“The conversation most prevalent now is about finding space to escape and recharge. Taking time out is seen as a necessity, not a luxury. The act of walking into a different space can be a powerful mental release.”
Move over the Man Cave, that backyard hang out where a guy stereotypically goes to tinker with his tools, listen to football and avoid requests to take part in household tasks, and enter the ‘She Shed’, a holistic space for female restoration and rejuvenation.
“Space for women within their homes has never been more talked about and needed,” says interior designer Ellora Coupe, founder of Her Own Space. You only have to glimpse at social media to find a snowballing proliferation of female retreat-related hashtags with #sheshed topping the bill.
“With the pandemic driving kids and adults out of school and offices, there was a realisation that homes don’t cater for women’s needs as well as they could,” explains Ellora. “The conversation most prevalent now is about finding space to escape and recharge. Taking time out is seen as a necessity, not a luxury. The act of walking into a different space can be a powerful mental release.”
Creating this space also brings with it a sense of accomplishment, reaffirming an identity that can be lost in the ether of family and work life. “Women are taught to constantly meet the needs of others, through the ‘good girl’ conditioning of our patriarchal society, meaning it’s hard to allow ourselves permission to also meet our own needs,” says clinical psychologist Michaela Thomas, author of The Lasting Connection. “Having a dedicated space means we are more likely to get alone time to recover from daily demands. It’s especially alluring if the space is designed in a way which brings joy. Being allowed to decorate a space on your own can feel empowering, a sense of control over a project you don’t have to share with anyone else.”
Whether it’s a shed outside or a repurposed spare bedroom, a getaway for creative pursuits such as gardening, reading, painting, or simply a corner to hear yourself think and drink tea, your lady lair can be whatever – and wherever – you want it to be.
Welcome to my She Shed
Be inspired by these aspirational sheds…
“Life can be noisy and this is my quiet place”
Kelly Haworth, from Bury, Lancashire in the UK, is an English literature student who shares her blogs, recipes and gardenings tips at Oh Homely Girl.
“It’s cobbled together, but my potting shed is a little beauty. To create it I didn’t want to spend much, so I found old 1980s doors on Facebook Marketplace, most of which are glass panelled for a greenhouse effect, along with old decking boards and pallet wood to make the kitchen area. The whole thing cost £200. It’s a small footprint, only 2m by 3m, but I’ve packed a lot in – it has my potting bench, a tool store, kitchenette and even an off-grid sawdust and scoop loo. The shed is on my allotment so it’s useful when I let my kids come down here – occasionally. Gardening in my shed is therapy. I go every day and it clears my head. Life can be noisy and this is my quiet place. It reboots me, renews me. I go home and I’m fresh, I’m back to being Kelly again.”
“I’ll have a glass of wine, light the candles and look at the stars”
Catherine Rød Gundersen is a home economics teacher who lives in Trøgstad, Norway.
“This beautiful space makes me feel really proud. We built it with bricks from a disused factory and windows the people next door were throwing away. The chandelier has been with me since I got my first house in 1980. I grow tomatoes in summer and make bread in the pizza oven. I’ve got heaters so I can enjoy it even in the depths of a Norwegian winter. Every Christmas I decorate, bring the grandchildren in and we make gingerbread cookies. Mostly though, it’s my private space for flower arranging or just to sit and drink coffee. In the evening I’ll have a glass of wine, light the candles and look at the stars. I’ve even spotted moose in the garden. It’s so peaceful, almost spiritual. It’s quite amazing what an hour inside my shed can do for me.”
She shares her interior decor and house projects at @edineshage on Instagram
(Finding Silver Pennies) – Photo: Kjeld Mahoney
“I bought a regular, ready-to-construct shed”
Danielle Driscoll is a watercolour artist, designer and blogger at Finding Silver Pennies. She lives in Scituate Harbor near Boston, Massachusetts in the US.
“I love the quiet away from my sometimes chaotic home. We live in a 1927 Dutch colonial style house with dark original woodwork, so I wanted somewhere light, bright and airy in contrast. I bought a regular, ready-to-construct shed, added shiplap walls and a beadboard ceiling to make the small space feel larger, and turned it into my retreat. I’ll bring a cup of coffee and read, write, come up with design ideas and paint watercolours. It’s an oasis that just relaxes me. I don’t get distracted by household chores, and in the summer I open up the doors, smell the salt air and it feels like a little escape.”
We love our special spaces
You don’t need an actual shed to carve out a space of your own. From disused rooms and garages to cupboards and even boats, these women have used imagination and flair to create their own personal sanctuaries
“My Lady Lair took years to complete”
Nita from Houston, Texas, USA, is a hairdresser and model who shares her love of DIY and reading as Timebomb Tina.
“When we bought our home, I immediately claimed this room to transform into my Lady Lair. It’s where I get ready for my day, do my crafting, unwind and read. I really enjoy just relaxing on the sofa. I’ve always loved the maximalist, rich tones and textures of Hollywood Regency, and all the pieces in there took years to collect. Aside from the sofa, everything was thrifted in some way. The painting ‘An Evening At Home, 1888’ by Edward John Poynter is a huge inspiration for what I wanted my Lady Lair to look and feel like. My kind boyfriend gifted me the canvas print of it which now hangs on the wall. It’s as if I live in a modern version of the painting.”
To keep up with what Nita is reading in her nook, see timebomb reads
“My sewing room is my therapeutic escape”
Natasha Henry is from Virginia, USA, and writes about dressmaking as The Telltale Tasha.
“When I bought my home four years ago I knew I needed a separate space for sewing – it’s brought me so much peace and joy. The spare bedroom now has an entire wall dedicated to storing the hundreds of yards of fabric I’ve accumulated. I found long tables for my machines and added a chair so family and friends can join me to sew, or just relax on the couch while I do my thing. This space is my therapeutic escape, and lets my creativity soar. Even when I’m too busy to sew, I go in, mull over fabric and patterns and recharge.”
“It’s the only space that is solely mine”
Kendall Platt lives in Berkshire in the UK, and is a mindful gardening coach who helps time-poor women create the garden of their dreams via adventureswithflowers.com
“I needed a space of my own to be creative and get messy, and our garage was the perfect solution. I added a table and some IKEA storage, a beautiful ‘Power of the girl’ wall hanging and some of my dried-flower wreaths. I also have twisted wisteria branches suspended from the ceiling to hang flowers from. It’s the only space in the house that’s solely mine. Spending time there every day with my plants and flowers nourishes and re-energises me. Perfect when you have small children and are trying to run a business.”
“Swans and coots swim past while I’m writing”
Deputy MD of an arts agency, Georgina Moore lives on a houseboat on the River Thames in London, and is also an author.
“I bought Betsy, named by my daughter, with the money from my book deal. There was a perfect spot for her at the back of the houseboat we live on, overlooking the weir. I tracked down a small canal boat which was just a shell, and fitted it out. I have coots and swans swimming past my window, herons swooping low over my head and people waving from paddle boards and speedboats as they pass. In the evenings, apart from the geese, all I can hear is the water rushing over the weir.”
Georgina’s debut novel, The Garnett Girls, published by HQ, is out on February 16 2023
“I always feel better, even if I only go in for 15 minutes”
SANCTUARY UNDER THE HOUSE
Fashion stylist Kirsten Butler also runs a vintage car business and renovates and styles properties. She lives near Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia.
“My sanctuary is underneath my house – a 1920s Queenslander property built on stilts. It is a place of reflection, a place to retreat to and relax. When my friend sold her property next door, the new owners were going to destroy the ‘old shed’, so I pulled it apart and kept the windows, then hunted for quirky shutters, doors and panels to make the walls. I loved working out how to add them all together, like a big jigsaw puzzle. It has a wonderful feel with the light shining through. I store my seeds pegged onto the shutters, light candles and incense, read books, drink wine, put music on and dance. It’s very magical, especially in the early morning and during the gorgeous pink sunsets we have in Byron Bay. I always feel better, even if I only go in for 15 minutes, it’s got such beautiful energy.”
“Every time I get ready it feels like I’m shopping for something new”
MAMA CAVE FASHION CLOSET
Apelila Walker is a mum of three from Hawaii who lives in Seattle, Washington, USA. She works in finance in the car industry, and shares her love of fashion on Instagram @simplyapelila
“We live in a condo, and I wanted to have my own space for my vanity table and all my clothing, so I used the small spare room. I spotted the IKEA Pax unit flipping through the magazine one day and it was perfect for displaying all my favourite pieces, including my handbags. I love my Mama Cave. Whenever I get ready to go out it feels like I’m shopping for new items because everything is so nicely displayed.”
Apelila shares her love of fashion on Instagram @simplyapelila
“Whatever the weather I can meditate outside”
Hollie Grant lives in London and is a personal trainer and pre and postnatal fitness expert for The Bump Plan
“Having a separate space outside for practising Pilates and as a place to escape to for meditation is great. It’s a HypeDome, which I also use as a greenhouse for seedlings. I love that I can be in nature whatever the weather, and I’ll play in there with my three-year old daughter Freya when it’s raining. I also use the dome to have loud dinners without the risk of waking her up!”
Images courtesy of HypeDome/Heathcliff O’Malley
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN SHE SHED SPACE
“Your heart should sing when you approach. It’s your sanctuary, a little piece of paradise,” says interior therapist Ash Appleton from An African Eye. Here are her top tips for creating your own den of escapism:
Ensure the space meets your needs. This means being very clear on the intended purpose. Will you be concentrating/ relaxing/meditating/ entertaining? Does it need to be multi-purpose? Will it be used all year round?
There should be a relationship to the rest of the house so it doesn’t look and feel awkward, otherwise you won’t be encouraged to use it. Think about either echoing or contrasting the design.
Enhance wellbeing by bringing the outside in. Maximise sunlight and views, use natural textures like wood, bamboo, jute, sisal, wool, cork and stone, as well as lots of plants.
Increase internal space with multi-functional furniture and storage. Cramped, awkward, messy spaces are stressful.
Aim for a lighter footprint. Minimise clutter. Only display beautiful and meaningful objects that you love. If they are useful and ugly, conceal them.
Tell your story. Express yourself. This space should be an opportunity to say something about who you are, your heritage, what you love and where you live, without apology. Display art. Don’t take the space too seriously. Be irreverent.
Aim for longevity. Avoid interior trends that you’re likely to tire of quickly. This takes the pressure off keeping up. Source furniture and fittings sustainably and upcycle. Caring for the environment and using our hands to make and look after has proven mental health benefits.
Focus on designing a space aimed at helping you to consume less and create more. A destination for fostering curiosity, self-discovery and self-care.
Words: Lara Kilner
Additional research: Sandra Walsh