Re: Marketing question for the men on the list
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2017 13:24:11 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jul 11, 2017, at 1:52 PM, Chuck Harrison <cfharr [at]> wrote:
> My comment here does not really address the original issue - marketing -
> but raises a design element.
> Many cohousing communities have a shared workshop space, but I think it is
> rarely generous. There is a substantial population (large majority being
> men) who are moving to cohousing and downsizing from a single family house
> with a garage/workshop they enjoy. One way to attract this population would
> be to set aside a very large common workshop space.

We have such a space and it is very attractive to many people, particularly to 
men. It replaces the two car garage or the basement. Women use it for furniture 
refinishing and crafts related projects. Men use the tools to fix things 
elsewhere on the property and to build shelves, etc.

However the workshop is used mostly for storage and is almost always empty. I 
spend many years in college and graduate school in studios, and ours is mostly 
too cluttered and dusty to use. I find it embarrassing. Others think that is 
how a workshop always looks. See below for recommendations on this.

> Think beyond ordinary
> consumer woodworking tools; consider also metalworking, welding, laser
> cutting, electronics; look at the "maker spaces" popping up around the
> country for ideas. Also, while the shop might early-on be populated with
> tools donated by incoming members, you might have a vision of upgrading to
> more expensive industrial grade tools.

We had tons of tools donated and then spent an average of ~$500 a year 
purchasing more. 

The people who really want a workshop also want the big stuff. If you do this, 
however, you will have major insurance problems. Our lawyer just shuddered when 
we said we wanted a table saw. Then she weakly said, “Why don’t you do 
everything else first.”

So if you have a workshop with big tools, I recommend:

1. Keep it locked and have at least one person who is trained professionally on 
all the equipment. I don’t know if there is certification for this but it might 
help with insurance. Perhaps even require that two people be present when they 
are being used — like big weights in a gym.

2. A local wood working workshop here has a basic tool and shop safety course 
that we wanted people to go through before using the workshop. It never 

3. Have people in charge of the workshop. 2-3 who keep it clean and orderly, 
and keep an eye out for people who don’t respect the space and educate them. 
Another reason to have it locked — you know who is using it.

4. Encourage people to use the space by inviting them and suggesting projects. 
Have group working times — lets make something together. A senior community 
where a friend lives has a woodworking workshop (that only men dare go in) 
where they make things like doll houses, riding toys, shelves, etc. They are 
mostly from commercial designs. It is _always_ full of men and sawdust. 
Residents order things made and pay affordable prices. We would love to have 
things made for the kids room. Tables and chairs. Doll houses. Toy bins.

5. Possibly have two spaces —one with every day tools with less security and 
one with big security for the dangerous stuff. Our workshop is locked but all 
the adults have a key.  I don’t think that is enough security for a table saw.

6. Paint all the tools visibly an obnoxious or neon color. I had a friend who 
taught at a college with a super computer lab and other advanced technology. 
All efforts to protect them failed until the discovered fingernail polish. They 
defaced every thing and thefts stopped. It was rather nice with stripes and 
dots on everything.

It isn’t that people “steal” things in cohousing but they take them home or to 
a friends house and forget them. Workers clean up and take all the tools in 
sight. If I bring up a tool for a worker, it will most often go in the tool bag 
when they leave. If the handle has been dipped in neon orange, it’s at least a 
flag. And no one can sell the tools.

The workshop may be to men what the playground is too parents. Budget for it 
upfront. Put it in the plans and mark it with big letters. It proves you are 

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Peace is the acceptance of conflict."

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