A place of her own? Enter the ‘she shed’
In 2017, here’s where we are: Men are in caves; women are in sheds.
It’s been more than a decade since the man-cave movement empowered guys to claim basement space for their own, and now the women are making a land grab. Across Massachusetts and the rest of the country, women desperate to be off duty — if only for a cup of tea — are fleeing their homes for backyard sheds.
And we’re not talking dank and creepy structures. Wives, mothers, and grandmas are building sheds with skylights and French doors and window boxes. Columns? Why not. Some are even heated. In Leominster, Clarisse Youmell, a real estate agent, furnished hers with a divan and fallen bird nests, and gave it a name, “Rabbit Hollow.” In a world of decorating compromise, “she sheds” — as they have come to be known — are a sanctuary for sea shells and scented candles and everything pink.
But no matter the décor or the price — a few hundred bucks or $10,000 — the goal is the same:
“I want a place I can read a book without having to think I need to clean the toilet,” said Judy Senesi, a practice manager at a North Reading medical office.
Senesi is awaiting the installation of her shed, a $9,500, 12-foot-by-22-foot structure that will have a refrigerator, a ceiling fan, and sliding doors. “Screw vacations,” she said. “This is like a permanent vacation.”
Like man caves before them, she sheds are outfitted in complete totality to the proprietor’s personal taste, a situation that is freeing but also a little sad for its implicit message: I can’t do what I want in the rest of the house.
“There is something kind of poignant, that mom has to go to a shed so she can finally be herself,” said Jenny Allen , the author of “Would Everybody Please Stop: Reflections on Life and Other Bad Ideas.”
If you haven’t heard of she sheds, it won’t be long before you do. Lowe’s is pushing she sheds on its website. “Here’s a new way to get away from it all — right in your own backyard,” promises the “Build Your Own She Shed” page. And The Home Depot, which started carrying she sheds in the spring of 2015 and says the category is growing, has partnered with bloggers like Danielle Driscoll of Scituate who rhapsodize about the shed lifestyle.
“I share my home with my husband, my two zany little boys, and an active dog,” Driscoll blogged, “so, as you can imagine, sometimes our home can become quite messy and chaotic.”
The answer, of course, was a shed. “A little spot all my own, with no clutter or mess.”
(So far, there have been no stories advising “10 ways to declutter your she shed,” but it’s probably just a matter of time.)
Getting away from it all — even if it’s just by a few yards — is a luxury not everyone can afford. But the market is out there.
There are books on she sheds, and magazine spreads and Pinterest pages and Instagram feeds and, in 2016, an entire show on the FYI channel, “He Shed She Shed,” in which homeowners competed in a male vs. female shed showdown — as they built and designed sheds.
Cohost Luke Barr captured the appeal of the she shed for women who are seeking a variation on work-life balance. Call it home-life balance.
“Even though you can see your house — and all your troubles and your husband, and even the fun,” he said, “you’re not tempted by the pleasures of your house or by its torments.”
Women come to their sheds, or sheds come to their women, for a variety of reasons. In Webster, Laureen Clauson got hers after watching an HGTV show and thinking, “I’d love one of those.”
“Not to make it sound like a sob story,” she said, but “I had breast cancer, and my husband was like, ‘Let’s do this!’ ”
Now she walks the 20 feet from her home to her shed and enjoys morning coffee or evening wine by candlelight. “I have a Buddha on a pedestal and a day bed with a canopy over the top, and a basket with coloring books and crayons,” she said.
Her shed is post-and-beam style and has windows overlooking a lake, but the shed’s appeal has as much to do with what it doesn’t contain. “You’re not in your house with the washing machine and the dishwasher,” said Clauson, owner of August & March Home, a decor store in Putnam, Conn.
While the man cave, at least in common lore, is all about doing — watching sports, drinking beer with pals, playing pool — the she shed is about not doing.
“Women never get to put anything down emotionally or, often, literally,” said Jessi Klein, author of “You’ll Grow Out of It,” and head writer/executive producer of “Inside Amy Schumer.”
The shed, she said, “is not even just about the physical space, but forcing yourself to allow for alone time. We’re made to feel guilty if we have an inch of time or space to do what we want to do.”
Erika Kotite , a well-known author in she-shed circles, sees the structures’ popularity as a reaction to anxious times. “People are looking for a place to reset themselves,” she said.
Kotite, who wrote “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own,” recently signed a contract for a second shed book, on she-shed style, and the public is waiting.
“People are really hungry for figuring out how to design and decorate their sheds,” she said. “They want to know, what does a cupola entail? Should I buy one, or try and put one together myself?”
But as nice as sheds are, a woman can’t stay forever. In Webster, Clauson reflected on walking the short distance to the house after shed time.
It’s not like that crushing feeling that can descend when returning from an actual vacation, she said. “You know you can always go back to the shed.”