Tight Quarters

So, I explained my lack-of-sufficient-workspace issue in the inaugural post Before Picture. (Today's first pic: '17 summer assistants Anne and Kai on the machines while I squeeze between).

A bit more context regarding the nearly three-decade use of my current studio was provided in Back (Yard) Story. I might've titled the post Dues: Paid.

Today, yet more context that has led us to the decision to undertake a d.i.y. studio expansion project:

Eight and a half years after buying the three bedroom, one bath mentioned in Back (Yard) Story, my wife and I had three kids and one on the way, and the house was feeling a bit... er... cosy. At least that's what our next door neighbor, Harvey, must've thought, because he asked us if we'd have any interest in buying his four bedroom house before he put it on the market. Harvey's wife had passed away recently and he had decided to move into a retirement home.

Although we loved our house and knew we'd miss the back yard - Harvey's back yard was less than half the size - we needed the interior space, and long story short, bought the house we currently live in. But I also needed to retain a workspace, since my wife had, less than a year earlier, resigned from her job at an art foundation and I'd begun a business as a custom props builder, working out of the former 2 car garage in our back yard. Harvey's property had a one car garage, but that was definitely not going to cut the mustard. So, rather than sell our home next door, we decided to rent it out and share its back yard. The renters could access it whenever they wanted and so could I, slightly extending my daily "commute" through the yard via the side gate I put between the properties.

And that's the way it's been ever since, although for ten years, I worked three blocks away at the Colorado College, and had much less of a reason to darken the door of the home workspace. After resigning in March of '16, I began to use the home shop - now, I called it my studio - regularly once again.

A prominent local artist, friend, and long-time inspirational mentor who lives just blocks away, Sean O'Meallie, had undertaken a studio revamp sometime in the early 2000's, demoing his 1 car detached garage-cum-studio and building a 600 sf first-floor studio in its place, with a rental unit on the second floor (see photos below). That was probably the spark of the initial thought, years back, that I might try something similar. But, supervising and having access to a large, tricked-out workshop at the college where I worked at the time, thanks in large measure to Sean's recommending me for the job, I had little need to undertake such an expansion. Furthermore, by 2007-08, the housing market took a nosedive nationwide, and the ability to access one's equity - diminishing equity at that - became much more difficult for the following decade at least.

All that to say that one major factor in the decision to undertake a studio build/expansion is resuming the near-daily "side yard sidle", and once again pining for more space to work.

Another contribution to the decision to take on the project is personally knowing a few people like Sean and Mary who rent out cottages behind their homes nearby, whether long or short-term. Our properties - we own three on the same block - are all zoned R2, or Residential 2, which allows for two dwelling units, provided all size, setback, and a laundry list of other parameters are met.

So, as with Sean's build, the idea is that by converting my current 400 sf. studio to a rental, the income from that would largely, if not totally, offset the cost of a cash-out refinance or HELOC (home equity line-of-credit).

We opted for the HELOC option, since all three of our mortgages have low interest rates and we're years into 20 year terms. For one thing (as the mortgage guy at our credit union asked), why pay a higher interest rate on the full balance of the new, larger loan when we can pay it only on the portion of the HELOCs we use for the project (admittedly, we'll be using most or all of them)?

In closing,

I assume some of you reading this are doing so for the same reasons I was watching a lot of YouTube videos recently: to get information from others who've undertaken projects like the one we've just begun to. If you have any questions or comments related to the build project, please make use of the comments section below, and I'll do my best to respond. And please share this with anyone you think might be interested!


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