Our family of five, my husband Sean and I and our three boys, ages 15, 12 and six have been living happily, but increasingly crowded in a 735 square foot, two bedroom home for the past seven years in Portland Oregon. That is until about five months ago. We added onto our home after years of dreaming of more space. A year ago at this time our addition, that we call the Bed Shed, was just a foundation, a skeleton of a structure. It amazes me what a year can bring, the building of this addition has been an incredible journey for us, one that has really impacted our everyday living. After being in our home for six years and in need of more space, but not wanting to leave a street of families that we have become very attached to, we decided to add 400 square feet onto our small 1917 home. Aside from the joy of having more space, it gave us a true sense of pride in creating something from scratch as well as working with our friends and family to make it happen. And personally it has opened me up to new possibilities for the future.
There are so many details that went into this project, years of figuring out what our options were (I have gone into more detail about that on my own blog), but in short we needed space and we needed to be creative in order to afford what we wanted. We added only what we really needed, a bedroom, another bath, a bike shed and storage. We designed the space with a friend, hired a contractor and accepted the generous offer of many friends and family to help us do a lot of the work ourselves. To have drawn and designed this space a million times, dreaming of what it would feel like to walk into, sleep in, landscape, it was really gratifying to watch it come to life. It took nine months to build and I don’t think a day of those nine months went by that I didn’t walk around the space and take it in.
Our weekends this past summer were spent either organizing and executing work parties or doing dump runs, painting, cutting, scraping, cleaning and painting some more. The work parties stand out most in our minds and went something like this, Sean and I purchasing and preparing massive amounts of food and drink, organizing and tidying the space, getting our list of needs down on paper. When Friday night arrived we would watch the street fill with cars and our loved ones piling into our yard (most of the workers were from out of town). We would spend our days working as hard as we could and our evenings by a fire, eating, drinking and playing music. All of the kids did a good job of either pitching in a bit or entertaining themselves. It will be a summer they remember as lots of work, not a lot of fun, but they were on board and could feel the excitement. When friends from around town would appear, work clothes on, tools in hand we would hand them something cold to drink and thank them profusely for any work they could contribute. Sometimes it was a load of dishes sitting in the sink and sometimes it was a full day of painting or siding the house, or providing a bed for our guests. Every tiny bit so generous and appreciated.
When the final layer of paint went on the walls, the grout was dry and the floors were finished we were able to move into the space and it has been amazing. Being able to spread furniture and clothes and storage out and into the Bed Shed has been really liberating. Having the space to actually keep the clean lines and minimal look that I have craved for so long so satisfying. And luckily we didn’t have to buy much to make it our own space. It’s been surprisingly difficult for me to commit to hanging artwork or even adding furniture that we need, I love it so much without. As for everyday life as a family, we are so used to living small, we still congregate in the original house, homework still done at the dining room table, all of us in the kitchen in the morning. But to have a space of our own has been incredible for my husband and me. We can watch a movie or talk at full volume now, where as before with a house of sleeping kids it was impossible. To sneak into the new bathroom and take a bath without anyone knowing is delightful. And more than anything we take such joy in the details of the space. The little things we thought about as we designed it. I love the fresh air that cascades in from the open window when I take a bath; we love watching the huge pine tree out of the French doors from our bed at night, especially when it’s storming outside. Having our Saturday coffee in bed looking up into a canopy of trees or watching the sun move around the room throughout the day. I love that Sean has a place to play his guitar without a million children piling around him. I really don’t have words to describe the satisfaction I take in these small things. I feel so fortunate to have had this experience and to have worked so hard to make it possible.
Particularly, having been a stay at home mom for so long, I have valued the opportunity to make this happen. After many years with a babe on my hip or at my feet, it felt really gratifying to be able to do physical labor. The act of taking this project from start to finish, to have something concrete to show for my work all day, is something new for me. For so many years my days have been spent finding fulfillment in experiences, living through my children’s joys and discoveries. Knowing that my calm presence and nurturing ways were often my most important work in a day brought me great satisfaction. But fifteen years into it and with all three now at school all day, I was able to feel a new kind of accomplishment that has me itching for more. This project has sent my mind sailing into the future of what may lay ahead. Wondering what kind of work I want to pursue and a chance to really appreciate our home and family as we spread out and settle into our new space. I am becoming acquainted with a new way of being as my children and I spread our wings. This project woke me up to new possibilities and I am excited to see where we go from here.
For more on the evolution of the bed shed, and general tips on simple living visit Jessica at her blog HERE