Building the Perfect She Shed

A gray and white-themed gym, amazingly designed and decorated to bring out its aesthetic value.

A she shed can be more than a shed out back, as shown by this Ashton Woods Home she shed that provides a peaceful atmosphere where one can do yoga. The Monroe Plan at the Groves at Spring Valley in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Ashton Woods Homes.

Move over man cave and make way for the “she shed.”

The she shed concept is gaining momentum as an equivalent to the man cave, the male sanctuary usually associated with a home’s basement or garage, as women look to create their own private escape.

Some she sheds are actually that — a shed located in the backyard providing a “home away from home,” if you will. But a she shed can also be located, a la the man cave, in a particular part of the house, or in a garage apartment or attic space.

The idea is for women to have their own place to get away from it all (the kids, the spouse, the career, the housework, etc.), whether just to relax or to pursue a favorite hobby or interest. And builders are taking notice. 
Ashton Woods Homes has seen an increase in customers asking for she sheds in their design or on their property. Ashton Woods has been looking at how it can accommodate buyers depending on the community and floor plan.

“As more women work from home or work to keep their family organized, they are realizing the need for their own space,” says Leigh Spicher, national director of Ashton Woods Design Studios. “The she shed is a great answer to that.

“And this is a departure in thinking for some women,” she adds. “We want a room all to ourselves, something exclusive.”

Spicher says, ideally, that space would be a small house or shed in back of the home, but that they are seeing the use of casitas or bonus rooms as well at Ashton Woods.

“Our philosophy is that ‘anything is possible,’” she says. “So we sit down and talk about the buyers’ lifestyle and encourage them to list things that bothered them in their previous home. When they say, ‘I wish I had a place to do this,’ we say, ‘Let’s talk about how that’s positioned in the home.’”

That could result in a yoga studio in the casita, an artist’s nook above a detached garage or even a free-standing writer’s retreat shed in the backyard.

“We’re happy to be part of the discussion,” Spicher says. “I’m glad women are asking for these things now.”

The DIY She Shed

Of course, if you already own a home, adding a she shed is a great do-it-yourself opportunity (or if DIY isn’t your thing, you can always hire a contractor). For an actual backyard shed, home improvement stores offer plenty of prefabricated options with minimal construction required, or you can go all in and build from scratch. Regardless, there are several steps you should take first, says Mark Clement, a licensed contractor who works with his wife and fellow contractor, Theresa. The couple also host a weekly talk show, MyFixitUpLife LIVE and write about their DIY adventures on their blog at myfixituplife.com.

“Whether you buy a prefab shed or build it yourself, you first need to get it permitted and follow any HOA rules,” he says. “You need to know if you can have a shed, and if so, where you can put it.”

Other important considerations up front include whether the shed will need electricity, heating/cooling options, insulation, etc., depending on the shed’s purpose, location and what it will be used for. “With a shed, you want it to be beautiful and functional — and in the right place,” Mark says, pointing out that you should check that the line of sight of the shed from your home is visually what you want.

Mark and Theresa take a team approach to projects with him focusing on the nuts and bolts and her on the design, both starting with the all-important function. How does the client want to use the she shed? That decision informs the kind of lighting, flooring, furnishings and paint colors that would work best. But it’s not just the fun interior design that people have to think about. As a special retreat, the exterior is just as important. 

“When picking an exterior structure, you need to think about the main house color, any fencing and plants or trees nearby and how they all complement each other visually,” says Theresa, who is a certified color consultant. She adds that landscaping around the shed and to and from the main house also contribute to the overall experience. “Going to your shed — seeing it, enjoying the romance of having it — is just as important as the shed itself.

“Women are busy taking care of everyone else,” she adds, “but taking time to take care of yourself can be hard. Think of a she shed as a magical place. Allow yourself the freedom to not feel guilty for enjoying it.

Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor, with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. She covers a variety of subjects, including home-related topics. Her work has appeared in Kentucky Monthly, Keeneland Magazine and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine, among other publications.

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