Take a look out into your back yard right now. Always envisioned making better use of your space, but not sure how? Work from home, but starved for creative space inside your house? Enter Studio Shed. Fully insulated and ready to rock upon arrival, co-founder and original designer Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski created Studio Shed to help folks maximize their space in a fully customizable, yet sustainable way. Heather Irmiger, Jeremy’s talented wife and one of Studio Shed’s core team members joined us to chat about her fave foods, gardening dreams and what 180 square feet means to her. Please welcome Heather and Jeremy!
GE: Hi Heather! What’s your favorite food?
Heather: My favorite food has always been spaghetti. I love twirling it around my fork 🙂 Otherwise, I really, really love Kale. It’s so my favorite that I crave it regularly and can’t wait to grow my own someday.
GE: Haha, okay, we can definitely be friends and offer some killer kale growing tips! What’s the coolest food trend you love OR coolest sustainability trend you think has promise?
Heather: Sustainability-wise, I love the tiny house movement. Not so much because I think that everyone should (or can) live in a tiny house, but the movement reinforces the trend toward living smaller. This is something I personally value – as does Studio Shed as a company. Too often, I think we get sucked into building a larger home to house more and more things we don’t really need. If we keep our living space small and SIMPLE, and get rid of all the things we don’t use or need, it’s amazing how little we actually need to live – and live happily!
Living small brings a lot of promise to sustainability. Smaller homes mean less building materials and waste. A small home office or studio space out back might eliminate a long driving commute, create extra hobby space or kid’s playroom without the more wasteful and costly route of a home addition or new home build. Living small helps us really think: what is important to me, why do I own this, do I need it? We live in a 1000 sq ft ranch home and it’s amazing how critically I think about anything that is given to me or anything I buy. If there isn’t a space for it, I either get rid of something I don’t use anymore or don’t take on the new thing.
GE: Do you grow a garden?
Heather: We have had two garden beds mocked up for 1.5 years now and it’s only a pile of weeds – this makes us sad! Currently, we spend much of our time traveling which doesn’t make for very good gardeners. The beds are there though. When our travel schedule calms down I’m going to have plenty of kale, basil, and zucchini.
GE: Favorite herb to cook with?
Heather: I LOOOOVE cilantro and try to find an excuse to put it in everything.
GE: Garden Eats has been following the modular home movement since Dwell Magazine really brought it into the mainstream. Do you and your partner have experience living in a modular environment? Ever slept in a tree house? What’s the smallest space you’ve ever lived in? What was that like for you?
Heather: We currently have our modular Studio Shed race/workshop. Although not a living space, it’s a place we spend a lot of time. Other than that, at the end of 2012 we invested in a long-time dream and purchased a 2007 Airstream travel trailer! As I mentioned, we travel A LOT! We spend many weeks on the road in the Airstream from March through December. It’s a 25ft long trailer so it’s right around 180 square ft. We’ve spent as long as 4 weeks living in it and could easily have gone longer. We absolutely love living in the small space. We share it with our two border collies and have developed beautifully choreographed movements for day to day living. We cook, bake, eat, sleep, shower and hand grind/press our own coffee.The four of us have it down to a science!
We’ve learned a lot about how little you need to live well. We have a brightly lit & well designed space. It’s always funny to return to our “stick house.” It feels huge and it usually takes a few days for me to stop trying to flush the toilet with my foot (as an RV toilet is flushed).
GE: Jeremy, how did Sunset Magazine and Dwell Magazine turn their eyes toward you?
Jeremy: Our appearance in the Sunset series of gardening books was one of our first press appearances, only a couple months after the company was founded! It was perhaps just a case of the right product at the right time. Dwell always seems to have many forward-thinking articles about good design and small living. It was great to be included this March in one of their online features. We are still growing our marketing team here at Studio Shed, and we haven’t poured a tremendous amount of resources into traditional media. Most of our press has come organically and the awareness of higher-end products like ours is still quite low. We’re working to change that in the near future though.
GE: Have you attended Dwell on Design in Los Angeles? Any collaborations on the way?
Heather: We have never attended Dwell on Design but it is on our radar and something we may explore in the future. Being based in Boulder has actually led to our best collaborations. It’s amazing how driven and supportive this community is. We’ve “stumbled” upon many incredible and creative people who love our company. We have some very exciting collaborations coming up in 2014. For starters, we partnered with Whole Foods here in Boulder to celebrate Earth Month all of April. We highlighted our sustainable building features and enabled people to explore one for themselves.
GE: You live in a mountainous terrain. What inspiration have you taken from your surroundings?
Jeremy: The popularity of modern architecture is still growing in Colorado and the original Studio Shed blended a modern look with materials that look comfortable in a mountain setting. The original Studio Shed used cement board siding, glass and metal windows and had unfinished exposed wood rafters and eaves. I always thought the natural wood on the exposed eaves softened the modern look of the other materials in the building. Following years of beetle infestation of the Colorado mountains, we will be offering Colorado beetle-kill pine in the near future as an option. It’s a locally sourced and sustainable material. Look for this later in 2014, along with some rusted metal trim options which speak to Studio Shed’s Colorado heritage.
GE: Cool! What’s the major difference between a Studio Shed and one I can purchase from a hardware store?
Jeremy: There are numerous differences between what we offer at Studio Shed and what you can get at your local hardware store: One of the biggest is that Studio Shed’s modular system has been engineered to meet building codes throughout the country and our spaces will conform to building permit requirements almost everywhere without modification. This isn’t the case with off-the-shelf store models which are not engineered to meet the same standards as residential construction. By doing this, we offer far more flexibility in what our spaces can be used for. You can use them as comfortable 4-season studios and satellite living space. For those looking for simple utility space, the quality of the materials and construction still makes for a much more inviting and versatile building. We use energy efficient glass throughout, ZipSystem wall panels with integrated vapor barriers, Galvalume roofing, and cement board siding.
Further, we offer an incredible array of customization possibilities with our Shed Configurator. You can move windows and doors around, change sizes, layouts and colors. None of this is typically possible with store-bought products. You can tailor your Studio Shed to exactly what you want to use it for.
GE: You guys use denim insulation and cork in your sheds. Did you discover any new, cool sustainable materials when you were in the initial design phase or as you’ve improved on your design?
Jeremy: We’re always discovering new and cool materials, but it takes time to bring them to market and make sure they work with the modular system we’ve developed. The ZipSystem wall panels are one of the best products we’ve used. We are working on a few new items for 2015 and beyond that will improve the functionality of the product further. This is one area in which we strive to lead the industry. The shed industry in general has not kept up with modern trends in building from an aesthetic or functional sense.
GE: Your shed designs feature garages, lifestyle sheds and storage sheds. Do many people go for the lifestyle shed? What can you tell us about those? Do customers use them as backyard offices, place on a big piece of land, or take with them on the road?
Jeremy: We currently sell approximately a 50-50 split of Studio Sheds with our Lifestyle Interior or without. We have an increasing number of people purchasing our “Shell-Only” package and then finishing the interior themselves. This is a great option for a handy homeowner as it saves quite a bit of money and allows you to put some of your own finishing touches on the interior. For the finished spaces, backyard offices are a very popular use as well as creative workspaces of all kinds. We do have a handful that are just “out there” on a large piece of land, but no one has taken them “on the road” as far as I know!
GE: We agree with you that “living smarter is better than living bigger.” Any tips or advice to bestow upon readers based on this?
Heather: To us, living smarter is really a simple way of asking ourselves to closely examine what it is that we really need and value. So many of us have crazy busy lives – busy work schedules, busy family schedules, and hopefully busy leisure and fun schedules. I think that often times being so busy makes it difficult to take a moment for ourselves to just be calm and feel present. We never take the time to critically examine the things in our lives that are no longer serving us whether it be a stack of old T-shirts or the lack of a personal getaway.
Rather than simplify, we tend to complicate and stow away. We build bigger houses to store the stuff we don’t even want and try to rearrange furniture in rooms that aren’t really serving us. So, first and foremost, a great first step toward simplifying is to de-clutter, one drawer or room at a time. Find the items that you haven’t thought about or touched in months or years and get rid of them. Then critically examine your space and decide if you really need MORE room. You might need more space, but maybe it’s not bigger space you need, but separate space. Think about what you’re after. Do you need a hobby room, a kid’s play area, a guest room, an office, a writer’s retreat or a storage room? How do you want that space to feel? In our experience, creating a new space that is separate from the current home is not only practical and smarter because it saves on costs and inconvenience (compared to moving or a home addition) but because it has more life, more character. It’s not better because it’s bigger, it’s better because it’s simple.
GE: Thanks for those parting words on becoming mindful of our surroundings and thanks for joining us today!
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