Home & Garden Innovative Spaces

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SUNDAY, JULY 17, 2022 |

INNOVATIVE SPACES Sunday July 17, 2022 |



Brian and Brenda Harris turned an old barn on their acreage near Mason City into a “we-shed.



Mason City couple turn old barn into



The Harris we-shed before construction.



For the Globe Gazette

rian and Brenda Harris have turned an old barn on their acreage near Mason City into what they call a “we-shed.” The original idea was to give Brenda a “she-shed” where she could work on her sewing projects. However, Brian said he thought he “put enough work into it that it should be a we-shed.” The rustic-style structure, which is about the size of a two-stall garage, has a TV in it. Brian said that’s enough to keep him happy. The building also has a mini-fridge and a special fridge just for wine. “It works good for get-togethers with friends,” Brian said. The couple converted the barn, which they believe was built in 1929 or possibly earlier, during the summer of 2020. “It was my Mother’s Day present from our kids to help us clean it out,” Brenda said. When the Harris family first moved to their acreage 23 years ago, they stored quite a few items in the former barn, including scrap wood, farm tires and their kids’ old bikes. They also put a tin roof on the structure to protect it from moisture. “That’s probably the best thing we did,” Brian said. “Water is a killer on old buildings.” The brick used for the original barn was in good shape, which also helped prolong the life of the building, according to Brian. After he built a shed on the property in 2010 that he uses as his shop, Brian moved items he frequently uses such as lawn mowers out of the barn and into the new structure. The idea of turning the barn into a she-shed had been brewing for several years, but really took off when Brenda found a big window on sale on Facebook for just $50. They both loved it and thought it would be great for the project. The barn originally had a loft that could only be accessed from the out-

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Brian and Brenda Harris sit at the table Brian made for the couple’s “we-shed.”


side. One of the key decisions Brian and Brenda made when planning the conversion project was to raise the ceiling between the loft and lower floor to open up the space and let in more light from the loft windows. “It made everything work,” Brian said. Brian, who is a farmer, had plenty of time to work on the project during the summer of 2020 because farm work

always slows down for a month of two that time of the year. Brenda, the office manager at Mechanical Air Systems in Mason City, helped with the project in the evenings. “The neat thing about it is we used a lot of scrap, just things that we found,” she said. “We really repurposed a lot of things.” One of the interior walls of the we-

shed is made from the wood from pallets Brian took apart. “I roughed them (the planks) up a little bit and slapped them on there,” he said. Brenda said they wanted to use materials that have a personal history to them as much as possible. For example, some of the other wood used for the project came from the barn’s original door, as well as a hay shed from the farm on 12th Street where Brian grew up. The black cupboards where Brenda stores her fabric and sewing machine also came from that farm. “His parents don’t live there anymore so we took them out and painted them, and put barn wood on them to make them match,” she said. A ladder from Brenda’s great-grandfather was suspended from the ceiling as the basis for a light fixture that stretches above the long table Brian built for the we-shed. Individual lights hang from the ladder. The couple also found an old wood stove in a shed at the farm that belonged to Brenda’s grandparents. Brian washed it and painted it. Although they don’t use the stove for heating, it adds a decorative touch, according to Brenda. “It looks like it did when it was new,” she said. The couple did buy some of the furnishings. The kitchen island they use as a bar was purchased from Lucy & Olive when the former store in downtown Mason City held its going-outof-business sale. They ordered a few pieces of furniture, including a big, comfy chair, from Amazon. They also moved a few pieces they weren’t using in their house anymore to the we-shed. Brian and Brenda found a used door for sale for $150 on Facebook for the entrance. Brian said the biggest challenge as getting power to the we-shed. The couple used mini-splits so they could have both heat and air-conditioning, allowing them to use the building Please see ‘WE-SHED’, Page C2




| Sunday, July 17, 2022

Globe Gazette

‘We-shed’ From C1

year-round. They installed a ceiling fan for extra cooling during the summer and use baseboard heaters on the coldest winter days. The couple painted the cement floor in the we-shed and put siding on the outside of the building. Brian and Brenda have used the weshed for birthday parties. They also hosted a Christmas party for friends there. For the holiday get-together, they put a Christmas tree in the corner, draped garland around the windows, and placed big wreaths on the walls. When you look out the windows of the we-shed, “It’s pretty when it’s snowing” and when the leaves are changing color in the fall, Brenda said. When their son Lane was still living at home, he and his friends would use the we-shed. “They had their guitars and stuff. It was nice because we couldn’t hear them,” Brenda said. Lane, 21, now lives in Ames. When he comes back to visit, he still hosts his friends from back home in the we-shed. The couple’s daughter, Jayden, 24, lives in her own home in Mason City. Brenda said she still comes over sometimes “and hangs out with us” in the we-shed. Brenda is part of a group of women that play the dice game Bunco together. They met in the we-shed once last fall. “They loved it,” Brenda said. “They want to do it again.” PHOTO SUBMITTED BY BRENDA HARRIS‌

LEFT: Brenda and Brian Harris’ “we-shed” has a photo display on one of the walls showing the renovation project as it progressed. MIDDLE: A refurbished wood stove adds a decorative touch to the “we-shed.” MARY PIEPER, FOR THE GLOBE GAZETTE‌

An old ladder suspended from the ceiling in Brenda and Brian Harris’ “we-shed” has lights hanging from it for a unique chandelier that matches the rustic look of the retreat on the couple’s acreage.


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Globe Gazette

Sunday, July 17, 2022 |


Brenda and Brian Harris’ “we-shed” decorated for Christmas. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY BRENDA HARRIS‌


Brian Harris made this long table for a “she-shed” for his wife, Brenda. As the she-shed project went along, it morphed into a “we-shed” that both of them could use individually, together, and as a gathering place for family and friends.

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scents. This includes yarrow, lamb’s ear, rose bushes, thyme, oregano, lavender and garlic. That said, not all deer have the same tastes and may still eat around the things they don’t like.

Prevent deer from


Put netting around plants

Heavy-duty, woven mesh plant netting works as a great short-term solution, especially for flowering plants or young fruit trees. When applied properly, deer won’t be able to reach through the netting, but the plants will still have access to sunlight and water. However, you’ll need to check the netting frequently to make sure it’s still in place and isn’t crowding in on the branches or leaves of your plants. Alternatively, you can build individual fences around key plants or trees. Just make sure the deer can’t reach through or jump over them. Keep in mind that smaller critters like rabbits will still get through.

your garden

Install motion-activated sprinklers


Experiment with a variety of liquid repellents, barriers, plants and noises to keep deer from decimating your garden. ANGELA WATSON

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hile they may be cute to look at, deer are a major problem for many gardeners. Deer, along with rabbits and other vermin, are indiscriminate herbivores and will make short work of anything that looks and smells edible. This, unfortunately, includes shrubs, flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. It only takes a couple of deer to decimate an entire garden. That’s why it’s essential to find ways to keep deer out if you want your plants to thrive. If you want to give your garden a chance to grow, here’s what you need to do.

Build a perimeter

Not just any perimeter will do. Deer can jump over standard fences with ease, so you’ll need something that’s both tall and dense. An eight-foot fence is usually enough to keep them out. If you want something shorter, consider a six-foot fence that slants outward. Deer are also less likely to try to jump over something when they can’t see what’s on the other side. That’s why thick

barriers of hedges or fences without gaps are effective. If the deer can’t see, they’re less likely to try to come into the yard. If a fence is out of the question, add a wide barrier of large, uneven rocks around the garden. Deer usually avoid walking over unstable surfaces, so the rocks could deter them from crossing. The downside is that they may still jump over the rocks. For a quicker solution, use stakes to string up a durable fishing line around the perimeter of your garden. Then, fortify it with a second line, a few feet further out from the first. Both lines should be around three feet high. While not fool proof, the line may deter any deer that walk into it.

Apply deer repellent

Deer are attracted by sight and smell, so if something seems appealing to them, they’re more likely to go after it. Many commercial liquid deer repellents include such ingredients as soap, dried blood or putrefied eggs. Most deer can’t tolerate the smell of these things and will stay away from any crops that have been sprayed. The deer repellent will need to be reapplied every so often to remain effective.

For those who’d prefer something a little more subtle, granular repellents work in conjunction with other methods. Unlike liquid repellents, most granular options don’t carry an offensive odor and are most effective for shorter, more compact plants.

Preplan the garden

Deer are creatures of habit, meaning they’ll return over and over again to sources of food and safety. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to preplan your garden to make it less desirable to them. There are a couple of ways to do this. Start with the overall structure and organization of your garden. For the most part, deer prefer to graze in flat areas and will avoid raised areas or coming too close to the house. Plant a raised garden bed to keep plants out of easy reach. The closer the plants are to your front door, the better. The more determined deer may still go after the plants, but casual grazers will not. Along with this, put out deer-repellent shrubs and plants. Most deer won’t go after plants with fuzzy textures or strong

The benefits of motion-activated sprinklers are twofold. Deer are easily spooked, and plants need water. Install the sprinklers at strategic points and, when the deer come too close, they’ll activate. However, deer quickly learn what’s dangerous and what isn’t. After a while, they may start to recognize that they aren’t in danger and return to the garden despite the sprinklers. To prevent this, use sprinklers with other methods such as loud noises. Windchimes and loud, startling noises can deter deer from entering the garden.

Beat the deer to the produce

Harvest your produce as soon as it’s ready. Some fruits, like tomatoes, can be picked early and left out in the sun — away from deer — to fully ripen. Not only does this let you keep the yield, but it also gives deer less of a reason to come to your garden.

Make regular changes

Deer like consistency, so making small changes to your garden can go a long way towards keeping them out. This can be anything from adding or moving around lawn ornaments to changing the location of the sprinklers. Combine different methods to repel the deer and help your garden thrive. Angela Watson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners suddenly found themselves in need of more usable square footage in their homes. Required to work from home due to social distancing recommendations, millions of working professionals suddenly found themselves setting up shop at kitchen tables or islands, in alcoves, garages, or even walk-in closets. Those makeshift offices were never supposed to be permanent, but as companies loosen workplace policies and embrace full remote or hybrid working arrangements, professionals are seeking more permanent home office solutions. Home additions are a possibility for homeowners who need more

usable square footage, but addons may not be the right option for everyone. If adding on won’t work, homeowners may want to look up ... at their attics. Attics with ample space can make for ideal home offices, as they’re away from the hustle and bustle of a home’s main floor. That can make it easier to concentrate when everyone is in the house and reduce the likelihood that video calls with colleagues and clients will be interrupted by kids and pets. Attic conversions are not always possible, and the following are three important factors homeowners may need to consider before they can go forward with such projects. 1. Dimensions: Both the reno-

vation experts at This Old House and the real estate experts at UpNest indicate that at least half of a finished attic must be a minimum of seven feet high and seven feet wide and 70 square feet. Requirements may differ depending on where homeowners live, but that 7-7-70 guideline is generally the minimum requirement. An attic that fails to meet such requirements won’t necessarily be a lost cause, but it might be costly to make adjustments that ultimately align with local codes. 2. Access: Access is another aspect that must adhere to local safety guidelines. Many attics are accessible only through pulldown ladders, but that will have to change if homeowners repurpose their attic spaces. A staircase


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room. If it can’t, bills might spike because the rest of the home likely won’t be as comfortable, forcing homeowners to adjust thermostats to offset that discomfort. That also could affect the unit’s life expectancy. Before going forward with an attic renovation, homeowners should contact HVAC professionals to determine if attic spaces can be serviced with the existing units and ductwork, or if an alternative arrangement must be worked out to make the spaces livable. Attic conversions can be great ways to make existing spaces more livable. Homeowners considering such projects should pay attention to three important variables as they try to determine if attic conversions will work for them.

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that complies with local laws will need to be installed, and contractors can work with homeowners to build that and estimate the cost. Homeowners who simply want to put desks in their attics without going with full-fledged conversions are urged to adhere to local access requirements anyway, as they’re intended to ensure residents can safely escape attics in the case of a fire or another emergency. 3. Climate control: Attics are converted to provide residents with more livable space. Converted space is only livable if the climate within the attic can be controlled so it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter. An existing HVAC unit needs to efficiently heat and cool an extra

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This attractive playroom hardly recalls its first life as a basement! FOTOLIA.COM VIA TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE



Tribune News Service


space each would require. Start with a to-scale drawing of your basement. Be sure to include any pillars, beams, or other facets which can’t be moved or changed, and indicate any windows, doors or stairs. Once you can visualize the space, work with to-scale cutouts of furniture or appliances to make a mock-up of your new layout.

Renovation ideas for the lowest room in the house ing. In basements, the two choices are a suspended ceiling or drywall, and each has its merits. As a rule, though, a finished, drywall ceiling looks more finished and attractive. Once the ceiling and walls are in, the floor is your next challenge. Basement flooring often must stand up to moisture, making tile, vinyl or faux wood terrific options. Of course, if water isn’t an issue, carpet is a warmer choice. Due to the chilly nature of many basements, be sure to consider heating. Radiant heat under the floors is a cozy option and sends heat upward. Baseboard heaters are another good choice.

halogen spots instead of large, recessed can lights. They’re brighter, whiter and give a brilliant light. Camouflaging support beams is a great way to add storage or visual interest. Build a cabinet or wall around each beam to hide it completely. Too often, basements lack the same details the rest of the house enjoys, or they have inferior details, such as smaller trim around doors. When adding trim, cabinetry and other details in your basement, go for the same quality you’d demand upstairs. This will help the space blend with the rest of the house and look cohesive. Attractive wall treatments, such stone or tile, will also unify the space and add interest.

ark, damp, musty and a cluttered eyesore. These are just some typical descriptions of basements. But, are they really so inaccurate? The lowest room in the house is often chilly and often ranks second in messiness only to the garage. Yet, the average basement has an abundance of storage and living options, making it a terrific place Basic elements to renovate, adding value and enjoyment If your renovation work requires a to your home. work permit, be sure to secure one. Also, be aware that basement renovations are Function first quite different from those in the rest of Determining how you want to use the the house. Dealing with moisture and cold space is the first step in planning your requires extra water-proofing and insu- Details, details basement renovation. Whether you want lation before standard items like dry wall Light is another key element. With few or no windows, most basements need ex- For more information, contact Kathryn Weber to create a wine cellar, exercise center, and flooring go in. Another important concern is the ceil- tra lighting. Opt for small, bright white through her Web site, www.redlotusletter.com. media or craft room, figure out how much


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the better. Today’s large flat screen TVs are easy to mount on a wall, but there are also options for drop down screens and large entertainment cabinets, plus an endless variety of viewing options. If your media room is small, a flat screen TV makes sense. If it’s large, a drop down projection screen is an attractive option. Make sure you account for wires and storage for DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, games and other items. A universal remote that handles all your players and TV is ideal. Otherwise, a small basket on a storage ottoman can corral all the remotes. Soft, overstuffed upholstered chairs or sofas are great for marathon viewing sessions. Include some large pillows for those who like to camp on the floor, and add some cozy throws. To keep the room from becoming too murky, balance the dark paint with lighter-toned upholstery and drapes. Layer window coverings so the light level can be adjusted. Be aware that the electronic components in the room heat up, attracting dust, so frequent cleaning is important. FOTOLIA.COM VIA TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE Use dust sprays made specifically for elecA universal remote that handles all your players and TV is ideal. tronics.

ver since television was introduced, families have been gathering around the screen. Today’s living rooms and family rooms often revolve around the TV, and with the phenomenal growth in screen size, a home media room might be a better spot to enjoy television, movies and games. But a media room isn’t just a living room with a big TV; it’s a special space dedicated to television viewing, and with the right decor and organization, users will have a richer entertainment experience. Ideally, your media room ideally should be closed off from the rest of the house. Color is key on the decorating list. Darker hues help create a theater experience and are light-absorbing. Light or bright colors can create glare. Paint should be in a flat or eggshell finish. Because media rooms are designed for watching TV and movies with all their high and low sounds, a good sound system is a must. Some home theater sound systems require speakers to be wired in around the room, and while this guarantees great sound, such systems can be expensive and difficult to install. A simpler the bars often match the look of the TV. erage price for a good mid-range system For more information, contact Kathryn Weoption is sound bars. Placed underneath Set-up is quick and easy, and best of all, would be about $200. ber through her Web site, www.redlotusletthe TV or on the entertainment console, bars are available from $75 and up. The avAs for the TV itself, as a rule, the bigger, ter.com.

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right blooms are closely associated with the season, but some flowers actually do better than others in the summer sun.


Scorching heat is no problem for hardy-growing lantana flowers, and they ADOBE STOCK PHOTO attract butterflies too. Depending on the variety, you’ll see bright yellow, pink and ginning of autumn. purple clusters that cascade beautifully over walls or across a trellis. Salvia are CELOSIA, PORTULACA AND also a butterfly favorite, and their pink, CANNA purple and red spikes attract hummingbirds as well. Both lantana and salvia are Brightly colored celosia can grow very tall, drought tolerant, and will return every and return perennially in southern zones. year in warmer climates. Portulaca are a tiny-flowered ground-cover type plant, but they’re tough. They love full VERBENA AND ZINNIAS sun. But be warned: They seed themselves, Some of the easiest-to-grow flowers so be prepared for portulaca to spread. include verbena, which bloom in pretty Canna love hot weather too, but they need clusters with lots of colors. They love the consistent watering to produce bright orsun. Most bloom for a remarkable lengthy ange, red, pink and yellow blooms. of time, lasting from spring until nearly first frost if they’re trimmed a couple of MANDEVILLA AND times in mid summer. PASSIONFLOWER Zinnias are also cluster blooms, attractive to butterflies and bees in the garden, Mandevillas are fast-growing, lush and make gorgeous cut-flower arrange- trailing vines with trumpet-shaped pink, ments. red and white blooms. They’ll climb more than 10 feet. Passionflower, another trailing MARIGOLDS AND GAILLARDIA vine, produces big purple blooms. Attach to The little gold pompoms associated a sturdy trellis for best results. with marigolds are, of course, very cute. But they also work as a natural pest re- PLUMBAGO AND GARDEN PHLOX pellent, warding off hungry wildlife from Plumbago’s sky-blue blooms make a nearby garden staples. The daisy-like great landing spot for butterflies, while the gaillardia, which be yellow and orange, vines can also climb more than 10 feet. are sometimes referred to as blanket Garden phlox produces round balls of flowers. They bloom early and don’t have flowers, growing three to five feet tall. There to be deadheaded in order to prolifically is a mildew-resistant variety that’s recombloom. They’ll stick around until the be- mended for more humid areas.

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