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6 Cozy Outbuildings That Feel Like Cabins in the Woods
Get ideas for your own backyard retreat from outbuildings that create the feeling of camping out at home
Erin Carlyle May 22, 2018
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer season and its flurry of outdoor activities, including sleep-away camp. But you don’t have to go to camp — or even leave your own property — to capture the fun of cabin life.
Take these six outbuildings as inspiration. Some have beds for sleepovers, while others are designed for daytime use. All connect the interiors to the outdoors in ways that make nature feel very present, just the way it does at camp. Perhaps one will spark an idea that results in an outbuilding of your own to enjoy by next summer.
5. Dream Sewing Room
This outbuilding in a backyard in Los Osos, California, built by A Place To Grow, functions as a sewing studio that offers its owner plenty of fresh air. The owner sews garments, quilts, wall hangings, table runners and other home decor items.
Inside, open shelving offers organized fabric storage. The owner says she’s far more productive in this studio than she was when she sewed in a spare bedroom.
See this article about us at Houzz!
A Romantic ‘We Shed’ on the California Coast
The charming hideaway built from reclaimed materials serves as a quiet backyard retreat with bay views
Julie Sheer May 9, 2018
This rustic shed in the backyard of a home in the California Central Coast town of Los Osos serves as a cozy getaway with views of Morro Bay. Homeowners Vanessa Henson and Pete Riolo bought it from Dana O’Brien, who, with husband Sean, designs and custom builds backyard “she sheds,” studios and other outdoor structures.
Backyard Shed at a Glance
Who uses it: Vanessa Henson and Pete Riolo
Location: Los Osos, California
Size: 90 square feet (8.4 square meters); 9 by 10 feet
Designer: Dana O’Brien, owner of A Place to Grow
The tiny structure sits at the back of Henson and Riolo’s property on a hill and serves as a “we shed” shared by Henson — who uses it to relax, study and sometimes enjoy a glass of wine with Riolo — and Riolo’s daughter, a schoolteacher, who takes advantage of the quiet space to grade papers.
For the backyard sheds and other structures they create, O’Brien and her husband use vintage windows and doors and “urban forested” lumber — wood they mill themselves from downed trees that have succumbed to storms, disease and other maladies. For this shed’s front entrance, O’Brien used a wood door she found in a field, replacing one of the panels that had been a pet door with a pane of glass.
The back wall features a picture window that is a repurposed sliding glass door. The roof is corrugated metal with clear polycarbonate roof panels that act as skylights.
The interior is furnished with a small vintage sofa, a brindle cowhide rug and a vintage chandelier from Three Speckled Hens, a biannual vintage and antiques show on California’s Central Coast. The curtains are sheers hung on scraps of rebar. O’Brien says she hung them in the corners to soften the structure.
There are repurposed windows throughout the shed. The most fun feature is a drop-down door that becomes an exterior bar. For that, O’Brien used an antique five-paneled solid wood door and hung it horizontally. She kept the doorknob, which is now used to open and close the bar.
Urban forested Monterey pine was used to build the shed. The two windows on the front and side walls were once in a local orthodontist’s office. “We love that our materials tell a story of their prior life,” O’Brien says. “Each structure we build is a labor of love, with the refurbishing of reclaimed materials and the hand selection of those materials.”
See this article about us in SLO Life Magazine!
MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY VANESSA PLAKIAS
After dutifully clocking in every day for twenty-three-and-a-half years at the County Assessor’s Office, DANA O’BRIEN was on the homestretch, mere months away from receiving her pension, when a most unexpected thing happened: she quit. Her side hustle— building spaces for women, also called “she-sheds”—was taking off and she could think of nothing else. Today, her business, A Place to Grow, is leading the transformation of a sleepy industrial corner at the end of Prado Road in San Luis Obispo known as the Tallow Works. Here is her story…
Okay, Dana, let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from? I was born in the Antelope Valley, Lancaster, California; the high desert. I have an identical twin sister and two older sisters, five and four years older than us. My dad worked for Pepsi Cola, a good Teamster; he worked hard to support the family. We lived a simple life, nothing extravagant by any means. Grew up there, but I always knew that I wanted to leave; it was hot there. I ended up going to Santa Barbara City College. I was working groceries, at Vons, so I transferred there. I spent two or three years there getting my Associate’s Degree, and they had an agreement with Cal Poly at that time where you could transfer. So, I came here and got a degree in business and accounting. My twin sister came along with me; we always have to be together. I met my husband, Sean, at Cal Poly and I had my son while we were still in school.
So, how did the two of you meet? In June of ‘86 we both moved to San Luis Obispo County. Sean came here from the East Coast with his family. His mom actually grew up here and she wanted to come back to be near her parents, who were in Paso Robles. I came here to go to school. One year later, June of ‘87, we met at The Graduate, of all places, through a mutual friend. Sean had a bunch of dental work done that day and his cheek was swollen like a chipmunk. Anyway,we talked for a bit and he asked me to dance. He said, “I just had my wisdom tooth pulled, so I can only slow dance.” Yeah, right—pretty smooth! [laughter] I thought, “Okay, whatever.” We hit it off, had fun. Talked a lot. I never gave my phone number out at bars, but at some point I had mentioned that I worked at the Williams Brothers grocery store, so a couple of days later he shows up in my line to buy a pack of gum. I invited him out with a bunch of my friends that night, and we had so much fun. We laughed and had a great time dancing. Nine months later we were married. Then we had our son six months later—you can do the math. [laughter]
Something’s not adding up here… He actually proposed three weeks before we had any inkling that we were pregnant. We were still at Cal Poly. So, there were times that I’d have my baby, our son, with me on my hip at the library. I was 23, I believe, at the time, a senior in my last year. I was definitely the only one in the Business Department toting a baby around campus. He worked construction and I worked at the grocery store; somehow we figured it out. That was back when tuition was a lot less and rent was so much less. It was doable then. Now it’s just ridiculous. Anyway, I applied for a job at the County Assessor’s Office. I spent twenty-three-and-a-half years working there in property tax. While I was there, I got my real estate broker’s license. I couldn’t use it because it would have been a conflict of interest while I was working there, but it was something I had always wanted to do. It was a personal goal of mine. Well, Sean comes from a family of six kids, Irish-Catholic. So, his brother was in the process of wanting to move here from Arizona, he and his partner. They called me one day and said, “Dana, we found this house that we are interested in. Would you mind looking at it with us?” So, I met them over there. A Cal Poly Architecture graduate had bought the home and fixed it up; all energy-efficient doors and windows. He had taken the old wood sash windows and built a greenhouse out of them in his backyard. I walked around back and saw what he had done and said, “You have to buy this place—just to get that greenhouse!” I literally fell in love with it; it was an instantaneous love for me.
Did they take your advice? Yes, they bought the house. And six months later they called Sean and said, “Hey, we want to put in a hot tub, and if you come out and pour a concrete pad, we want to give Dana the greenhouse for her 40th birthday.” He went over, cut it apart, wall by wall, laid it on a trailer, brought it into our yard, lifted the walls into place, bam-bam-bam, put it all together again. I looked at it and said, “We could do that for other people!” So, literally, for the next eight years I sat at my desk toiling as a government auditor and I could not get that thought out of my head, or my heart. I’d go to work, come home with a headache, and go out to my little garden shed and just go, “Ahhhh…” The stress would just fall away. I kept thinking to myself, “I know that we can do this as a business, build these sheds.” So, finally at 48 years old I did it. I still worked full-time, my husband and I did this on nights and weekends after the kids were grown. I always say that we were born in a barn because we started in my twin sister’s barn and just started building the sheds one at a time. So, a year later, at 49, I told my husband, “I can’t keep doing this government job. I’m wilting on the vine.” We just tightened our belts and took that leap of faith. Everyone I worked with thought I was insane. I was one year away from being able to retire. But, I just couldn’t do it another minute. I had to follow my passion.
Wow, that was gutsy. Let’s talk some more about your childhood years. Okay, I remember I had a class in junior high school where they had us build a model of a home. That’s where I learned that studs are 16 inches on center and how bracing works, and I learned a lot of stuff about building and I liked it; but, I didn’t really do anything with it beyond that. I’ve always had a love of real estate, for whatever reason, because there’s finance, the numbers part of it, because I’m a numbers person. I’ve always worked hard because I didn’t come from a lot of money. I shined shoes, collected aluminum cans, babysat, cleaned houses, packed Tupperware, I mean, you name it. From 16 on, I had a job. I put myself through college. So, I’ve always had this, definitely a work ethic, if you will. I’ve always had a desire to succeed. Being my own boss, I love that. And I love managing people. I didn’t like it so much when I was working for the government because I wasn’t in charge of hiring people so much, but now my crew is amazing. They make it easy. Really, it’s just working with people and understanding that we’re all different. We all have different strengths and different opportunities for growth. Now, I love being an entrepreneur and we keep coming up with new ideas.
Such as? Right now, we’re working on a shipping model where we would put everything together, all the components, into a kit and ship it off for people to assemble themselves. I talked to the guy over at the hot tub place and asked him if we could have his pallets, which he was happy to give me because he would have thrown them away otherwise. We’ve sort of modified those pallets a bit, beefed them up, where we can package all of the shed components along with the instructions and ship them pretty much anywhere. We’ve tested it with forklifts putting it onto a truck. We’re 80% of the way there, we just need to get the engineering signed off and stamped. I’d say we’re about 60% of the way there with the completion of the instructions that will go along with the package. That’s been our whole idea from the beginning, to build these as kits. Maybe have some pre-fab walls here, we’re not quite there yet because we don’t have the space to store them, but we’re moving in that direction. We can also custom design, too, and palletize it and ship it out. I mean, when you think about it, that will allow us to ship these sheds all over the world. As long as it can be put on that pallet and lifted onto a truck with a forklift, it can go anywhere.
Let’s get back to when you got started. Tell us about that first year in business. Once we moved over here, I have a friend whose husband is a contractor and he helped me get my systems and processes in place. At first it was just me, but now I’ve got three full-time guys, and another two or three part-time employees, a marketing assistant; I had to hire her to keep up with the design work. A lot of this comes from the whole she-shed phenomenon. When I started my business in 2012, The Wall Street Journal put out an article with a headline that read: “Backyard
Greenhouses: The New Woman Cave.” When I saw that, I said, “Yes!” I just felt like it was finally our time, women’s time, to have a space. Women were saying, “Hey, it’s our turn!” But, along the way, I realized that we are doing more than just building sheds. We’re building these sacred spaces that help people grow or heal, whether they are a creative space as an art studio—we do a lot of art studios—or meditative retreat, or to grow plants, which is also, I think, another form of meditation and stress relief. And, so, it just started building, the momentum; I just started really listening to my clients and they were the ones that told me what they wanted these spaces for. Each one is unique because of the reclaimed products we use and I often bring the clients in on the design process. It’s really fun.
What was the next big milestone for you? So, two years later, the tenant next door, Don Seawater, who owned the lumber mill, came to me and said, “Okay, I’m ready to retire. You should buy my business.” I didn’t really give it any serious thought, but I casually mentioned it to Sean. He didn’t say much about it, then a few days later he said to me, “I can’t get it out of my mind.” He has said for years that he’s wanted to do a business together. He said, “We could do our businesses together; it would be amazing.” So, I’m like, “Uhhhh…” It was one thing for me to take my leap of faith because we still had his paycheck, but now to do it again for a second time with zero safety net, I just thought, “How are we going to do this?” But, we just kept thinking about it and talking about it. Somehow it was just meant to be. Don came back to us again and said, “I just really want you guys to have this.” And, so we did. Sean quit his job—he had been a software engineer for the past 24 years—and we were all-in.
So, they are two totally separate businesses that happen to be next to one another? That’s correct, but they’re very complementary businesses, both sustainably minded. Urban forested lumber is incredibly sustainably minded because it is a form of carbon sequestering. You are taking these trees that have fallen down around the county—we had a lot of storm-downed trees this last winter because of all the rain we had—instead of them getting chipped up or burned, which releases their carbon into the atmosphere, when you mill them into a tangible product the carbon is trapped, contained in there. Sean likes to joke that I’m his best customer, but also the most demanding. We get really creative with reclaimed materials. I mean, the stuff is amazing, and half the time they get thrown out. It’s a fun challenge to figure out how to repurpose this stuff, like turning old doors sideways and laying them flat to create a bar top or work bench. We use wine barrels in all sorts of different ways.
Did you guys ever dream that this would become your reality? It’s interesting, because what Sean and I did in what I call our prior lives, the first half if we live to one hundred, brought us to a point where we can really grow these businesses. He’s got that engineering background and the construction experience and I’ve got the finance and accounting, so we bring these unique skills together to what I call a boutique construction company, which is what I have, and he has a boutique lumber mill, small scale. But, the main thing is that we wanted to do something more meaningful, and connect with people in a more meaningful way. And, we do—each and every day. It’s amazing. I mean, before I met with you today, I had a meeting with some clients who were heading out of town on vacation and I don’t even have a complete design and quote for them and they said, “Here, let me write you a check.” They believe in what we do, they want what we do. It’s meaningful. It’s meaningful to them, that connection. It’s about the relationships. It’s not about the business side of it. That’s the hardest part of it, we work so closely with our clients and once we complete the project and install their shed, I feel like, “Ah, I’m going to miss them.”
Tell us more about the she-sheds. I don’t know, I just feel that there is a good energy to them because they are being good stewards of the earth, because the materials that go into them are being kept out of landfills and given a new life. It’s just like if any of us were given a new life. I really don’t know what it is, but people walk into them and you can see their eyes get big. It’s different, it’s unusual, it’s artistic. I believe it’s the energy that is brought to it, that goes into it. They’re sacred spaces, they really are. I had a client, her husband had passed away, and for years they had been saving materials. He was going to build her a teahouse. I went out to her house and looked at what she had, there was some lumber, an old door, some pieces of copper; I gathered it together and we built the structure. She sent me a text that night, the first night after we installed it, and said that she was out there and she felt—I have goose bumps thinking about it—she felt her husband’s energy, his spirit, and she just started crying, and she was able to really just kind of release and just feel his presence.
Wow. There’s something about them, I don’t know what it is. They’re healing spaces for sure. I can’t quite explain it, but we hear these sorts of stories from clients all the time. With me, I remember one day in particular, I had a bad day at work and Sean and I just started bickering, so I stomped outside to my shed, still had on my suit and heels, and I started breathing in the potting soil, nipping the deadheads off flowers and stuff. I was out there about ten minutes then I came back in. He said, “Were you in your greenhouse?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “What were you doing?” I said, “Well, it was either go in there or rip your head off!” We both laughed so hard and the argument was over. I don’t know what it is. They’re places to de-stress and relax. When I’m out there, I’m not thinking, “Oh, change the laundry load.” Or, do this or do that. I’m just kind of in a peaceful place.
So, what does the future hold? You know, Sean and I have a vision—we want to build small home communities. Not necessarily tiny homes on trailers, but small footprints, 400, or 800, or 1,200 square feet. We want to build these communities so they each have their own garden plot. They may be smaller homes, but they have this garden area where they can go. We want them to be as sustainable as possible, and include solar, maybe a greywater system. We want to build them as low-to-no-VOC [volatile organic compound] as possible. Keep them natural, keep the chemical load down. We’re so over exposed to chemicals in this world; it’s terrible. That’s another thing we’re passionate about: organic farming and gardening. So, I’d like to incorporate that element, as well. They will have a community room and a common space area. I could see where they could be done as a do-it-yourself kit where the homeowner could potentially build their own house themselves. I have a client locally who has some acreage who is very interested in the concept, and Sean has a client who is interested, too, so we’ll see. There’s the whole affordable housing issue here, where we don’t have affordable housing. This might be a way to do that. It’s just: How much would it cost to build? And the way we build is not as cost-effective as the large lumber mills who have economies of scale and our lumber is not rated Doug Fir, but we’d probably still frame the basic structure with that and then use our urban forested lumber, basically fallen trees from around town, for siding and stuff like that. So, we’d still have a sustainable part to it. We’ll see. I just go with the flow—whatever the universe says. SLO LIFE
See this article featuring our She Sheds on Houston House & Home!
SMALL SPACES, BIG PURPOSES
Turn Limited Square Footage into Areas You Can’t Live Without
Compiled by Barbara Kuntz
OWN AN ORIGINAL
Ladies, you can bloom in a “she shed” of your own as early as this fall, kit-style or customized, built by the same company as the featured getaway on the cover of the book that created the phenomenon, “She Sheds,” by Erika Kotite.
The book, released by Quarto Publishing, began this women-only-escape craze when it was released earlier this year as the female answer to the “man cave.”
Dana O’Brien of A Place to Grow in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is working on shipping models of her totally “green” sheds after already having done several remote projects. Price points, not including shipping costs, will range from $6,000-$20,000, with the vast majority being in the $10,000-$15,000 range.
Buyers will need a flat and level surface and a contractor or handyman (or handywoman) to assemble the sheds once they are delivered. The decorating is your fun job!
Products used are reclaimed and salvaged materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill, from vintage windows and doors to salvaged corrugated metal to barn and marine wood. O’Brien sees the sheds to be “functional art,” in that no two are the same due to the nature of the reclaimed materials used in them.
“At A Place to Grow, we are creating sacred spaces for our clients to grow or heal in whatever way they need to,” she says. “We have found that women need quiet, creative, contemplative spaces to retreat from the hustle-bustle of daily life once in a while, from a crazy job, from keeping a home or from raising a healthy family, to capture some true ‘me’ time.
“In the 21st century, women everywhere are stepping up and demanding more for themselves. Women are craving their own sacred spaces and doing something about it. So, introducing the ‘She-Shed.’ Move over, Man Cave!”
See this article featuring one of our She Sheds on NBC NEWS!
Why the ‘She Shed’ Is the New ‘Man Cave’
by Chiara A Sottile and Jo Ling Kent
Move over “man cave,” and meet the “She Shed.”
As women report feeling worn out at home and stressed out at work, they’re turning to new ways to escape — in their own backyards.
Across the country and around the world, women are transforming their backyard potting sheds and structures into “She Sheds.”
From a restored metal shed in Sarasota, Florida, that cost $500 to the “room of glass” in rural Oregon, the She Shed trend is building in popularity.
Author Erika Kotite wrote a book on the movement: “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own” — documenting everything from the restored 10-by-25-foot “La Casita” in Dallas, Texas to the “Sewing Sanctuary” in Chichester, England with walls covered in quilts.
“This is a place they’ve designed that is just theirs, that they can do with it whatever they want, and I think that really is a modern woman’s prerogative,” Kotite told NBC News.
She would know; she built a shabby chic shed from a kit in Santa Cruz with her sister-in-law over a few weekends.
“This is a pretty no frills shed,” said Kotite, gesturing to the bright purple accents and windows she found second-hand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 16 percent of women aged 18 to 44 reported feeling “very tired” or “exhausted” most days — compared to just 9 percent of men in the same age range. And, 37 percent of women said they feel tense or stressed out at work, according to the American Psychological Association.
Jenny Karp is a wife, mom of three children, and small business owner in San Luis Obispo, California. She built her backyard She Shed with a local shed designer and builder, using recycled and salvaged materials.
“This is my little shed, my little escape. My little vacation,” said Karp, who uses the shed for her paint business and art projects.
“I come out here and cut and make a big mess, and then close the doors and go inside and make dinner, and it’s all just in here,” said Karp. “It’s nice to be able to have a space that’s just mine.”
Kotite says she was drawn to She Sheds because sheds are often thought of as masculine in character. “But function can be beautiful,” said Kotite.
For Karp, it’s not so much an escape as it is a way to stay grounded. “I feel like I’m a better mom, ’cause I can come out here and do my thing and — and then be a mom, too,” she told NBC News.
Home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot are also cashing in on this trend — offering DIY kits and even professional crews to build customized She Sheds.
In Atkinson, New Hampshire, Kim Manning built an “Equine Shrine” to house all her horse equipment. “But then it evolved into something much more personal,” said Manning. “I think it really defines who we are really deep down in our core, more so than our job, perhaps.”
Now, she uses the space to meet her girlfriends, and even pop some champagne in privacy.
“They definitely are appealing, I think, to human beings,” said Kotite. “Human beings who are overexposed, over stimulated, have too much technology going on. Have too many commitments. It’s a retreat.”
See this article about us in 805 Living Magazine!
A Room of One’s Own
A Place to Grow (recycledgreenhouses.com) is an apt name for Dana O’Brien’s outdoor lifestyle-structure business in San Luis Obispo, but not only because of the plants grown in the custom greenhouses she builds from sustainably sourced materials. The word “grow” has many meanings for her clients, some of whom use the structures as “she sheds” (think: man caves for women), “zen dens” meditation rooms, and art studios. With the rising popularity of having a room of one’s own to explore activities of personal fulfillment or just to chill out, O’Brien mills felled trees at her own small-scale lumber mill in addition to sourcing reclaimed wood and windows to create responsibly crafted, unique spaces for anyone looking to grow.
See this article featuring one of our She Sheds on Oprah.com!
She Sheds That Will Inspire You to Create a Backyard Getaway
Whether you want a spot for crafting, entertaining or just a quiet place to read, these dreamy outdoor rooms from the book She Sheds are the ultimate escape.
By Erika Kotite
For the Pinterest Feign
Jenny Karp is a mixed-media artist in California who also sells organic paint online. The busy wife, mother, and business owner yearned for a place where she could create art and shoot video tutorials. The answer was a shed designed by Dana O’Brien of A Place to Grow/Recycled Greenhouses.
• For shed foundations, a flat surface is ideal (and easiest). Karp laid down unmortared bricks, which are sturdy and also drain water through the openings.
• Keep your shed watertight. Pay careful attention to cracks and openings; caulk everything thoroughly. Doors, windows, and roofs must be built with proper sealing, such as weatherstripping and flashing. If possible, let your nearly finished shed go through a rainstorm or two to see what needs fixing.
• Greenhouses often have semi-transparent roofs made with polycarbonate panels. These corrugated panels allow light in and keep the rain out. This could be a good option for illuminating your own she shed.
See this article about us in the USGBC Central Coast Chapter Newsletter!
We are honored to be featured on the front page of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Central Coast Chapter Newsletter! The article talks about the 2015 Green Innovation award received from USGBC for 2 of our outdoor lifestyle structures!
A Shed Away from Home
A Place to Grow, Recycled Greenhouses is an environmentally friendly company that creates greenhouses, and other unique outdoor lifestyle spaces from recycled and reclaimed building materials and re-purposes them into functional art, keeping that waste out of landfills. From 100-year old barn wood, 50’s era windows, or urban forested lumber to re-purposed French oak once used in wine processing, A Place to Grow custom designs and hand crafts their outdoor living structures with the utmost of attention to detail, making each structure as unique as the reclaimed materials used to build it. Living in San Luis Obispo, CA, has been a huge inspiration for A Place to Grow Recycled Greenhouses owner-operators Dana and Sean O’Brien. With nearly 300 days of perfect weather a year, Dana O’Brien’s love of gardening and her investment in creating an amazing outdoor living space for her children to grow up in inspired the beginnings of A Place to Grow, Recycled Greenhouses. This husband and wife team summoned their passion, commitment and talent to demonstrate their promise to sustainable living.
Read the rest of the article here.
See this article about us in the New Times!
A Place to Grow helps locals build a structure tailored to their outdoor-meets-indoor needs
By Joe Payne
July 15, 2015
In response to the craze of the Man Cave—usually indoor spaces designed by and for men to drink, watch sports, and play video games—a countermovement started, empowering the opposite sex to claim their own space and, at the same time, enjoy their yards.
The outdoor structures are known as She Sheds, explained A Place to Grow, Recycled Greenhouses owner Dana O’Brien, who crafts the one-of-a-kind sheds and greenhouses with the help of her husband, Sean. She was inspired to start the business after acquiring an old greenhouse that her husband disassembled, transported, and put back together in their backyard over the course of an afternoon.
“It was in my heart and in my head for the next eight years,” she said. “I just thought: ‘We could do that.’”
Read the full article here.
See this article about us in The Tribune!
‘A Place to Grow’ in SLO specializes in small, supplemental spaces
Sean and Dana O’Brien’s small-scale structures made of salvaged materials are used as greenhouses, playhouses and more
By Rebecca Juretic
February 25, 2015
Dana O’Brien has a broker license and a degree in real estate finance. But these days, she works with structures on a smaller scale.
She and husband Sean own A Place to Grow in San Luis Obispo. They create garden structures out of mostly salvaged materials that are rustic, whimsical and designed individually for each client. O’Brien calls them “functional art.”
Naturally, these structures make dandy greenhouses. But clients have found numerous other uses for them. People have set up art studios, craft rooms, meditation retreats, and play spaces. Some create rooms usually reserved for the main house, such as dining rooms and dens.
O’Brien is even pioneering an antidote to the “man cave” called the “woman cave,” which at her own home is bedecked with a chandelier, wispy curtains, and comfy seating where she can “sit and enjoy the peaceful energy in my sacred space, sip a glass of wine or read a book.”
American homeowners are increasingly using outdoor rooms for entertaining and recreation, O’Brien said, partly because the trend toward simplifying has caused many to downsize to smaller homes. Even a small backyard structure can become “an extension of their home,” she said.
Although the company makes larger structures, the smaller ones have a streamlined process. They typically don’t require permitting because “in the county of San Luis Obispo and other surrounding municipalities, outdoor structures/sheds of 120 square feet or less do not require a permit,” O’Brien said.
Each shed is custom-designed, and individual walls are built offsite. A shed can usually be erected in an hour or so. All it requires is a flat surface, which can be as simple as a pad of compacted, decomposed granite. Also, the structures are removable, so that if you move, your backyard retreat can come along with you.
We have profiled three homeowners who have turned backyard structures from A Place to Grow into functional spaces. Their ideas work well in any small space — inside the house or out.
Miller meditation room
Ann and Bill Miller originally planned to use their structure as a greenhouse. But its captivatingly woodsy smell and serene ambience quickly altered their plans. “We ended up putting some comfy chairs in there and we enjoy spending time quietly reading, meditating, napping, and sharing,” Ann Miller said.
During the design phase, they wandered the yard at A Place to Grow, sizing up salvaged materials. They spied a green wood door with a charming window. “I said, ‘I want that door! Can you build a greenhouse around that door?’ ” she recalled.
Using salvaged materials added to the sacred feeling of the space, Miller said. “There was a story behind each piece of material and where it came from. We were familiar with many of the places where they originated and that gave more meaning to the material,” she said.
When the room was finished, the Millers and the installation team placed a Buddha statue in the center and “blessed our sacred space,” Ann Miller said. “It was a wonderful way to bring closure to their completion of the greenhouse and for us to turn it into a living, peaceful, mindful, personal space that was so perfectly suited to us.”
Cindy Goodyear has fond memories of spending time in her backyard playhouse as a child. Her own grandchildren, who range in age from 10 months to 8 years, had their own playhouse to use when they came to visit the Goodyear home in Los Osos. But its molded plastic construction didn’t jibe with her nostalgic vision.
When she and husband Pat first laid eyes on the A Place to Grow structures, Cindy Goodyear was immediately won over by “the rustic-ness and the uniqueness” of them, she said.
Their eight-foot by eight-foot structure was built using portions of a seldom-used arbor in the backyard. After it went up last summer, their fouryear-old granddaughter Cadence saw it and said, “Oh grandma, it looks like a fairy house in the woods,” Cindy Goodyear recalled.
The house has inspired much fairy role-playing. But it is also where the neighborhood children play restaurant in the summer. The kids use it to read quietly, paint pictures, or hide out during a rainstorm to hear the sound of drops drumming on the roof.
Last Christmas, the Goodyears strung lights on the playhouse. “We deco rated it and then brought the girls over for a surprise, then they decorated the tree inside,” Goodyear said. “It was a magical night.”
Purcell sewing room
Lisa Duncan-Purcell is an avid sewer and quilter with a small Los Osos home. In need of more space for her hobby, she and husband Ray Purcell began looking at various outbuildings. “But they were all very ordinary,” she said.
They worried that a shed-type structure wouldn’t be weather-tight enough for her fabrics and equipment — not to mention her collection of antique linens and trims. “When I explained what I wanted Dana’s response was ‘We can do that,’ ” Duncan-Purcell recalled.
The structure is 10 by 12 feet with windows and skylights to make the most of natural light. Sunlight is great for avoiding eyestrain, but it can make the room warm and also fades fabrics. She asked for insulated walls, and created light-blocking shades for the sunniest windows. She also took care to place her fabrics in containers.
The shed has large French doors so that, when the weather is nice, Duncan-Purcell can open them to “feel like I am sitting outside,” she said.
The shed is a great, distraction-free place to work on an absorbing hobby, Duncan-Purcell said. But the benefits go beyond having a spot to stitch. “It is just such a unique space that I get a sense of wellbeing, just being there,” she said. “That usually doesn’t happen in a regular room.”
See this article about us in the Tolosa Press!
A Place to Grow Recycled Greenhouses
September 3, 2014
At A Place to Grow we pride ourselves on working with our clients to fulfill their dream of having their own unique “Place to Grow” whether it’s a greenhouse, artist studio, meditation room or outdoor dining area. We are an environmentally friendly company that creates greenhouses and other unique outdoor spaces out of recycled and reclaimed materials, keeping these materials out of the landfill and re-purposing them into functional art. Every outdoor structure is as unique as the reclaimed materials used to build it.
At A Place to Grow, we not only build spaces, but we build relationships in this community that are amazing. As more and more environmentally conscious consumers are remodeling their homes to make them more energy efficient, A Place to Grow is claiming these materials and repurposing them in their outdoor living structures. We work with contractors, landscapers, and Habitat for Humanity to collect materials that would ordinarily end up in the landfill. The word is out and now people call us whenever they have wood, windows, or old fences and barn material. We recently sourced some marine wood from a decommissioned bait barge off the coast of San Diego.
Each of our structures is custom created with the highest level of attention to detail. We strive to provide our customers with a structure that is aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound. We use various repurposed materials, from 100-year-old barn wood to repurposed French oak once used in wine processing. All materials are custom crafted into our structures with the utmost of attention to detailed craftsmanship.
To put a fine point on it, you can get “ordinary” just about anywhere. There is a unique story with each unit from where the windows originated, some having old wavy glass or stained glass, to the use of modern construction remnants such as Cor-ten corrugated and sheet metal. We also have a source for urban forested lumber that was milled from trees that have fallen on their own or trees that an arborist has determined must be removed. We work with local mills that produce this lumber specifically for us to use in our structures.
Ready to experience outdoor living at its finest? We can help you produce your very own Place to Grow! Come see us at 445 B Prado Road in San Luis Obispo, or go to RecycledGreenhouses.com or call 805.704.1155 for more information.
“I absolutely love my ‘little room’ up in the woods. It stays warm on windy days, I can work on my laptop out there, I can watch the birds, or my dogs while sitting inside or I can just kick back and read a book! Most days, I can’t wait to go out there!!”
Loretta, Cambria, CA
“Being in the construction trade for 35 plus years, I feel I probably have a more critical eye for craftsmanship than someone else would. I examined the recycled greenhouse after it was assembled and was thoroughly impressed with the craftsmanship. From the 45 degree joints in the fascia board, to the dog-eared cuts in the trim. Excellent craftsmanship! Based on this workmanship, I would recommend their recycled greenhouses to anyone!”
Robert, Cambria, CA
Thanks to the the amazingly creative folks at Gardens by Gabriel for this wonderful blog post.
DIG THIS! Green Musings from GBG
A Place To Grow
Posted on June 12, 2014 by Gabriel in Featured Resource, San Luis Obispo Pride
A Place to Grow: A Tale of Serendipity and Sustainability
One definition of serendipity is making desirable discoveries by accident, which is just what happened when we chanced upon the recycled garden structures designed and built by Dana O’Brien of A Place to Grow. The genesis of Dana’s business was serendipitous, as well: It began in 2004 when Dana convinced her brother-in-law to buy a home because she’d fallen in love with the backyard greenhouse built with wood sash windows salvaged during the home’s remodel. A few months later, that same greenhouse ended up in Dana’s backyard as her 40th birthday present–Dana’s husband had cut the greenhouse apart with a skill saw, loaded it on a trailer, and set it up in their yard. This synergistic series of events was the inspiration for A Place to Grow.
In the most literal sense, Dana designs custom places “to grow” in whatever way best matches the client’s wishes and aspirations. Her passion is creating greenhouses, meditation retreats, artist studios, 3-sided structures for outdoor dining rooms, 2-sided structures for hot tub enclosures, as well as arbors and potting tables for the garden. Dana finds it particularly gratifying to be able to incorporate special pieces from her clients, such as stained glass windows or doors.
Using primarily reclaimed and re-purposed materials, A Place to Grow helps keep architectural salvage out of the landfill and turns it into “functional art.” Dana has donated a recycled greenhouse to the Montessori Children’s School of San Luis Obispo and is in the process of designing a greenhouse for Bellevue Santa Fe School in Avila Valley. Donations are very welcome and help fund the charitable component of Dana’s business. She is most in need of reclaimed wood, glass doors, and wood frame windows, but she also appreciates redwood decking material and fence boards (as long as they are in decent shape), corrugated metal, and wine flavor sticks.
Check out the New Times “Strokes & Plugs” article about us!
BY TALLY MEYERS
The aroma in the workshop at A Place to Grow in SLO creates the illusion of being amongst California’s ancient redwoods. The structure is difficult to see until the lights of the warehouse illuminate its true dimensions. This large array of random materials was a greenhouse.
“It’s a great system,” O’Brien said. “It’s really synergistic.”“It’s a really unique structure,” O’Brien said, pointing to the redwood tree pieces, wine barrel accents, and repurposed metal roof. O’Brien shares warehouse space and a creative atmosphere with her friend and Box Kite Barn Yard owner, Rick Ernstrom, who specializes in reclaiming wood and other materials. Both O’Brien and Ernstrom are passionate about saving materials that would normally find their way to a landfill.
A Place to Grow has been slowly making a buzz since it opened its doors (and windows) a year and a half ago. After 23 years of serving in the county assessor’s office and being on the Habitat for Humanity finance committee, O’Brien said her experience had “served its purpose” and she needed a change. Her background knowledge of business and love of her very own greenhouse gave her inspiration to make other’s dreams materialize.
Slowly making waves in the SLO community, A Place to Grow was nominated and entered in the Martha Stewart American Made Contest, recognizing businesses across the country that find new and innovative ways to do business. O’Brien is pleased with the progress the business has made even on the national level.
“We have had a great response in the contest and are in the top ten for the garden category that we are entered in,” O’Brien said.
Although now only serving SLO County, A Place to Grow hopes to provide services to Monterey and Santa Barbara counties by 2014. O’Brien has high hopes for the future and likes to think that there are “no accidents” in this life.
To learn how you can obtain a custom-made recycled greenhouse or to donate your random materials (and save yourself the dumping fee), visit recycledgreehouses.com, call 704-1155, or visit Dana O’Brien at 3940 Broad St. #7192.
We’d love to hear from you. Please contact us with questions, comments and feedback, or for a quote on purchasing your own Place to Grow.
- Monday-Friday, 9-5:00, Saturday by appointment
- 445 B Prado Road, San Luis Obispo, CA
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