That decrepit storage shed in your back yard could very well be your new favorite place to unwind, get creative or escape from the world.
More women are turning to backyard sheds, dubbed “She Sheds,” to create space away from the home to call their very own.
They’re using these hideaways for yoga, reading, writing, gardening or just to grab a few minutes of peace and quiet. After all, men have their “Man Caves,” it’s about time women find their own blissful at-home getaways.
A Place to Call Her Own
Barbara Techel, a writer in Wisconsin, calls her she shed her “Zen Writing Cottage.” She came up with the idea when she was writing her first children’s book and realized she needed a quiet place to write.
“I’m writing at the kitchen table and I’d be right in the middle of a thought, and I’d lose it because my husband would walk through the door,” Techel said. “I just really realized if I was going to keep pursue writing, I really wanted this space so I ended up selling my little red sports car to pay for materials, and my husband just happens to be a carpenter.”
Her shed sits in the backyard, off a corner of their deck. “It’s 12 steps from my bedroom patio doors,” Techel said.
The shed is wired for electricity including a hard-wired internet connection. It has a gas stove and small air-conditioning unit so Techel can use it year-round. It features hard-wood flooring and an old-fashioned screen door.
“And one thing I had to have was a lot of windows,” she said. “So in my 10-by-12 space, I actually have six very large windows. I can see what’s going on in my neighborhood so I feel like I’m part of the world, yet it’s secluded and quiet.”
Techel used what she had to decorate her shed, including wicker furniture that was sitting in the basement, and painted the structure periwinkle and lime green – her favorite colors.
While Techel got the labor for free, her husband said her shed typically would cost about $20,000 including materials and labor.
Techel is passionate about her retreat space where she writes, mediates and does yoga.
“It has really helped me to grow into who I am,” she said. “It has become a very sacred space.”
Simplicity is Key for Design
Dallas designer Paige Morse renovated a pair of 100-year-old, dilapidated sheds in her backyard into a 250-square-foot, stylish hideaway that she used for her office. Almost everything she used was discovered during the rehab or passed down from other people.
After hiring a contractor, Morse had the structures stripped down to the studs and built back up with salvaged materials.
“The sink in the bathroom we actually found under the shed when we pulled up the floor boards. We put in electricity, plumbing, the whole deal,” Morse said, “It has a full bathroom and a kitchen. I made it so that it could function as a guest house.”
Morse spent $17,000 in renovations, which she said left no money for decorations.
“I’m an interior stylist and thrifter, flea marketer, a picker…Everything in the house was either given to me, something that I already had and repurposed, or a lot of it was things that I found,” she said. “My whole budget for decorations was under $100.”
Morse likes simplicity. “I was really inspired by Scandinavian cottages because of the simple, minimal way they’re presented…but it feels very full and beautiful,” she said. Also, she said her black-and-white color scheme doesn’t overpower the small space.
Building a Fairytale Cottage
Retired nurse Barbara Stanley — who says she now has “time to play”– and her husband, James, of Henderson, NC, bought an 8-by-10, unpainted child’s playhouse built by an Amish company for her she shed. She calls it Crickhollow Cottage and uses it as a potting and gardening shed.
“I saw this one and just fell in love with it,” Stanley said.
They installed wiring and plumbing and painted it mint green and pink – with a touch of cranberry. They added picket fence porch railings, shutters, an octagon window, window boxes, and other decorative trim — turning it into a fairytale cottage.
To decorate inside, Stanley shopped thrift stores and flea markets.
“I have a wash tub on legs for a sink and we got a solid brass faucet from the dump,” Stanley said.
They used antique tin ceiling panels from a Habitat ReStore and found a galvanized tin-and-maple potting bench that was salvaged from a school cafeteria. Stanley even hung a chandelier.
“Mostly I use it as a garden shed,” she said, “but I just like to spend time down there – reading or listening to music – and I have fun decorating it at Christmas.”
9 Tips For Creating Your Own She Shed
1. Order a prefabricated shed. Some women are converting old backyard sheds into hideaways, but if you don’t have one, you can buy a kit starting around a couple thousand bucks.
2. Hire a contractor. If you have deeper pockets, hire a contractor for a custom shed but consider the cost.
“They can get pretty pricey,” said John Conroy, principal/founder of Princeton Design Collaborative in Princeton, N.J.
He said they can run anywhere from $14,000 to $50,000 for an 8-by-10 shed, depending on where you live and how elaborate the features are.
3. Check to see if you need a building permit. Many of these freestanding structures don’t need a permit, but check your town or city’s ordinance.
“That would tell you if it’s allowed and the maximum size and if there are any setbacks that you need to abide by,” Conroy said.
4. Consider size and function.
“Are you looking at it as a little retreat?” Conroy asks. “We would want to know what you’d be thinking about doing in there—a craft, writing articles — so we can understand the space requirements.”
5. Consider your tastes. Do you want something more traditional in style or something that’s more contemporary? Look to Pinterest for a bunch of ideas for inspiration.
6. A little paint goes a long away. For existing sheds, give them a fresh coat of paint inside and out—choosing your favorite colors.
7. Furnish on the cheap. Shop antique shops, thrift stores and flea markets to furnish your she shed on a budget.
8. Make it comfortable. Choose cozy furniture and add pillows, rugs and other textiles so you want to spend time there. Determine if you will need air conditioning or heating as well.
9. Beautify the outside. Decorate the exterior with flowers, window boxes, lights, lanterns, signs and other adornments.