PORTLAND — Stepping into Marc and Jeanine’s Modern-Shed Airbnb, you will immediately feel like you’ve found a little nook of heaven.
The cozy shed, which the couple have named the Mallory Tiny Home, after the street they live on, is secluded and private, with stylish decor and a loft bedroom that practically beckons you to turn in and recharge from a busy day of sightseeing.
“People find it really beautiful,” says Jeanine, a spiritual healer who sometimes brings clients to the shed to meditate. “Everyone says there’s just enough space. They’re always impressed with how much space there is or how warm or cool it is. It’s just enough.”
Jeanine and Marc’s journey to their Modern-Shed tiny home has had its ups and downs.
The couple had known for years that they wanted to have a tiny home in their backyard, following suit with a trend that many of their friends and neighbors have embraced.
“Putting something in the backyard has become very popular in Portland,” Marc says. “People are doing it for all kinds of reasons. We started thinking about having a rental.”
The city of Portland encouraged its residents to build in their backyards by waiving its developer fees in 2015 (these fees could add up to $15,000), so that move got the couple’s attention, Marc adds.
At first, they bought plans from another company for a modular building, but those plans ended up “just sitting around,” Jeanine says.
Next, the couple purchased a tiny home on wheels from a company in Tennessee.
However, while it was being delivered on a trailer, the driver hit a patch of black ice in Wyoming and the shed was destroyed in the accident.
The driver was OK and the couple got their money back, but in the meantime, Portland had changed its rules for tiny homes on wheels (the homes would have to be moved every few days), so the idea became less attractive.
“At that point, we started thinking about building one ourselves,” Jeanine says. “We put out bids for ADUs (accessory dwelling units), but the bids came back really high, like $150,000 to $200,000.”
About a year and a half ago, Jeanine found Modern-Shed in her research and contacted dealer Jeff Bergerson, who helped them design the tiny home of their dreams.
“Jeff was great to work with, really, really wonderful,” Jeanine recalls. “We literally sent hundreds of texts back and forth and I have hundreds of emails in my inbox from him. He and I worked together to come up with the plans.”
Those plans involved special details, such as a loft bedroom and enough room for a couch to be able to pull out into a bed for additional guests.
Marc and Jeanine wanted a bathroom and kitchenette in the shed, but decided against a full kitchen since that would have required additional permits and they would have needed to move the shed to a different spot in their backyard, further from the house.
“The north side of our lot has our patio and fruit trees, and we didn’t want to have to give that up, while where the shed is now we had never really used that space,” Jeanine says. “I learned we could build a detached bedroom, as long as it only has one sink.”
The couple circumnavigated the one-sink rule by installing a sustainable toilet that comes with an attached sink — the nifty fixture only runs water when the toilet is flushed, there is no way to turn on the sink otherwise.
“The clean city water is what’s being used to flush the toilet anyway,” Marc says.
The couple took six trips to the city office during the permitting process, but after all their permits were approved last winter, a heavy storm hit Portland.
“In the middle of the snow, we were trying to get surveying done,” Jeanine says. “On top of that, we found out we had two cesspools we didn’t know about. We had to decommission them and fill them in before we could build.”
The couple’s house was built in 1911 (they moved in there in 1997), so it made sense that it would have an antiquated septic system, but between the decommissioning the cesspools and then learning they needed to upgrade the water line, Marc and Jeanine realized they’d be $20,000 over budget.
“We were in it and we were committed, but there was a moment where we did put things on hold a couple of months,” Jeanine says. “We just didn’t have $20,000. But then we realized we could get a business loan because this was really going to be a business.”
Contractors worked to build the shed in the snow on the contractor’s limited timeline, and the backyard was a mess.
“Our backyard was a giant mud pit with panels and pieces of insulation and roofing elements everywhere,” Marc says. “At one point, there was a forklift.”
However, it was all worth it.
“It was spendy. People need to know that what you pay for is just the shed,” Jeanine says. “The cost to build it is separate and we had friends and low-cost contractors helping out, plus we did stuff ourselves. It’s a great product. We’re so happy with how it turned out.”
The couple recommends learning your city’s specific requirements and working closely with someone from the city on those.
The couple’s first booking for the shed was during the eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, and the shed has been booked up ever since.
The couple’s upstairs apartment above their house also serves as an Airbnb option, but many people have been choosing the tiny home over the spacious apartment.
“It’s a novelty,” Jeanine says. “Everyone wants to stay at a tiny house. I’m so grateful to Modern-Shed. The shed has great heat, AC and insulation.”
In fact, when this writer stayed in the shed, apparently there was a party going on next door. We never heard a peep, though Marc had to visit his neighbor’s because they could hear the noise from the house.
Ultimately, Marc and Jeanine advise people to be aware of how long the process can take.
“To go from A to Z, it can take awhile,” Jeanine says. “Expect that it’s going to take time. There are a lot of moving parts. Have patience, because it is all worth it.”