“It’s called a shouse,” Betty Johnson said. “We call it home,” her husband Darin finished.
Betty, RN Lead at Olmsted Medical Center in Chatfield and Darin, who does construction work, live in a large shed that is also a house, called a “shouse.” When they first started thinking about building a shouse, their adult kids, Josh, Jess, and John were appalled. “They said, ‘Mom, you don’t want to live in a shed!’” Betty recalled. But once the shouse was complete, they were all sold. In fact, the Johnson’s son John would like to build his own shouse someday too.
Betty and Darin loved their four-bedroom home on Deer Ridge just outside of Lanesboro, but, since all of their children had grown up and moved out, they were ready to downsize. Betty pointed out that downsizing to a smaller home also meant less cleaning, a big plus for many people. They had some friends who were living in a shouse and told the Johnsons how much they loved it. “We thought we’d try it,” Betty said.
They purchased a parcel of land about five miles outside of Fountain and began construction on October 9, 2017, which just happened to be Darin’s birthday. They were hoping to finish the shouse on February 8, 2018, which was Betty’s birthday, to bring it full circle, but ended up completing the work two days later on the 10th.
A lot of people and companies came together to build the Johnson’s two-bedroom shouse. Scott from Ken Baker Construction, John Baker, Huntington Electric, Jason Holtz, Newman Heating and Cooling, Lifetime Insulation, Trent Nelson, Rowland Well Company, Chatfield Lumber, and Vreeman Painting and Drywall were all involved. Darin also did a lot of work himself to keep costs down. The couple’s children helped with the interior and the installation of speakers and a camera system. “Thanks to all the people who helped,” Darin expressed. On March 10, 2018, Darin and Betty moved into their new home.
The cost for building the shouse was actually quite a bit less than it would have cost to build a traditional house because no basement was needed. The Johnsons appreciate that they’re able to walk right into their home without having to go up any steps. In fact, the only steps in the home go up to a small loft where they have a hide-a-bed and TV with DVD and VCR hook-ups so their grandkids can watch movies when they visit.
The living area of the shouse is just under 1,500 square feet. The garage takes up the rest of the space in the shed and is just a little bigger that the living portion, with three parking stalls. The Johnsons had originally planned on making the living area a little bigger, but somehow the plan didn’t get back to the builders. They have no regrets though and are happy with the space they have. They left the ceilings vaulted which gives the shouse an open, airy feel. In-floor heat throughout the entire shouse, including the loft, keeps things comfortable during the winter, and six mini split units heat both the living area and the garage of the shouse in the winter and cool them in the summer. Between the in-floor heat and the mini split units, the shouse is very energy efficient and doesn’t cost much to heat. Betty also noted that the cement floors keep it cooler during the summer, cutting down on cooling costs. LED lighting inside and out keep electricity bills low.
The Johnsons have a few area rugs, but chose to leave most of the cement floor bare. Betty loves how easy it is to keep it clean. “We have grandbabies, so spilling is always going to happen, plus we have a puppy,” she said. A couple of layers of sealant and some extra coloring in the cement in the living areas of the shouse and the floor was good to go.
Having a large climate controlled garage that is part of the shouse allows the Johnsons to double their space when they have company. Even when they
don’t have visitors, they spend a lot of time out there, and it is basically an extension of their official living area. It includes a
Vikings themed bar area with a flat screen TV and couch for watching the game, and a hot tub that looks out over the valley. An assortment of small bikes and other kids’ toys are parked off to the side for their four grandkids, ages seven, three, three, and two, to play with when they visit, which is a frequent occurrence. An exhaust fan keeps the air in the garage fresh. A second shed sits a short distance from the shouse and holds their lawnmower, gas cans, etc.
In addition to the inside of the shouse being easy to take care of, the outside is also low maintenance. The Johnsons opted to forego a deck, choosing instead to have a cement patio with a sidewalk that wraps around the side of the shouse. Curb landscaping finishes the look. The shouse overlooks a small pond and hilly pasture with a view that takes your breath away and is the first thing the Johnsons see through their bedroom window when they wake up the morning.
The Johnsons’ shouse includes all of the amenities a traditional house offers. “It actually has more than the house we had before,” Darin pointed out. He and Betty highly recommend shouse living to others, especially those in their 50s or older, as everything is handicap accessible. “God forbid something tragic would happen, but if it does, it’s accessible,” Betty said. Darin noted that that will be a big selling point if they ever decide to move.
Shouses seem to be slowly growing in popularity. When the Johnsons went to the zoning office to purchase their permit to build, they were told that three other permits had also been issued for shouses in the area.
There’s quite a bit of interest in the general public as well. Betty and Darin get lots of comments and questions from their friends and family about their shouse, and Betty has noticed numerous cars driving by slowly to get a look. When she had a garage sale earlier this summer, many people stopped by just to see the shouse.
“Get a shouse,” is Betty’s recommendation to anyone looking to build a new home. She and Darin don’t regret building theirs for a second and look forward to spending many years there together.