From she sheds to shedquarters – a cosy place to call your own


Whether it’s a room for crafting, a reading nook comprising a favourite chair and a good lamp or a shed full of tools, it’s not just men that need their boltholes. Bruce Wayne may have built his first man cave way back in 1943, but it seems only recently that women have laid claim to a small area of their own on a larger scale (hush now with your jokes about kitchens and so forth).

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Sure, the man cave’s primary function seems to be as a space where female input about interior design schemes or comment upon activities engaged upon therein is strictly prohibited (see wagon wheel coffee tables, neon pub signs and inflatable furniture), but judging from what we’ve been seeing in the run up to our Caveman of the Year awards (watch this space), that stereotype is long outdated and perhaps more reflective of the American basement variety commonly seen in kitschy sitcoms than what’s being nominated for Shed of the Year over here in Blighty.

Looking through the ever increasing number of images of she sheds in newspapers, magazines and online, one thing jumps out: more often than not, these aren’t frivolous spaces in which to sit and survey the estate, but rather places for women to escape to work rather than from it. ‘Shedquarters’ do, after all, provide a sensible way to house any burgeoning business aspirations and keep them free of household clutter. People have been using sheds for quiet and productive time for decades. Virginia Woolf, like so many other writers, used the shed in her garden in Sussex for exactly this purpose and – her latter days notwithstanding – she seemed fairly productive, didn’t she?

Virginia Woolf Writing Shed

Virginia Woolf’s Sussex shed. Photo credit:

She Sheds are a good solution for accommodating hobbies – particularly anything craft related – where stuff seems to beget stuff. It gets out of hand, and fast. It somehow seems easier to manage when it has a space of its own.

sewing she shed
Image via Clare Mansell/ Maybush Studio

Twig Hutchinson, an interiors stylist, has a very beautiful space which serves both as a kind of garden retreat, but also as a blank canvas for anyone looking for a set for photography. If it’s there and not always being used, why not make a bit of extra cash by keeping yours oh-so-chic?

Twig Hutchinson's Shed

Photo credit: Rahel Weiss

Whilst some she sheds clearly tap into Disney-esque fantasies that can be lived out at the end of the garden path, for those that prefer something less gendered, this modernist garden shed is pretty special.

modernist garden shed

Wood burning stove? Check. Windows on windows? Check. In the woods? Check. Seems to us like a pretty perfect spot to while away weekends, if not weeks. Lucky are the folks that call this their bolt-hole, eh?

art studio shed

Got an old playhouse languishing in the garden? This rather beautiful shed was just that. Who’d have thought a few coats of non-garden coloured paint could have such a transformative effect?

Former playhouse

Crickhollow Cottage. Image via Barbara Stanley/ Hometalk

Right then. I kind of want one. Any thoughts?

Let’s assume you’ve got a garden with a sorry-looking shed in it (and let’s acknowledge that most of us living in the city have neither of these things. Daydreaming and Pinterest were invented for times like this.)

1. Check out its state of repair. If it’s rotting around the bottom, you may need to rethink your plans, but if it’s just looking a bit grubby and cobwebby a bit of elbow grease will work wonders.

2. At the risk of stating the obvious, a lick of paint really does transform any garden structure or furniture from Ronseal-utilitarian to patently perfect. Make sure you choose a weatherproof variety: that leftover tin of emulsion in the cupboard won’t stand up to the elements. The inside of your She Shed can be painted with a conventional emulsion, but if the woodwork is rough-sawn timber (and you’ll know by how rough it is), a diluted solution of emulsion (at two parts emulsion to one part water) will give a white wash on the walls that’s lovely, but rustic.

3. Keep it task-specific. If you’re in need of an office space, keep it as such. No point spending time and effort sprucing up your little book to cram it with extraneous garden tools, out of season camping equipment or stuff that should by all rights be stored away elsewhere (and if you do have such stuff, Boxman can help you – they’ll deliver empty boxes to your home and come and collect them when you’ve filled them up, leaving you space to fill your she shed with the things you are going to need on a day to day basis).

4. That said, if you don’t have a need that the shed can fulfill but just want an extra room, keep it flexible and simple.

5. Consider the climate and remember you’re in Britain. This isn’t California. If your shed isn’t insulated or connected to the mains, you’re probably not so likely to be using it through the seasons. If this is the case, hanging pictures on the walls or keeping soft furnishings about once you’ve turned the heating on inside your real house is just daft: things will get damp and fusty.

6. If you’re buying new, don’t forget that a she shed is essentially just a shed with a gender. There are some beautiful offerings about at the ‘posh’ end of the market, but your local garden centre or DIY store will also do a garden structure that’s ready for decorating for a fraction of the price. Also worth remembering is the fact that the sweet little she shed also goes by the names summer house, shepherd’s hut, tiny house, garden house and so on.

6. If you’re ever building anything that someone, somewhere might consider a permanent structure, check with your local authority to see if you need to apply for any planning permissions. Sheds are usually exempt, but if you’re planning anything grander, better safe than sorry, eh?

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