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For The Home

Home Away From Home

Author: Carly Scholl
Issue: September, 2017, Page 27
A contemporary backyard lean-to serves as a perfectly sized home office. The 10'H by 12'W Signature Series model is small enough to allow room for a charming patio right outside. (
Popping up around the country, personalized prefab getaways are offering women a quiet respite in their own backyards

The “she shed”—women’s answer to the seemingly ubiquitous “man cave” trend—is the popular concept celebrated by author Erika Kotite in her book, “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own,” as a way to deliver a petite space to women seeking an independent respite.

“Simply being a woman with a crowded home—filled with a husband, three kids, a sheepdog and two cats—and a strong desire to have a place to spread out my sewing projects and read books made me realize instantly how incredible the she shed concept is,” says Kotite, who is the former editor of Romantic Homes and Victorian Homes magazines. “Personalized outbuildings are pure genius, really. They combine form, function and affordability, turning nearly any backyard into a new frontier.”

This rustic shed only measures 10'W by 10'D, but provides a dreamy dwelling for the lady of the house. Feminine accents, pastel hues and a cozy daybed exude sweet serenity.
This idea of an exclusive feminine retreat is not necessarily new to the human zeitgeist. In ancient Greece, women were allocated their own living quarters within the home called the “gynaeceum.” During India’s Mughal Empire (1526-1857), female family members in Muslim and Hindu cultures often had their luxurious apartments inside the house called the "zenana." In 18th-century England, dressing rooms were the customary sanctuaries where women were free to autonomously contemplate and discuss their lives. And while these designated spaces are less common in the contemporary age, they are no less necessary.

“Modern she sheds have a strong thread of continuity to these historic refuges for women,” explains Kotite. “However, they evolved without the accompanying cultural mores of those times that included restriction and seclusion. We are free to roam about the world, yet we choose to give ourselves a little break in our special she shed.”

From gardening greenhouses to guest bedroom getaways, these backyard structures are gaining popularity around the country. But what exactly constitutes a she shed, and how do they translate in the unique and mercurial Southwestern landscape?

Filled with natural light and tools of the trade, a prefab 12'H by 24'W structure is used as a custom shoe cobbling workshop. (
“When it comes to designating a haven for the woman of the house, I’ve discovered that it doesn’t take much space at all. The secret is in simply creating a detached structure with walls, windows and a door that can remain open or close firmly,” says Kotite. “It should stay essentially simple in construction, often without interior drywall or plumbing. Electrical wiring, however, is necessary for crafting and home business pursuits.” If you don’t already have an outbuilding on your property ripe for renovation, look for a local company that specializes in prefab sheds in which everything from architectural style to square footage to paint color can be customized.

Kotite’s cooling advice to us desert-dwelling women varies between simple functionality and efficient creativity. “In the case of the Southwest, some kind of air conditioning is a must. The obvious solution for making sure your she shed can adapt to both high and low temperatures is installing a climate-control system so that your space can be used year-round,” she says. Try a small, portable air conditioner unit for an effective yet uncomplicated cooling method. As for insulation, while conventional materials such as fiberglass and cellulose are great at preventing convection and conduction heat, it may be more effective to install a radiant foil barrier in your shed’s walls and roof, as this material specifically blocks heat radiated from the sun.

The shed’s exterior is bright, sleek and modern. A spacious deck is an inviting prelude to the creative haven within. (
“Another, more aesthetic, possibility,” says Kotite, “is a ‘green roof,’ which is a reinforced roof that is covered with soil and living plants. Rooftop gardens have been found to absorb heat and insulate buildings more effectively than traditional roofing materials.” Choose native plant species that require little maintenance and even less water, such as cacti and succulents, to create an eco-friendly shed. (Read more about rooftop gardens in our "True Southwest".)

With innovative she sheds, women are reclaiming the hobbies, passions, careers and serenity that can fall by the wayside on the journey through life. Get inspired to design a personal potting shed, home office, library or art studio, and revel in the sweetness of your own stylish sanctuary.

Constructed of plaster and red roofing tiles, this 10'H by 12'W Spanish-style structure houses a small daybed and desk where the homeowner can relax and enjoy the peaceful trickle of a water fountain just outside.

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