Move Over, Man Cave: All Hail the Mighty She Shed!
By Margaret Heidenry | May 12, 2017
First, there was the cave: the place where early humans sought shelter, chomped on nuts, berries, and delicious antelope meat, and raised their hairy broods. Then, the man cave—a place where men could be men, surrounded by pool tables and copious amounts of whiskey.
Well, why should women miss out on having a room of their own, too? It arrived in the form of she sheds.
She sheds are typically small shacks in backyards—either adapted from existing barns or garages or constructed from scratch via a growing number of she shed kits—that are outfitted solely for a woman to use as her own space. What’s the real allure? Frankly, to get away from their spouse, the whiny children, and just soul-crushing everyday distractions like household chores and to-do lists.
The humble origins of she sheds
According to Erika Kotite, author of “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own,” she sheds were an outgrowth of gardening sheds—plant-friendly outbuildings used mostly for storing gardening tools and supplies. Originally they weren’t quite meant for hanging out, but over the past decade, books about stylish sheds and backyard studios steadily hit the market, paving the way for a shed makeover revolution. In 2015, the TV series “He Shed, She Shed” premiered, putting the term “she shed” officially into the lexicon.
And women embraced the idea. Why? Because whether they work in the home or in an office, everyone needs a sanctuary, a respite from life’s stressors or drudgeries. As Virginia Woolf famously put it, a woman must have “a room of her own.” She sheds can provide that perfect escape.
How much does a she shed cost?
Costs can vary widely. The cheapest version—converting an existing plain metal potting shed into an artist’s studio—will run about $500. Or, if you need to get a shed, outbuilding manufacturers are most definitely getting in on the trend by offering she shed kits featuring more windows and improved aesthetics. In other words, less a place to store a lawnmower and more a place to rejuvenate.
Basic DIY she shed kits (yes, they exist) are available at Lowe’s and Home Depot. You’ll need to add your own bells and whistles yourself. If you want something a bit more elaborate straight out of the box, a handful of companies offer boutique she sheds in a variety of styles that blur the line between shed and studio. Sheds Unlimited, for instance, offers an 8-by-10-foot premier wooden shed with windows and flooring starting at $2,557.
A high-end she shed with insulation, plumbing, electrical wiring, and hardwood floors that essentially could function as a separate guesthouse could set you back far more—$35,000 and up. But for many women (Kotite included), a large part of the fun is rolling up your sleeves and going the DIY route.
“The one I built with my sister-in-law, husband, and some neighborhood helpers cost about $4,000 total,” says Kotite. Her she shed started with a $1,500 she shed kit from Costco. Other expenses included paint, caulking, windows, and interior furnishings. Kotite’s insider tip to save money (and have some fun) when building a she shed is to upcycle salvaged lumber and free furniture from friends or Craigslist.
A shed kit from Costco that Erika Kotite (left, with sister-in-law Karin Nystrom) personalized with whimsical touches
She shed ideas: What the heck do you do in one, anyway?
That all depends on who you are and how you like to spend your time. When Paige Morse left her full-time job to start her own design business, she needed a quiet space to work. She found it in a broken-down shed in her backyard. Her she shed is now a styling and photography studio that doubles as a sleeping cottage when she rents out her home on Airbnb.
“This shed has been my refuge, my safe place in the world,” says Morse.
She sheds can also be customized for gardeners and writers or used as backyard sanctuaries and an entertaining area. Many she sheds also double as artist studios since they can be built to let in loads of natural light.
“Then, of course, the she shed as official napping place is high on my list of best uses!” says Kotite.
A she shed outfitted for serious crafting
Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.