Introducing the ‘She Shed’ – female equivalent of the ‘Man Cave’

Shouldn’t everyone have their own personal sanctuary, no matter how small? For less than US$500, you can buy one in kit form

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 10:28am

Jimmy Fallon has joked about them, Pinterest has pages obsessively devoted to them, and influential design sites such as Houzz cite them as one of the most prevalent micro-trends in home design.

And anyone can have one – if they have a tiny bit of space on a rooftop, a patch of grass beside the house, or even a garage.

The “She Shed” is largely thought of as the female equivalent of the “Man Cave”, the popular and highly sought after space in a home that can accommodate everything the man of the house might need, including (insert your own cliché), a huge, flat-screen television for sports appreciation; a pool table (where else do you wear your Hawaiian shirt); or a bar, cigar humidor or that set of drums that always looked out of place in the living room.

But women are increasingly seeking their own version, creating a space to read, practice yoga, work on that novel, watch TV, or sit, with a glass of Chardonnay, with friends. They can be, at their most literal, made from pre-fabricated sheds.

“I refer to it as my sanctuary,” said Melinda Yates, a Costa Mesa, California-based artist who built her She Shed outside her home a few years ago.

“It’s my studio, it’s where I write, and it’s really a place, day or night, that’s just for me.”

It’s my studio, it’s where I write, and it’s really a place, day or night, that’s just for me
Melinda Yates, a California-based artist

Her She Shed, a compact 240 square feet, holds not just her easels and paint materials, but also a plush red ultra suede couch that she uses when she just wants to put her feet up.

Provided the space is available, setting up a She Shed remains an affordable indulgence; many shed kits can be purchased for under US$500; similar to what you can expect to pay in Hong Kong if all you’re after is a roof over your head in a box. When it comes to designing the interior, the sky is the limit.

“My biggest tip is to not hold back,” said Jessica McDermott, a She Shed expert with home furniture and furnishings brand Wayfair. “Don’t be shy when putting it together. It’s your unique space, so let your personality come through.”

Wayfair recently worked with A&E Networks to create a She Shed in Oceanside, California, for a movie fan who wanted her own space to watch films, enlisting a designer to put in draped red curtains, flocked golden wallpaper, an espresso station and quirky black-and-white images of the owner dressed like Audrey Hepburn.

“We took those themes – the owner loves movies and flavoured coffee – and combined them in a space where she could enjoy both,” said McDermott.

“If you have an overarching theme, you can work in wallpaper, coloured paints, rugs, chandeliers and pillows with quotes on them.”

McDermott has seen She Sheds in styles as varied as glam (think bold pink walls) to rustic and French country.

Last year, Kloter Farms, a furniture store in Ellington, Connecticut, created a She Shed specifically as a reading nook, and delivered it on the back of a truck to a woman an hour away.

They were going for a feminine approach, so painted the inside various shades of pink, and did a papier mache application on the ceiling of pages from books to add some visual interest.

Layers of white tulle were suspended from the ceiling. A neutral-coloured couch was installed on top of a patterned rug, a vintage trunk converted into a coffee table, tons of cushions were scattered around and shelves upon shelves of books erected.

While the idea might seem new, some designers say that the idea of the She Shed is rooted in a time-honoured tradition.

“For a long time in history, women have been sent out to have their own space, whether during a certain time of the month or otherwise,” said Los Angeles designer Justina Blakeney, who had a She Shed in her previous home (she likes to describe it as a her ‘Lady Cove’), and has created them on behalf of clients.

“The idea of a woman having a sacred space, a place to be creative, or relax, is really an old one that’s now having this resurgence.”

Almost in keeping with the ‘tiny house’ trend that’s also sweeping through international real estate, Blakeney says that size is less of a factor in She Sheds than how creative they can be.

“It can be very small, although you do want to have some wiggle room,” she said.

Non-negotiable items to put in them are: a love seat and a small desk. And even for the smallest sheds, large windows to let in natural light, and possibly a skylight, which will prevent the occupant from feeling hemmed in.

She has seen them used for all sorts of things: weekly book club gatherings, a spot to meditate, and a respite from the main home and everyone in it.

“What relaxes people and what speaks to people is very personal,” she said.

“But your She Shed should energise you. I encourage people who are thinking about making one to take their time doing it. Decorate it slowly. Part of the process of creating it is almost as fun and relaxing as being inside of one. Think about the details, and make it the perfect, dreamy place, customised to your every whim.”