An Interior Designer Makes Her Dream ‘She Shed’

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Six months ago, Amy Mitchell realized her burgeoning interior design business needed a new home. She was operating her one-person firm, Home Glow Design, out of her family’s kitchen in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. “I was bursting out,” she says. Fortunately, Mitchell didn’t have to look far to find Home Glow Design’s next headquarters. A 19th-century blacksmith shop sat on her family’s property, just on the other side of the driveway from the main house. “We had this space and we thought it would be perfect,” she says. “It was being underutilized as a storage shed.”

‘She Shed’ at a GlanceWho uses it: Homeowner and interior designer Amy Mitchell of Home Glow DesignLocation: Hopkinton, New Hampshire, near ConcordSize: 176 square feet (16 square meters); two-thirds-story loft above is used for storageBudget: $15,000 (more than half of that went to materials and labor)The structure perfectly suited Mitchell’s needs: It was close to home (and her husband and two sons) and provided her with an opportunity to refresh an old structure for contemporary living. “I wanted to honor its history as a masculine farm space but also put my own spin on it,” she says. Mitchell faced typical renovation challenges with the project, including maintaining a tight budget, working with an old building and achieving the style she envisioned. However, there was another, somewhat unusual test: Everything had to be done in six weeks.

Mitchell was featured as a guest blogger on the One Room Challenge. She was tasked with completing and documenting a one-room transformation, start to finish, in six weeks. “It made the process more stressful,” Mitchell says, “but it didn’t change the design process. I’m a big planner, and I tried to have all my ducks in a row, priced out and scheduled, before the challenge began.”The redesign started with some minor construction and demolition. Working with general contractor Brian J Barrett, the team ripped up the floors, repaired and painted walls and replaced two windows. Barrett installed antique wavy glass panes, new mullions and new sashes. Lenn Johnson added new electrical and lighting receptacles. “Other than that it was mostly decorative,” Mitchell says of the improvements. A small Rinnai propane heating unit beneath one of the windows warms the space during the New England winters. “That works like a champ,” Mitchell says.

Since the space would serve as Mitchell’s office, where she would also be hosting clients, she wanted to showcase what’s possible when you hire a design professional — even on a tight budget and without much room. She chose wall-to-wall-seagrass carpet, a mix of high and low furniture pieces and custom window treatments. 
The fabric Mitchell used for the windows — a faded blush floral print with camel, steel and bronze accents — helped pull the design scheme together, inspiring the room’s color palette and balancing the various styles and themes Mitchell wanted to include. “[It] struck me as feminine cowgirl,” she says, something she could relate to having worked as a wrangler in Colorado during her college years.

Browse seagrass rugs and cowhide rugs

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The colors in the fabric inspired Mitchell to pull in a more diverse combination of textures and finishes, including a cowhide rug and a mix of lighting finishes. “I was able to mix polished nickel and bronze,” she says. 

See more swing-arm lamps on Houzz

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The vintage Stickley desk, Mitchell’s primary workspace, played an important role in the design (aside from its unquestionable beauty). With most of the furnishings coming from big-box retailers, Mitchell wanted a piece that would give a sense of heritage and a timeless quality. “I’m a sucker for really well-made furniture,” she says. An added budget bonus: Mitchell found the desk on consignment. 

The wood desk stands out in the mostly white room, providing a place for the eye to rest.

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To keep the small space from feeling overwhelmed, Mitchell included extensive storage and stuck with a mainly monochromatic color palette. “You can only choose so many focal points in a room,” she says. “You have to choose where things blend and recede.” The white bookcases match the white walls behind them, and storage bins and cabinets keep clutter at bay. 

Mitchell even painted the cork wall she installed behind her worktable the same white as the walls so it wouldn’t draw attention to itself. “I’ve been using it for six months now and haven’t had any trouble with chipping,” she says.

The Value of a DesignerMitchell can attest to the value (time-, style- and budget-wise) of hiring a designer, even if only for a consultation. “When we renovated the kitchen in our starter home 12 years ago, I had zero knowledge of kitchen design, cabinet sizing and layout needs,” she says. “I paid a kitchen consultant to come out and assess the situation and give me some ideas. She had a completely different idea for layout that worked so much better for us, and the kitchen turned out wonderfully. That consultation was money well spent.“I’m all about maximizing investment,” Mitchell adds, “and a professional can maximize the interior decorating budget a client has. A decorator looks at a room design as a whole plan and can keep you from making lots of one-at-a-time purchases that turn into mistakes — and those mistakes can add up quickly into a whole lot of dollars.”

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