from the back side of our house or thru the French doors of his former bedroom. The fact that it’s detached offers a feeling of privacy, despite the fact that there’s only six inches between the shed and the main house. And the separation provides a natural soundproofing. Henry can play video games without disturbing us, and he can do his homework without his three-year-old brother disturbing him. Henry, now 22, agrees, “It’s like my own little apartment. It makes me more motivated to take care of it because it was built just for me. I have coasters out there. I mean, when else in life would I ever have coasters?!”
The separation of space has benefited our family dynamic in other, unexpected ways. As Henry explains, “It removes the yelling quotient. You can’t get my attention by shouting at me. You have to come outside to talk to me. Having parents shout your name from the other room is the worst.”
Alternate title for this post: How Living In A Storage Shed Transformed Us Civilized People.
For more inspiration, check out Tuff Shed’s Building of the Month blog on their website at https://www.tuffshed.com/category/building-of-the-month/.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of "Raise Magazine," stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to "Raise," she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.