Why is it a she-shed and not a he-shed? Because us women have given you your man caves. And we also know that even if we had a basement woman-cave… we would still be found. There needs to be wet grass and gravel between you and someone wondering where the mustard is. And even then, there are no guarantees.
We had our first shed put up when the kids were young. We went through one of those shed companies that comes to your house and puts up this mini house in about a blink of an eye. I swear, I went up to change a diaper and when I came down–there it was.
Our first house was about 1,300 square feet. My youngest daughter, and bonus baby of four, spent more than a few nights swaddled in a laundry basket next to my bed. My office was a converted closet. The “playroom” for the kids was an uninsulated back hall. (Bundle up kids!) Real estate was a coveted commodity in our house, for sure.
So, after the magic shed fairies left, and the baby went down, I tiptoed out back to check it out. And there it was, a 10-by-12 empty space! I had never seen anything so glorious. And make no mistake - that space was spoken for. We had the Big Wheels, scooters and lawn gear all piled up ready to go in it. But just for that one, childless, quiet moment–I laid down on that floor and considered the possibilities. I remember the smell of the pine, and the lazy drift of the construction dust settling in the sunlight, and I thought, “This is all I need. Truly all I need.”
Blink again, and my shed is stuffed with the detritus of our lives - it was spoken for, my needs didn’t stand a chance. But that “ahhhhh...” moment? That is at the heart of every she-shed. It doesn’t matter if it’s an office, a reading nook, or a yoga studio. The exhale is just built in. And here we are, looking at probably another winter of working/schooling/doing everything from home - don’t you want one? Summer’s almost over, you better get busy.
So, first off, choose your shed. There are many companies employing shed fairies now. I like the ones that are more “cottage” than “shed”. Or I swing the other way and like the ones that are a little boxier and more mid-century. So it doesn’t matter, in the end, but choose carefully. Think about the one task you primarily want to accomplish when you are in there (yes, doing nothing counts) and make sure you have the right set-up. I like it to have one big opening - it can be gated barn doors or even garage-style. But some people like the cute cottage-y front doors and a little more privacy.
Secondly, pee all over the shed. Ok, not literally. But do mark your territory. If you set up a beautiful office space, but your husband wants the back end for his fertilizer and the lawnmower just for the winter.... honey.… you’ve already lost. You can’t really have a shed that doubles as an office. What you get is a makeshift office in a depressing room that smells like gasoline. So, it’s up to you. But you might need two sheds.
Hopefully your wifi will reach in there - or maybe not, depending on your goals. But power is a topic worth considering. Obviously, you can hire an electrician - and as long as it’s just a couple of outlets and maybe an overhead light, it’s not actually that expensive. But, unless you are digging a trench, you’ll see the power line coming over.
Another off-the-grid route is to get a power pack. (Think boat or tiny house.) And some have optional solar panels, so you can save the polar bears while you’re at it. Jackery is one brand, but there are others.
Your last and biggest challenge for your three-season she-shed is heat. I read that 40 percent of the heat is lost through the floor. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I’ll take the point and am recommending a rug. Or anything that amounts to a second layer of insulation on the floor. Also, space heaters have come a long way and you can get inexpensive ones that claim to heat a room with very little (power pack) energy. Try looking on eheat.com. And of course, there are the little wood stoves which need to have a chimney installed. Just remember, safety first.
Should I insulate you say? Nooooooo! Then you are creating an “outbuilding” - and other standards apply. Remember this is a shed. It’s a little bit like camping in a yurt. It’s a super great experience and better than a tent, but you are still sleeping in a yurt. I see lots of pictures of she-sheds with overstuffed couches, white paneled curtains and sheep skin throw rugs. And I know they look great for the photo shoot, but all I think of is mildew and sour upholstery. Make your place easy to clean and maintain. If I had a bed out there, I’d use one of those plastic slips to protect it. And blankets that were easy to wash. And venetian blinds instead of curtains. And a low pile rug. (You can probably guess how I raised my kids.) Just be practical. Breath in that space that is all yours. And then, you can exhale.
Jen Coles is a professional home designer and mother of four who lives in Manchester. Colescoloranddesign.com