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Saturday, December 16 Living

She Sheds: Finally, a place of her own

Kids have always had their tree houses to escape to, and for years men have had man caves where they could watch football games with their friends. Now, finally, it’s women’s turn to have a space uniquely their own, a she shed: a separate little outbuilding apart from the hustle and bustle of the house, an inner sanctum in which to work or dream or both.

Chances are you already know neighbors who have sheds in their yards. Most are storage huts for mowers or carpentry benches. Barely a handful are female getaways, but over the last dozen or so years, there’s been a boom in what is being called a she shed — one of the hottest building trends across the country and here in Connecticut.

“The whole of Fairfield County is a good area for us,” says Ken Smith, owner of Gardensheds in Lambertville, N.J. “Architecturally, there is a compatibility with what we do.”

He speaks of the Georgians and the grand colonials as being very much what he tries to complement in his projects. “Often times with our Connecticut clients who live in these very large homes with very large interior spaces, the human aspect is not there. People feel lost in their own homes. A woman wants a small intimate space where she feels intimately connected to it. It’s easier to finish off or to trick out. It’s of a scale that women can wrap their heads around.”

That’s why, Smith says, there seems to be “a bandwagon sensibility of multiple uses for she sheds. It’s a yoga studio, a painting studio, a writing studio, weaving, whatever you want.”

There is a definite allure to having the luxury of a room that is very private. Websites like Houzz and Pinterest, shelter magazines and social media, and home designers and architects are extolling the virtues of a small outbuilding that is solely the provenance of a woman. They can be romantic-Victorian with its feminine sensibility, shabby chic with its profusion of cabbage roses, classic with its colonial house aspirations or rustic, flush with its childhood treasures inside and rocking chairs outside.

“I have been writing about she sheds for a long time, although I did not know it,“ says Erika Kotite, who lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., and is the author of the book, “She Sheds, A Room of Your Own” (Quarto). As a former editor at Romantic Homes and at Victorian Homes, and a writer on a plethora of subjects, she would describe them in her articles as potting sheds, crafting studios, even casitas. During her research for the book, she discovered how incredibly popular they are. She found hen huts and antiques galleries, and places to write, sew, make jewelry, meditate, give a tea party, or perchance nap a while amid personal treasures. And completely alone. There are dozens of photographs and bullet points in the book that will inspire the woman of the house to run outside and take a long critical look at the shanty out there and realize it would make a fabulous retreat for her alone.

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While you could buy a kit and build your own she shed (some expertise may be required), many of them come already assembled, delivered to your yard on a flatbed truck. That’s how Gardensheds delivered its Gardenbelle structure right to the stone pad on Lucy Glasebrook’s yard in Greenwich. It’s quite an experience watching skilled installers slowly ease that small building exactly in position with its roof, windows and doors intact, Glasebrook says. Her she shed is a gallery for vintage and artisanal garden tools she picks up mostly in England: rakes, scythes and bamboo obelisks not three feet tall. An old non-functioning farm sink and an oversized brass faucet are also part of the diorama.

“I antique,” she says, smiling. The shed is a grand little lady with an ogee roof of graceful curves, a ball-and spike finial, two windows and a glass door. Anchor of a lush parterre of espaliered apples and pears, vegetables and herbs, the Gardenbelle faces a sundial.

Enthralled by do-it-yourself kits, Kotite, with the help of family members, set about building one for a sister-in-law, not as easy a task as one may think. She takes the reader step-by-step through the process, offering solid tips along the way.

“The one thing I see a lot is a beautiful shed that is kind of plopped in the yard. No stoop, no porch or small deck, no pathway,” Kotite says. “She sheds look their best when they are made to be part of the landscape, with transition between inside the shed and the outdoors, with clear walkways leading to it and around it.”

While the term she shed can be off-putting to some women (how about Venus sanctuaries?), Kotite demurs. “I really like the term because it retains a practical and even an historical connection.”

Smith still says outbuildings. “Recently, the word has come into our vocabulary,” he says. “We didn’t coin it, but I’m happy to jump on that bandwagon.”

Adds Kotite, “Sheds are ancient, ancient outbuildings and being a history buff, I appreciate the legacy.”

Rosemarie T. Anner is a frequent contributor to Sunday Arts & Style.

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