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For some Long Islanders, the party's out back in the shed

Whether it's to enjoy a drink, watch a ballgame, jam out, even get married, some Long Islanders are finding relaxing refuge in sheds, barns and other outbuildings on their properties. On July 25, Brian McGuinness of Lloyd Harbor talked about his backyard party shed / rehearsal studio / refuge. (Credit: Johnny Milano)

Party central at Evan and Kristen Castellan’s Selden home is a former working shed that’s the size of a one-car garage.

Seven years ago, Evan, 34, an HVAC service technician, and Kristen, 35, a paralegal, bought the home she grew up in from her parents. The couple fixed up the shed three years later.

“It was a work shed,” says Evan. “We pretty much redid it to include a working bar and hangout area.”

And now, each summer, the Castellans host a blowout they call "Shedfest."

Whether it's to enjoy a drink, watch a ballgame, jam out, even get married, some Long Islanders are finding relaxing refuge in sheds, barns and other outbuildings on their properties.

A Corvette-music studio swap 

When Brian McGuinness was having work done on his Lloyd Harbor home in 2017, his contractor spied his old Corvette and a deal was struck: McGuinness would give him the car in trade for turning two-thirds of his three-bay horse barn into a music studio, keeping each of the three horse stall doors intact. “Then we got a little excited. We put in some cool lighting. And then we put in a wood-burning stove,” says McGuinness, 58, a financial adviser, of the French antique he uses to heat the space in winter.

Outside the barn, McGuinness added a patio, plantings and a barbecue.

McGuinness is the bass guitar player for his band, The Rescue Dogs, which plays original music. The space is set up as a full music studio that he has dubbed Electric Schnitzelland Studios, so named for Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios -- and for Schnitzel, his beloved bulldog-pug mix and a perpetual presence at the studio until he died last year. The barn contains six amps, a full drum kit and two full PA systems. 

“It’s basically a pretty cool little setup, in that it’s about 860 square feet, but only two-thirds are set up for party space,” he says, noting that he plans to turn the third bay, currently winter storage space for his motorcycles, into a bedroom and bathroom. “We have open practice night and people show up and party. We throw burgers on the grill. We sometimes get a big crowd.”

A rustic wedding

When it was time to have her wedding, Nancy Axelrod  knew exactly where she’d throw it: in the century-old barn of the Old Field home where her then-husband-to-be grew up and has been the site of parties for decades. “The barn was kept very rustic for the ceremony," says Nancy Weeks, 58, an executive publisher who married Benjamin Weeks, 57, a college biology professor, in June of last year. "I wanted it to still look like the family barn."

Inside, a wagon wheel decked out in crystals hung from the ceiling, serving as a chandelier over the lace-covered table that served as an altar. Lace curtains clung to the windows, and the ceiling was decorated with burlap and small white lights. Paintings done by Benjamin’s mother hung on three walls and the entry wall was lined with family photos and flameless candles. The 120 guests sat in white wooden chairs with flowers tied to the aisle seats as musicians played in a corner of the barn. Outside, paper lanterns hung from trees and the tables were set with vintage floral plates collected by Nancy and her friends for the occasion.

Fully equipped sports central

These days at the Castellans' home, the shed includes a large-screen television, a couch, six bar stools, a refrigerator, a dart board and a Kegerator that serves tap beer. The walls are decorated with Rangers’ flags, banners, pictures and autographs, mixed in with some Giants’ and Mets’ memorabilia. Recently, Evan replaced the portable heater and window air conditioner with a ductless heating and air conditioning system.

“Most of the time people come over for a game,” Evan says, referring to baseball, hockey and football. “We’ve had Super Bowl parties out there a couple of times and New Year’s Eve parties. Most of it is just friends who hang out, regulars. Friends of friends think it’s awesome.”

Though the shed is a popular hangout during the fall and winter, particularly during football and hockey seasons, each summer the Shedfest attracts a few dozen friends and relatives.

“It’s just a thing we do — an adults’ party,” says Evan. “We don’t have to worry about the kids. Everybody comes over and hangs out.”

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