Home Projects

Before and After: This Backyard Shed Turned Tiny House for $15,000

updated May 3, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

This little shed was lurking in its new owners’ backyard, too large for their storage needs and far too large and unsightly to ignore. After a year of sneaking in DIY work in the evenings and on weekends after their day jobs, the couple now has a charming tiny house for beloved—and paying—guests.

An intrepid DIY couple was able to take an unneeded, leaking blight on their landscape and convert it into a money-making dreamboat:

Follow Topics for more like this

Follow for more stories like this

When we purchased our home in the West Ashley area of Charleston, it came with a pretty run-of-the-mill storage shed. The best we could tell, the previous owners used it as a workshop space, but at 200 square feet, it was far too large for our needs. On top of that, the roof leaked pretty badly in several places (we later found that it lacked adequate waterproofing during the renovation) and it was a bit of an eyesore that dominated our backyard.

A friend began raving about her experiences renting out a room in her home to out-of-town guests with Airbnb. Charleston is a hot vacation destination, so we knew that we’d be able to find plenty of guests willing to stay with us if we could put in the work. We really liked the idea of generating our own income, plus we would also gain a stylish place for friends and family to stay when they came to visit.

We also were both interested in the idea of creating a “tiny house” space, and wanted to see how we could create a space that was comfortable while still compact. Ashley was raised with a strong DIY work ethic, so we were determined to do as much as possible ourselves.

This was a smart plan, as tiny houses are absolutely perfect for short-term guests: all of the charm and dollhouse magic, none of the nightmare of where to store winter gear and extra toilet paper. Two hundred square feet is a comfortable, respectable size for a hotel room, thought it would prove a bit challenging for year-round living. And giving friends and family a nearby-but-independent place to stay when they visit is a true gift that will help preserve relationships for years to come.

Jesse and Ashley Darland, whose Charleston shed is now available to rent on Airbnb, have done a fantastic job taking this structure from ordinary to adorable. The larger windows and cheerfully aqua door are so inviting, with the stone path and the new landscaping drawing one toward the newly christened tiny house. Rather than being an eyesore, this shed is now a delightful addition to the yard.

Inside, the soothing aqua is echoed in the oar, mugs, art, bedspread, and nightstand knobs, for an aesthetic that’s unified without being overly matched. This sleeping area of the tiny house is serene and plenty roomy, no ladder-climbing required.

Jesse and Ashley explain what it took to go from neglected shed to hot rental property:

From beginning to end, we spent about a year total on the renovation. We did most of the work ourselves on nights and weekends, when we were researching how to proceed. We learned a lot on this project!

We started by replacing the previously mentioned leaking roof, then framed the interior bathroom walls, replaced the existing doors and windows, and added a few additional ones. We took a bit of a pause on the project as we looked for an electrician and plumber. Finding the right contractors took some time. We also discovered that cheaper wasn’t always better, since we wound up having to redo some of the plumbing work ourselves.

Adding plumbing fixtures and building the kitchen was the most fun. Ashley’s parents gave us a lot of help and advice throughout. We wouldn’t have been able to complete the project without them.

Wherever possible, we used salvaged materials to keep costs down. We did have to wire the building for electricity and add plumbing, Also because the guest house is so far from our main house, it needs its own hot water heater, which was an additional expense. Altogether, the project cost close to $15K. The tiny house is now available to rent on Airbnb.

That is all an enormous, intimidating undertaking, what with all the plumbing and electricity. Congrats to Jesse and Ashley for tackling such a project and completing it beautifully.

This petite kitchen is so cute and has everything renters and guests would need for a short stay: fridge, microwave, sink, basic dishes, electric kettle, and coffee maker for the morning. The pendant lights do a nice job linking the kitchen to the bedroom, and work well with the primarily white and off-white decor.

That brightly neutral backdrop allows the stunning barn door to shine. The wood glows and the door is obviously unique. It’s a major statement piece that references the structure’s previous life as a working outbuilding. It’s easy to see why Jesse and Ashley love it:

By far, our favorite feature is the barn door that separates the bathroom from the rest of the space. It’s made from wood taken from an old tobacco barn on Ashley’s grandmother’s property. Her dad put it together, and it’s really the centerpiece of the space.

We also love the general light, airy feeling of the tiny house. We wanted to evoke a beach-cottage feel without going overboard, so we generally chose lighter-toned materials when decorating the space. That includes the driftwood-colored flooring, which is PVC flooring so that the same type of flooring could be used throughout the entire space. The sense of lightness is further enhanced by the amount of sunlight that comes in through the windows.

If we were doing the project all over again, there’s not much that would change design-wise. We did make the decision early to have the tiny house’s only closet be accessible only from inside the bathroom. If were to redo it, we might try to find a way to split that space into two smaller closets so that there would be a storage area accessible from the bedroom area. We’d also probably move a few of the power outlets around.

The wall paint is Alabaster by Sherwin-Williams, the flooring is Beach Cottage Oak from Lumber Liquidators, the pendant lights are IKEA’s RANARP, the bed frame is IKEA’s LEIRVIK, and the embroidered table lampshades are from World Market.

The new windows truly flood the space with natural light, which the white walls bounce beautifully, while the blinds provide welcome privacy. The table is nice and compact, providing a horizontal surface on a small footprint but able to be expanded if anyone desires a proper table. Its location next to the window is a dreamy spot for a morning cup of coffee.

Overall, this guest space is inviting, bright, cozy, and considerate, not overly designed or too full of decorative accessories. It is simply a lovely place to stay.

If you’d like to supplement your income by creating a rental property, Jesse and Ashley have some hard-earned advice to share:

Before starting something like this, do your research. Make sure that you’re complying with local zoning laws and any applicable building codes. Also, if you’re planning to rent out the space on Airbnb or another short-term rental site like we did, check your local laws. Charleston revised their short-term rental rules recently, and we had to jump through some hoops to comply.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid! You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of. We were able to use YouTube videos and how-to books from the library to get ourselves out of several sticky situations. This project gave us a lot of confidence in our own skills—so much so that we turned around afterward to do a gut remodel of our main house’s bathroom for less than $2K doing all the labor ourselves!

That’s right, the public library is an under-appreciated resource for DIY projects. See what yours has to offer today!