Up Shack

A new trend in scaled-down living reimagines the gear closet

Mini Shelters

Design Within Reach’s Kithaus; right, Modern Cabana   

FIRST OFF, DON'T call them "sheds." It offends the inhabitants. They're "mini-shelters," and they're everywhere because enterprising design firms are capitalizing on a zoning loophole: In many cities, you're allowed to build structures smaller than 120 square feet without a permit. The result is a wide selection of prefab abodes perfect for everything from a yoga studio to a weekend getaway on that little plot of land you've been eyeballing. Check out these must-have pads.

Modern Cabana
This one's designed for easy assembly by any guy with a handy friend, some basic tools, and a weekend to spare. Modern Cabana's sleek exterior alternates strips of cedar with floor-to-ceiling windows. A sliding glass door and a translucent polycarbonate roof round out this most un-shed-like of sheds, and its $9,500 price tag makes the most of the 120 square feet. moderncabana.com

Modern-Shed Studio Shed
Geared toward artists, the studio shed is made to order and delivered whole. Features include French doors, decks, and custom paint jobs. The basic 10-by-12 model uses maple walls instead of floor-to-ceiling glass and offers more privacy—but also more claustrophobia. $15,100; modern-shed.com

Modular Dwellings MD 100
For diehard do-it-yourselfers, Modular Dwellings' $35 blueprint leads to many hours of cursing and, finally, the payoff of a lovely and well-lit Plexiglas-and-plywood studio. The instructions warn that the MD 100 should not be undertaken by unskilled hacks. modulardwellings.com

DWR Kithaus K3
Famous for mass-producing iconic midcentury furniture, Design Within Reach has taken to overhauling miniature interiors (see last summer's drool-worthy DWR Airstream trailer). This year's Kithaus pairs rot-resistant Brazilian ipe wood and glass with corrugated aluminum, for a claim-jumper-chic look. But at $30,000, it's not necessarily within reach. By May, they'd sold just four. dwr.com

MetroShed
This bare-bones, 117-square-foot cedar box looks like … a 117-square-foot cedar box. An all-glass front wall/sliding door adds an airy feel, and a coat of paint would lend some charm. Requiring only a ladder, screwdriver, and a couple of hours to assemble, a MetroShed is a bargain in any soft housing market. $7,500; metroshed.com

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