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Creating Space Versatile she sheds enliven backyards and people’s lives

By Maria Ali

This past year saw she sheds gain popularity in mainstream culture, thanks to a memorable State Farm commercial featuring a husband and wife as they watch a shed burning in the backyard. The wife is on the phone with State Farm and is relieved to find out the ‘she’ shed is covered by the insurance company, informing the audience that the area is her space, not just a regular shed.

Further back, in 2015, The Today Show did an entire segment on she sheds. The growing trend was attributed to women creating personal sanctuaries. Equivalent to the man cave, these mixed-use spaces are great for reading books, listening to music, crafting, and entertaining guests. Ultimately, they’re providing a private space for personal autonomy.

A room with a view

For Stacy A. Moher, owner of Seymour-based Living Interiors of Connecticut, all of those possible uses resonate. She first decided she needed a she shed about three years ago, when she realized her family was short on space for guests at her lake house, located in Goshen.

“We have a very small two-bed cottage there and we often have visitors, which is exactly what we wanted. But we found that we didn’t have enough space for guests to relax or stay overnight,” she says.

Moher, whose firm offers design and interior decorating services for residential and commercial spaces statewide, decided to build a base shed on an elevated portion of the yard that offered a view of the lake, and to hire someone to customize the building with extra doorways and windows – to let in more light than a typical shed would allow.

The mother of two daughters, aged 16 and 12, Moher also wanted the she shed to be a place where her girls could relax, play, and entertain friends. Today, the structure includes a sleeping loft with a ladder for access and a sofa bed. “We also have a place to sit and eat meals or play games. We have a mini fridge and coffee pot in there. It’s a nice place to stay – we think of it as an upgraded camping or ‘glamping’ situation,” she says. “It’s been incredible for my two daughters; they love to hang out there and have sleepovers with their friends.”

Of course, Moher also takes time in the shed just for herself. “This is where I like to come to have a drink of coffee or a glass of wine and read magazines. I’ve done work out of my she shed, too, but mostly it’s a peaceful, tranquil place to relax.”

Creating a business

“I think she sheds are being used for so many different things now,” says Darlene Risley, owner of She Shed Creations in East Hampton. “Art or craft studios, offices, entertaining spaces, retreats, or just a spot to recharge and do whatever you want.”

Risley has her own she shed and uses it to store vintage finds that are waiting to find a place in her she shed shop. Her husband helped transform an existing shed in the backyard by adding double doors, a deck, wood floors, shelving, and a workbench.

“About five years ago, I was telling my husband that I would like to take over most of the space for my own. I felt like I didn’t have any place in the house that was totally mine,” she says.

Her business, She Shed Creations, was decades in the making. Risley always had dreams of becoming an interior designer. She spent the majority of her career working for window treatment companies like Curtain Land and Casual Curtain but her love of textiles, patterns, thrifting, and junking continued. When it became clear that her employer of 12 years, Country Curtains, was going to close, Risley saw an opportunity to pursue her passions. “It was then that I decided that it was now or never for myself.”

At first, she refurbished and painted furniture and sold at flea markets. As time went on, Risley realized she wanted a shop of her own, full of the unique items she spent time collecting, as well as her own creations. Today, “the shop is mostly filled with other people’s work. I sell goods from artisans made from around the USA.”

She sheds can have a variety of uses, depending on their size. Some are small and simple rest areas to enjoy a garden and potted plants. Others can house entire dinner parties.

“The trend is growing and she sheds are becoming more elaborate. I’m seeing she sheds with plumbing and kitchens. Almost like a boutique hotel room in your backyard,” Risley says.

the playhouse

Thomas Mach, owner of Thomas Mach Interiors in Simsbury, has such a she shed. It’s nicknamed The Playhouse.

“I had it completely remodeled for a wedding six years ago. There’s a bar area. We have Bose surround sound and a clipper ship chandelier that took a year to find.”

The Playhouse is a Kloter Farms custom-built shed with The mother of two daughters, aged 16 and 12, Moher also wanted the she shed to be a place where her girls could relax, play, and entertain friends. Today, the structure includes a sleeping loft with a ladder for access and a sofa bed. “We also have a place to sit and eat meals or play games. We have a mini fridge and coffee pot in there. It’s a nice place to stay – we think of it as an upgraded camping or ‘glamping’ situation,” she says. “It’s been incredible for my two daughters; they love to hang out there and have sleepovers with their friends.”

Of course, Moher also takes time in the shed just for herself. “This is where I like to come to have a drink of coffee or a glass of wine and read magazines. I’ve done work out of my she shed, too, but mostly it’s a peaceful, tranquil place to relax.”

Loving memories

Kameron Ghaffari, an artist in East Lyme, gave his late wife Susan Hurley an old farm stand when she sold her beloved houseboat, and had it placed in their backyard. She filled it with the artwork, knickknacks, and eclectic furnishings from the vessel, and nicknamed the she shed her ‘boat shed.’

“She lived on a houseboat for 17 years in Mystic. Everyone in the community knew her and knew that boat. When she had to sell it, I gave her the she shed as a new home for the trappings and memories of that part of her life,” Ghaffari says.

Susan Hurley was a new-age Renaissance woman – prolific as an artist, events planner, photographer and writer, among many other incredible talents. Having a space to herself was very important to her work and creativity. She also spent time entertaining her family and friends in her she shed.

It was her own space and was always there as her respite, to recharge creatively or to retreat to if Ghaffari and Hurley had conflicts.

“We’re two artists. We met on Match.com. Life with two passionate, independent, creative souls can get fiery at times, and we both needed some places we could cool down and just be. She had that shed,” Ghaffari remembers. “After she died, I kept it. It’s a place that she spent so much time in. Now it’s a magical guest house.”

Four years after Susan’s battle with brain cancer ended, Ghaffari has been working on curating an exhibition of her artwork at Hygienic Art, a New London gallery. Some pieces from the she shed may end up in the exhibit this April.

She sheds seems to have a transformative quality. They can be a quiet place to remember someone, add to the process of self-care, exercise creativity, dabble in hobbies, entertain. They originated from old potting sheds that had enough space for women to sit. Over time, the potting shed evolved into today’s she shed. But can they be for men too? Is there a he shed out there?

Joseph Marganski from Guilford repurposed a free- standing shed he was using for kayaks and yard equipment in 2015 to make one. The idea occurred to him one summer when he saw discarded rough-sawn oak wood at work. He asked if he could use it. Once he was given permission, he was surprised to find that the size was perfect for the shed he already had.

Marganski bought pressure treated 4x4s at Home Depot, laid them on the ground to level out the structure, then laid down the flooring. He added windows and shutters for ventilation, made trusses, bought tinted acrylic panels for the roof to let in light, and added solar LED light inside.

“I built my Tiki Surfin’ Safari man shed one summer on a whim. It’s used by my friends and I to smoke cigars, drink beer, rum and bourbon, and rest and relax too. I’ll sit out there in the summer and read. It’s very peaceful and quiet inside.”

Marganski already has something like a man cave in the attic of his house with an entertainment system and surround sound. But the man shed in the yard is a space with a different purpose.

“It’s perfect on a rainy night in the summer. And when we have parties, it’s a great place to hang out in, and it’s always warm.”

This particular man shed or he shed has a tiki theme. And it’s open to everyone. Marganski told his wife, photographer Catherine Kiernan, she could use it at any time.

Regardless of who owns the she shed/he shed/man shed, there seems to be an understanding that these spaces are structures independent of the main house. The space can provide privacy and distance from distractions to focus on the activity at hand, like: hosting a wine tasting for close friends, reading the latest bestseller, smoking cigars and playing music, making artwork, or something as simple as taking a minute to look at the yard and admire it.

In a culture constantly seeking new ways of practicing self-care, for some people, this type of personal oasis has become more of a necessity than a luxury – a place to escape the frenzied pace of this ever-connected, mad, mad world, if only for an hour or two.


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