Debra Prinzing

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An artisan shed

Thursday, May 7th, 2009
A collection of custom outbuildings to suit your lifestyle

A collection of custom outbuildings to suit your lifestyle

I only check my P.O. Box once every week or two, usually to find a lone press kit or alumni association mailing. Rarely does any personally-written correspondence show up.

Then a few weeks ago there was an envelope. The return address read “ARTISAN SHEDS.” Well, that certainly warranted opening! I opened it up to find a four-page, lovely hand-written letter from Lynn Weber.

Lynn is the owner and architectural designer of Artisan Sheds (the company’s tagline is alluring: “A collection of custom outbuildings to suit your lifestyle.“) She designs the small outdoor dwellings; her husband, Michael Weber builds them.

Artisan Sheds and Lynn’s personal story get filed under my ever-growing category: “The ones that got away.”

They are on my list of great shedistas who have come to me, each with an unique point of view, a personal narrative as to what inspired them to create a P-O-D (personal outdoor dwelling) and, of course, a fabulous little structure that I wish with all my heart that we would have discovered in time to include in Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways! Several days after reading her charming note, I called Lynn. We enjoyed a friendly chat, swapping ideas and stories over the line, three time zones away from one another.

Since she and her sheds are in North Collins, N.Y. (about 30 minutes south of Buffalo), I won’t be able to personally visit the Weber family’s garden showroom – yet. But I can share their story here with you. Lynn gave me permission to use excerpts from her letter. The photographs are courtesy of Artisan Sheds.

Hello Debra,

Late last summer, while browsing the web, I came upon your Shedstyle web site. I ended up reading about and purchasing your book, “Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Here was someone writing about something that had been an interest of mine for so long and who clearly had the same philosophy as I – the importance of an aesthetically pleasing building that one could call a place of their own; a place to escape to. Since my childhood, I’ve had a fascination with little outbuildings. . . Your book . . . convinces me, more than ever, how important in our hectic times a place to retreat to is.

In the winter, the artful potting shed is your landscape's only architectural focal point

In the winter, the artful potting shed is your landscape's only architectural focal point

Lynn continued by sharing her story. Originally, she planned on converting the second level of her barn-style garage into an art studio-home office-gathering place. Then she saw a few magazine articles featuring re-purposed potting sheds and something took hold in her imagination:

“. . . my thinking shifted from renovating the barn to the idea of designing and building a smaller, separate structure.”

Soon, Lynn was entertaining the notion of starting a cottage industry to create, build and share her shed designs with others.  “With my education and background as an artist and designer, and my husband’s craftsmanship in building, I knew we could turn out some incredible things,” she wrote.

Lynn and Michael Weber created a finely-crafted shed using traditional homebuilding materials and methods

Lynn and Michael Weber created a finely-crafted shed using traditional homebuilding materials and methods

Lynn and Michael spent an entire summer on the first prototype of a potting shed, a 12-by-12 foot structure . “We moved it to a spot near the roadside and put up a sign: ARTISAN SHEDS. We had a great response from the public,” Lynn continued. “People honked their horns and shouted out compliments and gave us ‘thumbs up’ as they drove by. Apparently, they had been watching our construction progress all summer and were just as excited to see us finish as we were.”

Like many of the very special havens we profiled in Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, the ones designed by Artisan Sheds provide small-scale backyard shelter. But they also nurture one’s spirit, inspire the inner artist, and encourage the dreamer in all.

Lynne wrote this text for her brochure – it strikes a chord in my heart: “Experience the charm of a guest cottage complete with a platform bed, storage drawers and bookshelves; or a lakeside house for boating equipment that doubles as a beautiful summer bunkhouse. Perhaps an artist’s or writer’s studio with upright storage for canvases, a sink for brushes, or a desk area for your office equipment, comfortable chairs and a built in coffee bar. The choices are almost endless.”


are you a SHEDISTA?

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

If you, like me, are enchanted with sublime and soulful backyard destinations once merely called “sheds,” consider yourself a Shedista

According to some Internet searches, the term Shedista has been appropriated (originated?) by the boutique wine industry. In France, these clever folks are called “Garagistes,” because they make incredible wine in their garages. Kind of an underground movement!

To quote “Shedista: A professional, low budget wine maker, particularly one who processes grapes in a shed-like building.”

I first discovered this term in Jay McInerney’s “Uncorked” column for (now defunct) House & Garden magazine: It was titled “The Shedistas.”

He wrote about a “warehouse gang” of Santa Barbara winemakers who “maxed out credit cards to rent a shed, buy a few tanks and a few tons of Syrah grapes, design a label, and make [their] own wine.”

Those who know me well know I have no desire to steal a moniker from winemakers. However, if you do an Internet search of the word, I bet you’ll find nearly three-quarters of the Shedista entries appearing are ones that I’ve generated. Yup, I’m out to change the meaning of this alluring term.

Here’s my definition: “Shedista: A person who creates and occupies a small-scale shelter in the garden for personal enjoyment and the pursuit of any creative passion.”

My UK shed friend, Uncle Wilco, who publishes a blog at his We [heart] Sheds site, calls himself a “Sheddie.” It’s a close cousin to “Shedista,” and we can all feel free to use both terms! Another friend coined the word Shedquarters to describe his backyard office. In other words, shedistas find shelter in their shedquarters. I like it!

If you wish to see some of the very best examples of personal escapes, aka “sheds,” check out my book: Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways. Welcome to all Shedistas!

Photos: (c) William Wright; top left: taken in July 2007 in Atlanta – in the doorway of Betsy Hansen’s beautiful potting shed. Lower right: taken in May 2007 (as a joke) at an abandoned child’s playhouse in Connecticut. We were on location at author Amy Bloom’s property and noticed this “shack” on a hill near her property. We couldn’t resist!

A Post-Script, Uncle Wilco just tipped me off to his December 14, 2006 post “What is a Shedista?” in which he quoted the same Wordspy definition I’ve used. I like what he wrote after that:

sounds great, but who is someone who brew beer in their sheds, maybe a shedbrewhaha

As I wrote in a reply to him: Of course, while I was running around the country trying to find sheds to photograph and write about, there he was . . . steps ahead of me! Thanks Uncle Wilco!


Gotta love the “Massage Garage”

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Kristi Templeton’s “Massage Garage” – a one-car garage transformed into her Seattle massage studio

(all photos, courtesy of Kristi)

I love learning about the many creative ways people are transforming their utilitarian sheds into spaces that have a higher and more noble purpose. Every time I hear from a “shedista” or learn about one of these innovative shelters, I think: Too bad we didn’t get it into the book.

But one can always hope for Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, Volume II.  No plans yet, but I’ll keep adding these discoveries to my list.

Here’s a little story about Kristi Templeton, Seattle massage therapist, mom, wife, gardener and world traveler. My family and I had to journey all the way from Seattle to Giverny (Yes, Monet’s garden!) in 2002 to meet Kristi and her daughter Katie, then 10, at the time, the same age as our son, Benjamin. It was a chilly, barely-spring day in April and our family of four kept crossing paths with this mother-and-daughter duo, while touring the garden of our dreams. Ahh, Giverny. The inspiring landscape of a Masterful Impressionist. We’d read about it, seen it depicted on canvasses hung in the world’s greatest museums, peered at photographs in the guidebooks. . . .

And here were two fellow travelers from Seattle, visiting Paris on their spring break like us. We managed to caravan by taxi together, back to the return train to Paris. But we missed our connection and ended up at a tavern near the station. Bruce, Kristi and I enjoyed refreshments; the three kids had a plate piled high with pomme frittes and drank sodas. A connection was made and thoroughly enjoyed. Turns out, I, and everyone else in the Pacific Northwest gardening world, knew of Kristi’s husband Timothy Colman, owner of Good Nature Publishing. Tim is famous for his horticultural, botanical art and natural history posters (I have about seven of them hanging in my office and kitchen!).

This was a “petit monde,” n’est ce pas?


“Cottage Ornee” for Solitude and Sociability

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

On July 3rd, my friends at Garden Rant invited me to be their guest-blogger. This kind and generous opportunity gave me a platform to share a little essay about my shed odyssey, the fascination I hold for tiny backyard architecture, and the experiences Bill Wright and I had creating “Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.” I was tickled to see that Amy Stewart titled the piece “In Praise of Sheds.”

I asked Garden Rant readers to share their thoughts, ideas and inspiration in response to the question: What is your dream shed and how will you use it?  More than 30 clever readers sent in their answers, vying to win a copy of our book, and a set of note cards with our wellies-under-glass photograph (seen at left), taken by Bill while we were on location at Brenda Lyle’s outside Atlanta.

I was touched by reading so many awesome posts – you can go to Garden Rant to read them for yourself. It was a tough call, but I chose as the winner of this small contest a wonderful gardener and writer in rural Massachusetts.

Pat Leuchtman has a blog called Commonweeder. She and her husband created their “Cottage Ornee” (pronounced Cott-aaagh Or-Nay, preferably in a heavy French accent, Pat says), a stylish shed imagined first in their minds and then built by their hands. This little gem of a building resides at their “End of the Road Farm,” in Heath, Massachusetts. I was struck by Pat’s written description of its design and charmed by the narrative of how she and her husband use it. Here is Pat’s post about winning our little contest: “Cottage Ornee is a Winner”

Cottage Ornee  [Pat Leuchtman photos, here and below]

Here are some photographs, provided by Pat. I was so curious about the cottage’s creation and sent Pat several questions. Her comments appear below. I hope you find this little hut as alluring and enticing as I do. I am already scheming about how to get myself up to visit Pat one of these days. In the meantime, I am enjoying reading her delicious words, so make sure to visit Commonweeder.