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House*Home: Cottages, Barns and Sheds

What to do with the space out back?

The property appraiser’s office calls them “out” buildings, a word that at first sounds too technical, too stark, too port-a-potty. But perhaps that’s exactly what makes it wonderful, for how better to describe that which falls outside the bounds of a main building?

Around town, out buildings come in all shapes and sizes, from retro aluminum sheds to detached garage apartments. Here, we present three out buildings we just had to share with you. Soon, you’ll be drawing up plans for your own space out back.

Main House: Historic 1920s Cottage
Out Building: Modern Bath House

What do you do when you have a historic 1926 cottage in a fabulous location, but not enough room for your growing family? You build a modern bath house, of course.

“We didn’t want to add to this house or leave the neighborhood,” says Jennifer Mumford, who enjoys walking to the shops on Hillview and restaurants downtown with husband Rob Brady. “We’re five minutes from just about everything,” she says.

So she and Brady tore down an existing garage, which sat inconveniently in the middle of the property, and started brainstorming. “The challenge was, what kind of structure could we add that wouldn’t mimic, and therefore diminish, the historic integrity of the main house?” says Mumford, who teaches at Ringling School of Art and Design. “We realized both structures had to be really different to do it authentically.”

Brady, who designs award-winning products for RoBrady design, is a big fan of modern architecture, prompting the couple to build something more expressive of today’s design. The original model for the bath house came from Mumford’s student Yukiko Okado. “It was a Japanese-influenced design,” says Mumford, “very Zen.”

The couple hired architect Jonathan Parks, who adapted Okado’s design significantly while still maintaining the open, airy elements. Eight-foot high glass doors disappear into the walls, opening the house up to a pool and courtyard. Sky-high ceilings, exposed vents, Japanese doors and glass blocks make the house feel much larger than its 625-square feet. And while there certainly won’t be any confusion between the historic residence and the addition, Parks incorporated some of the cottage’s features into the bath house, such as the roof pitch and the cypress wood ceilings creating a visual connection between the two buildings.

The result is a guest house/bath house/teenage hangout/home office/hurricane safe house the entire family enjoys, even the baby, whose first birthday party was held in the new building.

Mumford acknowledges the final result isn’t for everyone, but she loves it. “It’s the juxtaposition, the high ceilings, the risk-taking element,” she says. “It doesn’t infringe on the house’s character. Both are authentic.”

Main House: 1925 Farmhouse
Out Building: Old Red Barn

If only we could all have a barn, bright and shiny, out back. The one that sits behind Tom and Jennifer Harrison’s 1925 farmhouse in west Bradenton is original to the house, and its purpose today is probably the same as it was 81 years ago—storage.

This barn hasn’t been transformed into a hip designer’s office. It’s not a teenager’s apartment. And it doesn’t even house a garage band. Sometimes a barn is just a barn, and that’s the beauty of this red, white and silver splendor.

Inside, a proud wheelbarrow leans against a wall, a fishing boat awaits its next catch and empty terra cotta planters count the months until spring. In the back, a white coffin box, which was given to the Harrison’s from their friends who own a funeral parlor, stands watch.

“When we did the addition on our house, the builder told us to tear it down,” Jennifer says of the barn. And although she was adamant about keeping it, she doesn’t quite get why it’s a neighborhood fascination. “I guess it reminds people of houses up north,” she says. But it’s still just a barn.

Main House: Casey Key Vacation Home
Out Building: Sportfishing Guest Cottage

It’s a fisherman’s dream: a cabin so close to the water, you can lift up a floorboard and drop a fishing line from the living room. It’s a place for men to be men, a place to house pictures from your last African safari and hang signs that say things like:

Wanted: Good Woman Must be able to clean, cook, sew, dig worms and clean fish.
Must have a boat and motor. Please send picture of boat and motor.

“Fishing is the central theme here,” says owner Dick duPont, who, along with his wife and three boys, has spent several winters on the Casey Key property. DuPont notes this is one of the few locations on the Key that can accommodate “very large boats,” and the covered boathouse with three slips made it even more enjoyable for this avid sportsman.

Paul Rudolph enthusiasts may recognize the structure as the Miller Guest House, which, sitting over water on wood pilings, was celebrated for its resemblance to a floating box. Over the years, the structure has evolved, with a gable roof added by a previous owner, and structural reinforcement and interior updates overseen by duPont.

Despite many fond memories—and by the looks of things, fish tales—duPont plans to sell the property this winter. Even though the cottage’s main house is smaller than many homes on Casey Key, duPont says the getaway has worked well for his family. “You have to decide whether you want to make a statement of size and scope, or go with something manageable that’s designed as a second home,” he says, praising the home’s ease to maintain. “Letting it go was a teary decision.”

Super Cool Sheds

Shed. The very word connotates a dark, scary place where spiders and snakes lurk behind old paint cans and rusted rakes. Not anymore. Modern Shed, a Seattle-based company, offers these architecturally-stupendous structures, which can be used as home offices, guest houses or art studios. Similar to Sears and Roebuck kit houses, all the parts of are built and pre-assembled by the folks at Modern Shed, and shipped in flat packs to your doorstep. All a homeowner has to do is lay down posts and snap parts together. Shed sizes range from 48-120 square feet, are available in a variety of colors and materials and can be insulated and reinforced for hurricanes. Scary shed no more. For more information, visit

By Britta Alexander.
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