Hobbyists creating special rooms
Diane Pidde used to have fabric and quilting projects spread “all over the house,” she said.
Now, when Pidde wants to home in on her hobby, she walks a few steps out the back door to the quilting studio she had built last year in her Arden Hills, Minn., backyard.
The 22- by 24-foot space contains everything she needs, including storage closets, a design wall, a long-arm quilting machine, a cozy sitting area and space to display favorite quilts and memorabilia, including the pink toy sewing machine on which she first learned to make doll clothes.
“All my history is in this room,” she said. “It’s nice to have it all in one spot, and it’s nice to make a mess, walk away and not bother your roommates with it.”
Camille Meyer does her quilting in a much smaller space — a former bedroom in her St. Paul, Minn., home — but it’s just as functional, ever since Meyer remodeled it a few years ago to add built-in cupboards with glass doors — “so you can see the fabric and be inspired by it” — a cutting station on wheels, expandable work surfaces that fold up or down, depending on whether she’s working alone or with a friend, and a mounted design wall covered with felt batting so she can experiment with patterns without using pins.
Having a dedicated, well-designed room for quilting is more efficient, easier on her back and “makes the whole process more inviting,” she said.
The willingness of these women to modify their homes to facilitate quilting reflects a broader trend toward more specialized, personalized spaces, according to Ed Roskowinski, owner and general manager of Vujovich Design Build, in Minneapolis, the contractor on both projects.
“We’re hearing less about resale and square footage, and more about, ‘Here’s how we live, what we want to get out of our home.’ People are deciding to stay where they are and make it their own, make it work for them.”
Homeowner mobility declined during the recession, and buyers of single-family homes expect to stay in them longer than they used to — 11.5 years for first-time buyers and 15 years for buyers who have owned a home before, according to a report released recently by the National Association of Home Builders.
But the real-estate market isn’t the only socioeconomic factor driving the trend, according to Minneapolis architect Christine Bleyhl, who worked on the quilting rooms while working with Vujovich (she is now an independent contractor).
“People are working so many hours — they’re willing to treat themselves to a retreat room,” she said.
She’s designed specialty spaces for people who were into boat-building, fly-fishing and collecting baseball memorabilia.
“Even with home offices, more people want some of their personality reflected,” she said. “It’s the inverse of being in a corporate environment. People are trying to find their calling outside of their career.”
Pidde, a master pastry chef by vocation, also enjoys teaching and one-on-one tutoring, which she can now accommodate in her studio, she said. “I could never have done that before.” She bought her long-arm quilting machine soon after the studio was completed, with the intention of doing quilt-finishing for other quilters.
The studio makes it easy for her to work on several projects at once, she said. One such project: a graduation-gift quilt for her niece — “No. 9 of 12 nieces and nephews,” she said. “They look forward to it. They choose their colors.”
She loves being able to give such personal, meaningful gifts. “I don’t have children, and these quilts will live long after me. It’s a heritage thing,” she said.
She also enjoys quilting for charity, through Project Linus, which distributes blankets to children in hospitals.
Meyer, who works in finance, also loves creating and giving personalized quilts to members of her extended family, choosing patterns and colors that reflect their individual tastes and interests.
She’s able to work much more efficiently in her dedicated work space.
“My first quilt took me seven years. Now I can do one in a few weeks,” she said. “Quilting is like cooking — you need a magic triangle — for sewing, cutting and ironing,” which she now has.
And her design wall makes it much easier to express herself artistically and challenge herself with difficult techniques, she said. “I love it. That’s the biggest thing people are jealous of.”
With all the quilting-related built-ins, Meyer’s room can’t be converted easily back into a bedroom without some cost. But she’s not worried about resale, she said. “I’m going to die in this house.”
And in the meantime, she’s getting much more use and enjoyment out of the space.
“There was a whole room in my house that got used twice a year,” she said.
Now it’s “well-used, very comfortable, a great place to host my friends. I’ve never regretted it. I should have done it sooner.”
(Contact Kim Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.)