All of us at Gardensheds® owe our admiration and appreciation to Nellie Ahl, the talented and charismatic founder of this company. For better of worse, the impression most people have of “sheds” is defined by what we refer to as “slap-together roadside boxes or sub-standard mail-order kits.” Against this backdrop Nellie had the then bold and brilliant idea to challenge this notion (and to thankfully secure the domain name, Gardensheds.com when the internet was still in something of a nascent stage). She wanted a garden building to complement her stately period Federal home and was frustrated by what she found. She believed that a garden building could and should be beautiful in design and craftsmanship and not relegated to second-class landscape architecture. Nor should it require a second mortgage on your house. Thus was Gardensheds® born.
Apparently Nellie was not the only one who shared this frustration. Soon enough friends and neighbors began to take notice of her exquisitely designed and constructed “sheds”, and like all great ideas, the phone began to ring and ring and ring and the “kitchen table hobby” was off and running to early acclaim. Nellie and her dedicated team of craftsmen and artisans (many who are with us still) shared equally in her vision that craftsmanship was not about cutting costs and corners, but that craftsmanship was about integrity and art. It’s a philosophy that endures to this day.
In 2006, as she was approaching the still youthful age of 70, Nellie agreed to sell her business to accomplished designer and entrepreneur Ken Smith, a former client who had approached her about buying the business—not because she had to, but because she wanted to. It seemed like the right time. In the energetic new owner Nellie found someone full of ideas, whose passion for small building architecture surpassed even hers. With an education in history, architecture, design, and emerging technologies together with numerous successful business ventures behind him, she agreed that Smith was the ideal person to take the business to the next level of growth. With the change in ownership new building designs and website were soon introduced; and a new dedicated, dust-free, temperature controlled paint buliding was added together with other facility upgrades. As nice as the product offerings were before, Smith set out to refine and upgrade many designs, details, materials and construction methods—adding critical insulation and vapor barrier to the underside of each building, solid mahogany windows with copper drip caps, poplar framing, cypress flooring with hand-cut rose head nails, and pre-wire electrical to name just a few. Shortly thereafter, on seeing one of the new buildings, Nellie called to exclaim, “These are not even the same buildings as before. They’re too beautiful.” It’s a common refrain Smith hears today from clients. “These are too nice to call ‘sheds’.”
While changes continue to be made and still more building designs added, one thing has not changed—the mission of building beautiful buildings. For planting this legacy that continues to prosper we thank our founder, Nellie Ahl.