Lawn & Garden

Sheds Reach New Style Status

On the day that Mary Jane McCarty's prefab shed was delivered, it was raining cats and dogs. But the Bucks County, PA, resident's spirits were not dampened as she giddily awaited the arrival of her new design studio.

As the brawny, young, and determined delivery man, Glen, transferred the shed off of the flatbed truck, maneuvered it through the mud, and positioned it into place, Mary Jane watched with admiration. The bad weather presented such a challenge that “it almost toppled down the bank,” she recalls, “but Glen pushed on and never stopped smiling.”

Mary Jane purchased her shed from Sheds Unlimited, a family-owned and operated business in Lancaster County. The Amish Mennonite Stoltzfus tribe, now led by John and Steve, has been building sheds, garages, and other small spaces since 1988.

Over the last five years, the Stoltzfuses have noticed a slow and steady rise in business. Sheds have always been popular for storing cars, garden stuff, and equipment, but John Stoltzfus says an increasing number of people are using sheds as offices or living quarters.

The fact that sheds are getting larger may be one reason for the shift. Two-story models from Sheds Unlimited can store up to two cars and boast a full upstairs and full-size stairs. These deluxe models are trucked in two parts, and a crane truck is needed.

Mary Jane simply wanted a bright and inspired place to create. The talented seamstress, who fabricates one-of-a-kind pillows, lampshades, and other soft goods from mostly antique European textiles, was tired of working in a dark, cold basement. She looked into renting a space in town, but the cost was prohibitive. She entertained building an addition onto her home, but decided against the costly. Then one day Mary Jane looked at her sturdy and useful Amish garden shed and had an epiphany.

Searching online for modest pre-fab structures, Mary Jane honed in on Sheds Unlimited, a reputable Pennsylvania manufacturer. Soon she took a drive to the company's headquarters in Gap, PA, to check out the workmanship and was instantly smitten with the authenticity of the company and quality of the product. “They use horse and buggies and scooters to get around,” she says.

It didn't take long for Mary Jane to order one. Just six weeks later her shed was ready. (Most people, like Mary Jane, want sheds that are assembled for them, but there are also customers who order the DIY shed kit and build their own.)

The 12' x 30' “Classic Wood Workshop” cost $10,000, including the foundation, delivery, insulation, painting, and electric hookup.

Once set into place, Mary Jane checkerboarded the raw wood floor with vinyl tile and added two ceiling fans. This winter she found that one space heater adequately warmed the studio and this summer, she'll test out an A/C window unit.

While basic construction is the same for all shed models, there are a lot of individual style and color choices to make when ordering. Though earth-toned neutrals have always been popular, John Stolzfus sees a recent surge of interest in avocado green. Other decisions must be made on window and door styles, shingle color, flower boxes, weather vanes, cupolas, and venting.

Naturally, the look of the inside is up to the owner. Mary Jane's studio feels light and cheerful, thanks to generously sized thermal windows, sliding doors, and Mary Jane's unfussy yet sophisticated feminine style. After she moved in the necessary furnishings-sewing machine, worktable, and shelves-there was enough space to create a cozy sitting area, where clients could relax and view the collection or collaborate on a project.

Her first spring in the new studio passes with doors and windows flung open. Mary Jane takes a work break on the brick patio just outside her studio and assesses the situation. She is thankful that clients no longer have to trudge through her kitchen and down to the dark basement. “It has worked out beautifully,” she smiles, “and I'm so much happier.”

Photos courtesy: Gridley + Graves Photographers