When a neighbour’s massive tree destroyed the roof of her garage, Shannon Moroney took it as a sign that it was finally time to renovate and create the studio of her dreams. See how she made the most of the space with clever DIYs, splashes of colour and seriously smart storage hacks.
A Room of One’s Own
Author and speaker Shannon Moroney is no stranger to renovation projects: After buying a home in Toronto’s Swansea neighbourhood in 2012 – the same year she gave birth to twin girls – she and her husband spent the next four years renovating every inch of the house. “It was a rough start to parenting and home ownership,” says Shannon. And while she longed for a creative space to call her own, it wasn’t until a neighbour’s tree seriously damaged her 1930s detached garage that Shannon decided to transform the rundown structure into a gorgeous, light-filled studio.
Tree’s a Crowd
Because of a narrow driveway, Shannon and her husband knew they’d never park their car in the garage, and despite its many flaws (including no electricity, a cracked concrete floor, a door that wouldn’t close and raccoons taking up residence), Shannon dreamed of transforming the space into “an ideal writing and creativity studio.” Taking the neighbour’s fallen tree as a sign she couldn’t ignore, Shannon spent months planning the project, complete with “a vision board, sketches and a floor plan with movable walls and furniture,” and used insurance money from the tree damage to hire a contractor.
While the contractor and his crew handled all of the construction, Shannon was eager to delve into DIY projects. “The kitchenette is actually a gardening stand I also found at Homesense,” says Shannon, who swapped out the stand’s original X-base for a set of adjustable-height table legs from IKEA in order to make room for the chalkboard bar fridge, a lucky find from Best Buy.
“My personal decor style leans more toward shabby chic, or ‘creative eclectic,’ but when my husband and I renovated our house, we had to find a balance between his preference for modern and minimal with my passion for patterns and vintage items,” says Shannon. “I’m incredibly lucky to have the studio space all to myself and to have had free reign to design and decorate it in a way that reflects my personality, values, dreams and accomplishments,” she says. “Everything has a story or a memory.”
Water Supply and Demand
When planning the garage reno, Shannon had assumed that hooking up the water supply would cost thousands and require a permit, but her contractor had a better (and far cheaper) solution. “He suggested we run a cold water line off the existing exterior faucet,” says Shannon. “The whole backyard was already dug up for a new patio, so he set to work laying the water line – which cost a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand – and I began sourcing a vintage washtub.”
Shannon wanted a rustic look for the kitchenette, and after perusing vintage washtubs in person and online, she sourced the perfect steel tub through Lowe’s.
“Yellow is absolutely my favourite colour,” says Shannon, who incorporated the sunny hue throughout the studio. “Inside the house you’ll see it in a forsythia shade, but in the studio it’s a brighter, more playful version.” The comfy yellow chair (“The perfect chair!”) is from Wayfair.
“I bought the cabinet 15 years ago from a big Mexican pine importer on a country road near Port Hope,” says Shannon. “It was in my basement for five years and I loved being able to repurpose it for the studio.” She stained it herself to match the sliding barn door (just visible in the photo above) that separates the studio from the storage-space portion of the garage, and added glass drawer pulls to the cabinet for a touch of sparkle.
“The office is set up to be a very flexible space,” says Shannon, who rents out the studio part-time for meetings or personal creative use. “My work is quite varied; when I write, I sit on one side of the double desk, under one of the windows, and type away on my laptop. I can see my kids playing in the park,” she says. “The other side of the desk is where I set up my sewing machine, and it’s also a space for my husband to get some quiet work done when he needs to, and for a colleague or renter to use.”
While searching for comfortable, swivelling office chairs that didn’t look too “officey,” Shannon came across a striking black-and-white option on Wayfair. “I fell in love even though they were a little outside my design comfort zone. I’ve never been an animal-print person but a friend encouraged me to click the purchase button and I’m so glad I did,” she says, describing the print as somewhere “between Holstein and floral.”
Black and White and Fun All Over
The yellow desk lamps are from IKEA, as are the $12 Roman shades that Shannon customized using rickrack and pompom trim. “Black-and-white polka dots are another theme you’ll see,” she says, referring to, among other accents, the welcome mat by the door. “They’re just so fun!” says Shannon.
“Studio time is by invitation only for everyone but me,” says Shannon. “My husband is incredibly respectful of my need for space, productivity and creativity, and my daughters are learning that, too,” she says. “They are almost six and love our special ‘crafternoons’ in the studio. They have their own stash of paper and markers stored in the cabinet, and they know that it’s a privilege to be an artist in mummy’s space. I have a sign that reminds them of the ‘Crafternoon Rules’ and they adhere to them perfectly: Be Creative, Co-operate, No Whining, No Bad Moods. I need a sign like this in the house!” she says.
“My motto is ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ and I’m ruthless about not keeping things that I don’t actually use,” says Shannon. “That can be hard for artsy types like me, who see potential in having a lot of materials lying around for inspiration, so when it comes to those things I want to keep just in case, I group them together and label them with invitational words, rather than just what’s actually in the box or basket,” she says. “For example, all my books and manuscript materials are in a basket labelled ‘write’ and my workshop and counselling materials are labelled ‘forgive,’ ‘feel’ and ‘reflect.’ When I’m looking for inspiration, it’s right there calling to me from the shelves.”
While two-thirds of the garage are devoted to Shannon’s studio, the other third – which is insulated but unheated – houses bikes, tools and shelves of plastic storage bins (all neatly labelled, of course).
“The studio feels completely finished to me and is now the headquarters for all my other creative projects, including the launch of my part-time passion-turned-profession, Shannon Moroney Design,” says Shannon. “Putting my counselling background together with my flair for design is a very fulfilling combination-for both me and my clients. I absolutely love helping people get their homes organized and styled in a way that reflects their values, as well as helping them through life’s transitions, like a new baby, a loss, a divorce, and empty-nesting,” she says.
To book Shannon’s studio, contact her at email@example.com or through thisopenspace.com.