SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sometimes, you just want to get away. You crave a little personal space, a place you can relax, work, get creative and make a mess without guilt.
The best refuge might be waiting in your backyard. That special room may be a She Shed.
A distinctly female counterpoint to macho Man Caves, She Sheds are springing up worldwide.
“There are many in California, but I also found them in Australia, the United Kingdom, all over,” said author Erica Kotite, a longtime home and lifestyle expert.
Kotite spent almost a year studying the phenomenon — as well as building a She Shed for her sister — for her new book, “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own” (Cool Springs Press, $25, 176 pages).
“Women see them and … you can almost see the mental calculations they’re making as they imagine where they could put one in their yard,” Kotite said.
Part of the appeal is cost. She Sheds allow for expanding living space without adding an actual room. That makes them particularly attractive in California, where housing prices are high and space often scarce.
“It’s almost like a grown-up playhouse,” Kotite said. “It’s your space, and you can do whatever you want with it. It’s a combination of privacy and permission. You can set boundaries.”
Kotite featured more than 35 examples in “She Sheds.” “My favorite was in San Luis Obispo on a crest overlooking Central California,” she said. “It was simple, but it had everything; a really pretty chandelier, a day bed and that view. All (the creator) really uses it for is to rest and look at photos of her grandchildren. But it gives her a place to relax, her own personal retreat, and it’s just glorious.”
What makes a She Shed?
“By definition, it’s some sort of outbuilding, not attached to the house,” Kotite explained. “Normally, it would have been utilitarian storage space for tools or garden supplies — that sort of thing — that’s transformed into a woman’s space.”
Instead of storage, sheds become dedicated to something of particular interest to the woman of the house, she said. For example, Sonoma jewelry and clothing maker Anne Freund needed space to work on her jewelry and sew. By adding electricity and lighting, she turned a small wooden tool shed into her private studio.
“She lived in a small house and wanted a studio,” said Kotite. “She created her own BoHo She Shed with a lot of repurposed finds including a wonderful chandelier and a lot of lace. She used old printers drawers to store beads and brooches. The overall result was very pretty, very Northern California and very cool.”
A She Shed can give creative women room to work, Kotite said.
“Painting, sewing, crafts; it involves a lot of stuff,” she said. “A She Shed gives you the freedom to make a mess and leave stuff out instead of constantly pulling stuff out and putting it away.”
The most popular use: gardening room.
“What I find interesting: Smart companies are helping people build these things,” Kotite said. “They’re capitalizing on a great niche.”
Charlotte Owendyk of Roseville created her “Tulip House” from a pre-fab kit, bought online from Summerwood of Canada.
“It is a special hideaway for me,” said Owendyk, a retired state worker and lifelong gardener. “It is even better than I had anticipated. I store all my garden tools in the shed, but I also have a desk where I can work. I will sit at my desk with my computer or garden journal. It is one of my favorite places to work. I am surrounded by the garden, and I love listening to the birds sing.”
Her gardening friends adore the Tulip House, she said. She kept it fairly simple. She has a Wi-Fi connection from her house, but no electricity or heat. “It faces south, so the space heats up nicely during the day,” she said.
Owendyk advises taking time to “determine what you want. It is yours to enjoy so it should reflect your personality and needs.”
Katrina Sullivan of Rancho Cordova, author of the popular blog “Chic Little House,” found her extra space for an office and studio in a tricked-out Tuff Shed.
“I didn’t even know what they were called when I started mine,” said Sullivan, the mother of two. “We have a small house and I needed a little office. I got that in a 10- by 12-foot shed. I love it! It’s my little creative hideaway from the kids.”
Sullivan and her husband, Hasani, tackled the She Shed as DIYers, equipping it with electricity, Wi-Fi, heat and air-conditioning. They installed insulation, dry wall, vinyl flooring and other finishing touches.
Her She Shed makes for less mess in the house, Katrina Sullivan said. “My husband appreciates it. My creative space used to be the dining room table. It was always messy and overflow. I had to push things aside to eat dinner. Now my mess stays in my She Shed. When friends come over, I don’t have to rush around to clean up.”
Before hauling the tools out of the backyard shed, there are some things Kotite said to consider:
Most pre-fab sheds often are short and dark, with 6-foot ceilings and without windows.
Sheds can be cold and drafty, needing insulation to keep them comfortable year-round.
Other creature comforts — electricity, lighting, Wi-Fi access — make the shed more usable, but also more expensive. Such upgrades may also need building permits or other approvals.
The least common upgrade, Kotite found, was indoor plumbing. “Then, it starts to become a mini-house,” she said.
She Sheds become a creative outlet in themselves.
“What’s really fun is finding stuff to furnish and decorate the shed,” Kotite said. “That’s what gives it personality.”
Owendyk agreed. “I had so much fun decorating it,” she said of her Tulip House. “It is exactly like I wanted. Most everything are found items I had around the house or that people gave me. It is full of memories of good times and wonderful friends.”