Debra Prinzing

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Mod Pod in progress….

May 20th, 2008

Loretta and Terrill Fischer mod pod

Design/construction by Harrison Bates for Loretta and Terrill Fischer [photography by William Wright] 

“Plant conservatory meets pool party when a brother-and-sister team designs a steel-framed backyard shed.”

This opening line to the “Mod Pod” chapter in Stylish Sheds introduces one of the hottest projects we’ve come across. It resides in a modest Austin backyard. Owner Loretta Fischer wanted a greenhouse to store her tropical plants during the winter months. When she asked her brother Harrison Bates to build it, the project quickly changed from ordinary to outrageous. These two know how to have fun. Their project started out as a rectangular building with a traditional pitched roof. Things changed dramatically, seemingly overnight, when Harrison’s wild imagination exploded to create the hippest greenhouse ever built.

Here is the original design, sketched by Harrison on a post-it note:

original sketch

As Harrison recalled when I interviewed him last year: “Loretta said, ‘why don’t you build me a greenhouse?’ So I gave her a sketch and said, ‘here’s your greenhouse with a little pointy roof.'”

The rest is history. For his second version of the design, Harrison addressed Loretta’s concern about wanting to see into her yard (she didn’t want the shed to block her view of the rest of the garden) and to save a mature bur oak. 

According to Loretta, Harrison’s new design blew her away: “The next day he brought me this elaborate drawing of a fancy, modern greenhouse. I don’t even know what he was thinking. We both love modern architecture, but I was really surprised with his sketch.”

Here’s what the Pod schematic looked like after Harrison “tweaked” it.

second design

Elevation of new shed

floor plan

Floor plan, showing where the shed wraps around the bur oak

site plan

Site plan showing how the footprint of the Mod Pod fits into the Fischer backyard

Harrison designed the asymmetrical, V-shaped structure with roof sections tilted at shallow angles. He used combinations of 7-foot squares and right-angle triangles to engineer this wildly imaginative building. A slant on its south side wraps around the oak tree and juts toward Loretta and Terrill’s house.

I love this story about Loretta and Harrison because it encourages the breaking of conventions, the bending of rules — coloring outside the lines, so to speak. Who says a greenhouse has to be shoebox-shaped? Why can’t it be a parallelogram? Surrounded by a pentagonal moat-fountain? Built from conventional materials in an highly unconventional manner?

Today I stumbled across a surprise from Harrison. He visited our book’s page on and posted photos taken from design-through-construction of his sister’s playful structure. Here is the link. You’ll enjoy the slide show! Thanks, Harrison – you rock!


P.S., I couldn’t resist this photo of the Bates kids playing in the swimming pool one Texas summer decades ago. With their brother Doug (left), Harrison (center) and big Sis’ Loretta (right), this Polaroid shot hints at the future pool-inspired water element that Harrison and Loretta created surrounding her Mod Pod (Photo and illustrations: courtesy Harrison Bates)

6 Responses to “Mod Pod in progress….”

  1. Loretta Fischer Says:

    If anyone wants to have alot of fun all you have to do is be included in a book project with Debra Prinzing and William Wright.

    Sure we sweated during the photo session moving plants around to get the great shots. This is Texas and it is hot. But after the heavy lifting was done there is always laughter and cold beer.

    But the big applause goes to my brother, Harrison Bates. Would I have met these wonderful people if he had built that first shed design he drew on the pink post-it note? I love the Mod Pod!

  2. Harrison Bates Says:

    Ironically, I am created a much more conventional shed in my East Austin backyard. It will serve all of the functions that Loretta’s does – but maybe it won’t take me nine months to complete. If anyone is interested in seeing a version of it, “Google” Edgar Blazona – -this guy is great – with a good line and brevity of form. I purchased plans for the 10×10 structure (available at I will however, make it a bit larger in one dimension and undoubtably add my own tweaks. Hmmm…I’m thinking two of them facing each other, connected by a bridge…and of course, water running underneath them. Sorry – you’ll have to wait until it’s in the newspaper, TV, or Debra’s next book to see it! Ha ha. (Wait, I’m being serious.)

  3. 20 Creatively Hacked Urban Garden Shed Offices | Yeeeeee | What will you find today? Says:

    […] Greenhouse Office: If you’re going to get the opportunity to have your office in a lush back garden, why not create a shed design that’s going to actually allow you to see that scenery? If you’re not just renovating an existing garden shed but rather building a new shed-like office on the property, you can go all out creating a space like this greenhouse office. It’s a design that celebrates nature and makes work a lot more relaxing. […]

  4. Loretta Fischer Says:

    Debra…I just saw you and Bill Wright, shed photographer extraordinaire, on our Austin Texas PBS station KLRU’s Central Texas Gardener. The host Tom Spencer was talking with you about THE shed book. You two looked so relaxed. If those photographs don’t turn more people into “shedinistas” nothing will. Or at least they’ll buy the book and dream.

    Also, in this week’s The Austin Chronicle is a special section SPACES with Bill Wright’s gorgeous color photo of our Mod Pod shed taking up almost the entire front cover. Inside is an article by Richard Whitaker about our modern Texas shed with more of Bill’s photos.

    And if that was not enough, also in SPACES is a glowing review of Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways. I think the shed state of mind is catching on.

  5. Mrs Smith Says:

    I wonder how much is cost to build something like this, I have 11 X 6 meter this is amazing building with the pool ..Wow what can you ask for the problem I have the house is buy the sea and very windy…pless let me know the cost for this…

    many thanks

  6. Sammy Loehr Says:

    I am Harrison’s best friend. I helped him build it from the ground up.
    btw. The water feature WAS my idea.
    Just sayin

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