“A room or part of a home in which a woman may indulge in hobbies and interests without being distracted by other family members,” explains Collins Dictionary in defining the she shed, which could easily have added ‘and a response to the better known man cave male equivalent.’
Of course, women have always had their – or should I say ‘our’ – own spaces at home, but these have traditionally been the home’s utilitarian zones for cooking, sewing, cleaning and the like. She sheds are mostly not about work, but about pleasure, hobbies, socializing or quiet reflection. While the term is clever, alliterative and perhaps a bit frivolous, its purpose of providing a self care space for women is anything but. I reached out to three experts by email for their insights on this topic. Their responses are below.
Wellness Benefits of She Sheds
Holly Sweet, Ph.D., a Boston area psychologist focused on gender relations and women’s issues, mused that this important room deserves a better moniker. “Perhaps we should call it a ‘she-space’ since the term ‘she shed’ implies a place where tools and such are stored.” Given that women, including those with full-time jobs, still handle the lion’s share of housework and childcare, she observed, they definitely deserve a dedicated area to relax, pamper themselves and prioritize their own well-being.
This is something men have enjoyed for centuries, as Sweet recalled from her own childhood. “My mom had her desk in the kitchen and was always on call, whereas my dad had an office where he worked and a study at home. This was the norm back then.” Many women are glad that is no longer the case, and requests for she sheds – or she spaces, if you prefer – are booming.
There are definitely wellness benefits to these rooms — and the time women spend in them looking after their own mental health needs. “Without this space, she can feel confined, intruded upon, perhaps resentful if her mate has his (assuming heterosexuality) own space, and fatigued because she doesn’t have a much-needed time out from household tasks and care giving,” the psychologist shared.
This is important for women who live alone too, she noted. “She will need space to separate herself from her work and her household chores.” This is especially true for those who work from home. For these women, it’s even more important that there be a separation between the two, Sweet cautioned, citing her personal example: “I have my own study where I do my professional teletherapy work. I need to take a break from it, so I move to a different part of my house as a form of physical (and psychological) separation. Otherwise my work takes over the whole house, so I can feel overwhelmed and have to leave.” Having a separate zone for self care, however a woman defines this need, can be a better solution.
The psychologist is not overly concerned about isolation issues for the majority of women, pointing out that setting up a room for oneself in a home isn’t really isolating. “I would imagine that she might feel refreshed and ready to take on what is needed from her in terms of her family.” Sweet sees this as setting up healthy expectations of herself, her partner and her family, recommending that she think of it as a positive reframe for everyone.
The She Shed Conversation
The space, dollars and time required to create a she shed will often necessitate a pre-planning conversation for women with partners, and that’s not always easy. Sweet suggested taking time before the conversation to write down what she needs and how her space will not only help her but help the household. This talk should happen at a non-busy time in the couple’s schedule when they can communicate without interruption, and in a private area. If her partner already has his own study (or man cave), she can stress the importance of having something comparable for herself.
As an example, Sweet proposed a talk like this, “Bill, I have some ideas about how space is used in this house. Do you have time now to discuss this or is there a better time for you?” If he has time, she could say something like this: “I’ve been thinking about the importance of me having a separate space in this house where I can pursue my work/interests/phone calls/reading etc. without getting interrupted. Can we think about how this might be accomplished given our space?”
The single woman won’t need to have that conversation with a partner, but might need to negotiate an inner conversation with conflicting priorities like saving for retirement, taking a bucket list trip or joining a gym.
Who’s Adding She Sheds?
The she shed prospect runs the gamut. “I’ve had married women, single women and single moms request a she shed retreat where they can relax, read, nap, create art and/or spend time alone,” shared San Diego-based interior designer Rachel Viloria Moriarty. She has her own multi-purpose she shed, she revealed. “Sometimes it functions as a workspace, additional storage and/or a personal retreat.”
Since she sheds are a relatively new phenomenon, there isn’t a tremendous amount of data around them. Furniture retailer Joybird surveyed the topic in 2018 and determined that 59% of women had one versus 65% of men who had man caves. The survey also amusingly noted that 61% of women wouldn’t allow their partner in their she sheds, versus 52% of men saying this about their spaces – perhaps because man caves tend to be social, as well as retreat, spaces with considerable investment.
Grand Rapids, Michigan-based smart home technology integrator Amanda Wildman is also getting more she shed inquiries, she emailed. “We are seeing more requests from women as they are becoming the person that leads the home as a single woman or that is taking lead on the home with the family when it comes to technology.”
This is particularly true for remote professionals, she added. “As more people are working from home, they are looking for a space that feels different from their main home. These spaces are great for that! They can be a space to work, create or unwind, but just because they are out buildings, doesn’t mean that they need to be devoid of the technologies or amenities that we have come to expect and enjoy within our homes.”
She Shed Variations
“I’ve had requests for potting sheds, art/craft rooms, office/studio spaces and lounge/guest spaces,” Moriarty commented. “I primarily design she shed spaces for one person and their pets,” she added, though they may also multi-function as guest bedrooms. (These can definitely be fun, inspiring accommodations for girlfriend getaways, friend staycations or sorority reunions.)
One interesting trend the designer has observed is vintage travel trailers and Airstreams becoming popular for she shed use. She had one client who purchased an Airstream during the pandemic to road trip with her dogs; now that she can travel freely, it stays at home with new purpose, she revealed. Moriarty has another client who had an Airstream lifted by crane into her back yard to serve as a she shed, and is seeing this as an emerging trend, she noted.
She Shed Essentials
Whether in a vintage travel trailer, out building or spare room in a house, there are some standard must-haves. “These are most of the common elements of she shed spaces and they have stayed pretty consistent through the years,” Moriarty observed. This is her list:
Unless it’s a potting shed, she sheds typically have cozy seating like chairs, sofas or daybeds to relax and unwind.
All of these spaces incorporate art and accessories to add personalization and charm. I like to add in photos, family heirlooms, travel souvenirs and textiles to make the space feel unique to my client.
Good natural light when available is great, unless of course it’s meant to be a moody dark space.
We add built-in desks, shelving and multipurpose furniture to keep things organized.
I like to incorporate plants and candles for a touch of nature and to create a serene vibe.
A dedicated desk or art easel for work or crafting and art.
Wi-Fi access for iPads, laptops or Bluetooth speakers for playing music to create a vibe and entertainment purposes.
Some clients like to have a tray with their favorite spirits and glasses nearby to have a little drink at the end of a long day.
The Wired She Shed
As Moriarty pointed out, today’s she shed needs connectivity for devices and music. Some clients have additional needs, as Wildman wrote, including climate and lighting control and network enhancements to handle hobby gear. “For example, if you are using the space for crafting, you might want a network connection to update your Cricut machine or to download the latest software.”
Fitness is another reason for enhanced network capability. “Perhaps you are using it for a more Zen purpose and you’d like to attend a virtual yoga class in your space,” the technologist added. “All these things require solid network performance.”
There are many reasons why a woman wants her she shed to have connectivity. “For example, how can I remotely control the HVAC so that when I go into that space it’s already at a comfortable temperature, but I don’t have to worry about regulating that space all the time when not in use,” Wildman suggested.
“Lighting is one of the hottest offerings right now for these spaces,” she declared. “With a variety of options that offer a full spectrum of color, you can choose something that really starts the party feel of your space with color changing and sound-responsive fixtures that will change with the beat of your music, or you can create a more reserved mood with dimmable fixtures that can calm you and resemble candlelight. Whatever your preference, painting with color has never been more fun or more available to homeowners than now.”
Additionally, there are safety-related lighting considerations. “If the space is across the yard, can I control the lighting so that I am entering or exiting the space with proper illumination to be safe and feel comfortable; you don’t want to trip if you come back to the house in the evening, and it can also be a safety concern to ward off animals or strangers,” she added.
Security matters in other regards too, Wildman commented. “In a space like this, people are also looking for a way to be connected to their homes so if something like a delivery arrives, how should they be notified out in the she shed, so something as simple as access to view the doorbell or cameras can be an important feature.”
For all of these reasons, plus entertainment, “The number one piece of technology that we see requested is how to make sure there is reliable network access in these spaces…especially if you are hoping to do any work out there or use streaming services for either music or even television,” Wildman declared. “The difference between having or not having a reliable network connection can really affect your experience within the space.”
Wildman’s insights about technology for a smart home can be broadly applied to other aspects of setting up your she shed. “Allow this space to be fun and creative. Want to party? Get some music going with fun lights. Want a place to gather for game day? Make sure you have a great TV and sound that ensures everyone has the perfect seat. Looking to boost your creativity? Make sure that all your systems have internet access and that your space is cool and comfortable for you to get into the creating zone. Looking to get your Zen on? Set up some background sounds like a babbling brook and dim the lights.”
Systems, furnishings, personalized elements and a self care approach to life can make your she shed a space that enhances your home and health.
Contributors Moriarty, Sweet and Wildman will be sharing more she shed insights in an hour-long Clubhouse conversation on Wednesday afternoon (July 5, 2023) at 4 pm Eastern/1 pm Pacific. You can save the date and join this WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS discussion here. If you’re unable to attend, you can catch the recording via Clubhouse Replays here or the Gold Notes design blog here next Wednesday.