Room of One’s Own

New Hope couple transforms garage into stylish retreat


"The "The
Staff photos by Mark Czajkowski
Lisa Mahan and Terry Moffatt
of New Hope planned to convert the cinder block garage (above, right) on their property to office space.
But upon rethinking the garage’s ever-changing light and ample space, the couple transformed the garage
into an artistic haven (above, left) for Ms. Mahan.

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Ms. Mahan’s 350-square foot studio includes a pleasant living area.


Staff photos by Mark Czajkowski
The garage/studio reconstruction project made stylish use of vintage doors, windows and glass accents collected for several years in New York City.

   THEY were initially looking for a weekend place, a refuge from the stresses of life in Manhattan.

   But when editor Terry Moffatt and his wife, artist Lisa Mahan, discovered the former tiny
schoolhouse in New Hope, Pa., that seemed to beckon them, the couple took the plunge and left urban life for
a home in the country.

   Part of the package was a singularly unattractive, two-car cinder block garage on the property
that Terry initially fancied as a perfect home office.

   But when priorities were established, it was Lisa who won the potentially prized space for
use as an artist’s studio. And it was Terry, the product of a do-it-yourself family, who decided to undertake
much of the conversion project.

   "The concept was to give Lisa the improved upstairs space, and to increase its very limited
light. We wanted to make the garage usable, but it wasn’t going to be easy," said good-natured Terry Moffatt,
who "partnered"with Lisa to provide the lion’s share of the elbow grease.

   The master plan included creating much-needed headroom, which involved literally raising
the roof to allow for a 12-foot cathedral ceiling. It also involved making ingenious use of the vintage windows,
glass cabinet doors and light fixtures that the couple had been collecting sometimes from the streets of New
York City, never dreaming that they would someday be part of a rural artist’s studio.

   "Friends and family helped with some of the hardest jobs," said Mr. Moffatt, who had even
built a scale model out of cardboard to get a sense of where the project would take them. A local architect
helped convert the plans that artist Lisa Mahan had sketched, again to make the end result more real.

   Among the most tedious work: stripping two layers of asphalt shingles from the roof and removing
its tongue in groove planking. Handling 13-foot rafters was one of the greatest physical challenges. And it
was five-foot-three Lisa who ultimately shingled the new roof, working from early morning to dusk to get the
job done before the winter set in back in 1996.

   The most glorious moment: "When the roof was finished and we had a basic shelter," said Terry.
"Creating a shelter gives one a feeling of enormous gratification."

   That "shelter" has become an artistic haven for Lisa Mahan. With its ever-changing light,
its ample space for her abundant artistic supplies and its glorious space, the garage/studio is a special place
for any artist, she suggests.

   "This is the classic ‘room of one’s own,’ " said Ms. Mahan, who works in oils and often creates
still lifes and, increasingly, urban themes on her canvases.

   "Going to work, for me, means stepping out of our house and into our garage. But it’s a separate
building, which gives me a sense of both closeness and distance from my other world."


Staff photo by Mark Czajkowski
Old roof planking on the studio walls imparts a rustic look and feel. A sampling of Ms. Mahan’s oil paintings are above.

   The 350-square foot studio includes a pleasant living area with twin beds arranged to look
like a banquette, and with the old roof planking on the studio walls to impart a rustic look and feel. Within
her garage/studio, Lisa Mahan has created works that have been exhibited regionally. Ms. Mahan is part of an
artist’s cooperative in Lambertville, The Artists’ Gallery at 32 Coryell St. She is also scheduled for a one-woman
show at The Atelier in Frenchtown starting on June 1.

   Both Lisa and Terry look back on the project they undertook with humor — and obvious
justifiable pride.

   "Even though I almost cut my fingers off with a table saw," said Terry, "I’d do it all again.
But I’m glad I don’t have to!"


Staff photo by Mark Czajkowski
A rear view of the new studio is shown above.