• Fiona McLean

Studio: Conception

Updated: Jan 6, 2019


Early spring 2018. Generating ideas.

The idea of building a small art studio on our property was conceived in the spring 2017 due to a confluence of personal circumstances. The project saw many incarnations in development before arriving where I am today. My initial idea was that on a budget of $5000 I could single handedly build a shed/studio, fit for the purpose of facilitating my art practice on a timeline of about a year. I was sure I could. I would soon learn.


I needed a minimum of 150 square feet. I would have preferred 200 sf but there were easement limitations on the property that would exclude something of that size, not to mention the ever rising budget. My Dad, a licensed electrician insisted that if I was going to build it would have to be legal which meant that I would require a building permit from the city. This reality forced a new perspective.


I did a lot of research about alternative building practices with an intention to be careful about my footprint in the undertaking of such a project. I studied a lot of alternative and sustainable building technologies including adobe, cob, rammed earth, earth ships, straw bale and tiny house construction all of which continue to hold my architectural and ecological interests. In practical terms though it was becoming apparent that I would have to sacrifice some of my ideals.


Since I would already not be able to manage a traditional stick frame building on my own there would be no possibility that I could handle a specialized green build and the costs related to hiring the requisite experienced labour would again exclude that possibility.


I considered purchasing a prefabricated custom ‘shed’ but since my project was larger than the 108sf non-permit allowance, the prefab shed idea quickly dissipated due to code restrictions and other considerations. I would need a 4 season building. I decided that spending a significant amount of money on a building that was not built for purpose would be a mistake.


I changed course again and set out to find a builder or a carpenter. I made a few drawings on Sketch Up of my ideas and from that a family friend generously produced some architectural drawings that I could take to potential builders but hat also proved a more difficult task than I had imagined. Most builders I met with were not interested in such a small scale project as I suppose it would offer limited profitability. Others provided sky high estimates that were miles out of my reach.


Sometime in late summer and almost out of options I stumbled upon a local builder’s website, Backyard Escape Studios https://backyardescapestudios.ca/ run by Sebastian Kellner. He would not be able to build my studio to the specifications I had drawn but he could offer an acceptable alternative. The studio would be prefabricated off site and then shipped to and erected on site. It would be more expensive than I had hoped but Sebastian turned out to be a stand up guy, as professional and genuine as they come.


Removing an old wood deck from behind the garden shed in preparation for the new studio. Spring 2018

Removing an old wood deck from behind the garden shed in preparation for the new studio. Spring 2018

Garden Shed complete. Wooden deck removed and everything tidy. Spring 2018


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