It started out with chats in the backyard with friends about how COVID-19 was changing the world.
In short time, those conversations turned into a new full-time business for four Vancouverites in the growing shed industry. Traditionally sheds have been used for storing tools used outside, but the founders of Novella Outdoors saw the little structures outside as a different type of opportunity.
"People were finding a connection with the outdoors, travelling around outdoors," says co-founder David Maranda, noting the idea came from a melting pot of ideas discussed over time. "COVID gave [us] pause to reconnect with nature."
"We're working from home, kids running around," he adds. "We need a quiet place."
He, along with his wife, Colleen, and their friends Angelito Camaclang and Laurel James, started the business, creating high-quality sheds that can be used as office or leisure spaces with a simple design that's repeatable.
"They're customizable, but efficient so that we can suit the needs of almost anybody," Maranda says.
To find out if makes sense for interested folks, he says there are three questions to consider:
- Are you allowed to put a shed on your lot?
- Can you get a crane within 60 feet of the location?
- Is there enough space?
The lineup of 'west coast modern' sheds
They've come up with five different designs; all are under 108 square feet, which means they're acceptable under local municipal zoning rules without a permit, so long as certain regulations are met.
"It's very west coast modern, very contemporary," describes Maranda.
While the term "shed" might conjure up corrugated tin walls and a dirt floor, these are substantially more than that, akin to a room in a house that's just outside the house.
The exterior is cedar and batten, the whole structure is rain sealed, it has heating, there's a steel frame base, a skylight comes with each, and when a heavy-duty extension cord is run out from the house the shed has power. Maranda explains the finishing is like what would be found in a new home.
"It's just like plugging in a trailer," he says.
The only thing needed in advance is a sufficiently flat place to put the new shed.
Right now they're focusing on the Lower Mainland; at peak efficiency Maranda says they could get a shed installed in three weeks, but supply chain issues have slowed things down and they're currently taking orders for the summer.
For those using it as an office space, Maranda notes while there is a cost associated with a shed, it cuts down the commute. And for a city like Vancouver - aiming to be the "greenest" in the world - a commute-less office helps reduce vehicle emissions.
They're not the only ones in the leisure shed or tiny cabin business; as Novella looks at expanding they've spoken to another business in the industry with 90 per cent of their products going south of the border.
"They're doing 45 sheds for a resort in California," Maranda explains.
He likes the idea of a resort using Novella sheds, and says he could see someone setting up a resort on a couple of acres of land somewhere like Tofino.
"It's sustainable, it's not a large footprint, it's not a large concept," he says. "There's not a lot of infrastructure."
In one case a couple are using a couple of the Novella sheds to live in while they build their "forever home" on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, he adds.
"That's their staging home for the next year or two," he says.
He says in other cases he's had discussions about the value a shed can add to a home before selling.
"It's like putting in a bathroom years ago, or renovating a kitchen," adds Maranda.
"You put an office in and it becomes much more attractive to a buyer."
He notes that the main thing is to fulfill a need for the buyer.
"I'm hoping people will start getting the message," he says of the option to install a shed. "It's attainable, it's affordable."