He Shed, She Shed: Women’s Answer to the Man Cave
She-Sheds and Man-Caves are nothing new; they’ve been around for centuries in different guises. In well-to-do houses, ladies’ boudoirs were always sanctuaries of prettiness and peace – ideal for relaxing, sewing, reading or just having an afternoon nap, uninterrupted by the bustle of the house. These rooms were definitely not the sort of places where the menfolk would feel comfortable, so they had their wood-panelled studies and libraries, with well-worn leather chairs, hunting trophies and billowing cigar smoke.
These days, however, homes are rarely big enough for the lady of the house to have her own room to chill in, so what are the alternatives? Garden sheds that were once the territory of the male of the species have undergone an amazing transformation into havens of feminine retreat for resting, crafting or just escaping.
How to go about creating your own She-Shed? Here are 9 things to think about before you begin.
1. Got a Shed?
If you already have a suitable Shed in the back garden, you’re good to go. It’ll probably be full of junk and need clearing out, so that will be your first job. Keep items that might look good in or around your new domain, such as vintage flower pots or anything decorative.
Haven’t got a Shed? Build one!
2. Do I need Planning Permission to Build a Shed?
Generally speaking, no planning permission is required as long as you abide by a few rules. The main ones are:
- The floor area can’t be more than 25 square metres or 269 square feet
- 25 square metres of garden space must remain
- The Shed finish must be in keeping with the house
- The Shed height should be maximum 4 metres with a pitched roof or 3 metres with a flat roof
- It can’t be lived in, used for commercial purposes or for keeping animals such as pigs, ponies, horses, or pigeons.
Basically, most types of non-bespoke sheds or summerhouses can be added to your garden without much hassle. If you want to design your own though, you’ll certainly need to bear these rules in mind.
3. Horses for Courses
If you already have your Shed, or more especially if you’re buying a new one, think first about what you want to do in it.
If you plan to make the Shed into a small arts or crafts studio, you’ll want to buy one that has plenty of windows, or maybe double doors that can be fully glazed to let in maximum light. You may want to consider adding an extra window or two. Often a skylight in the roof is a good choice and needn’t be expensive.
If you just want somewhere to relax and do nothing much at all, the existing light may be adequate, although a good joiner should be able to add those summerhouse doors for you too, so you can bring in the best of the summer weather.
If you have the space in front of your Shed, consider a small veranda or deck for sitting out on balmy summer evenings. As long as it isn’t more than 30 centimetres or 12 inches off the ground, you won’t need planning permission.
4. Shed for all Seasons
If you’re planning on using your shed all year round, you’ll need to think about insulation and some form of heating. If the construction is the type with horizontal overlapping timbers (larch-lap) or slotted-together timber (tongue and groove) nailed to an internal frame, you’ll have ideal recesses in which to put fire-proof loft insulation and cover it with boards nailed to the inside of the framework, and the roof as well. It’s an easy DIY job and won’t cost a fortune.
The ideal heater would probably be a tiny wood-burning stove with a chimney. Calor gas heaters are efficient and not expensive to run, but you need to be aware that they give off a lot of water vapour, which could cause mildew on rugs and fabrics. More importantly, both these types of heating need adequate ventilation to avoid the dangers to health that carbon monoxide can cause.
If you’d rather have an electric heater and the Shed is near enough to the house, running an overhead or over-ground cable or a more permanent underground cable might be an answer. This would give you electric lights as well, if you needed them, and power for any tools you want to use, such as a computer or sewing machine. Oh, and a kettle of course… or a wine chiller!
5. Shedding Some Light
Speaking of lighting, there are more options for your She-Shed than just standard electric lights. If you want to go green, why not explore having a solar panel or two on the roof, hooked up to a simple system to run low-power lights, such as those available for gardens. It may cost a bit to set up, but you’d have free power from then on and would be supporting the environment too.
If you aren’t planning on doing anything more taxing than relaxing and reading in your Shed, a few candle lanterns might be the answer for evenings or gloomy days. Using open candles isn’t a good idea, for obvious reasons, but glass ship-type lanterns are attractive, safe and practical. Battery-powered fairy lights can look wonderful draped around the walls and battery lights for cupboards and dark corners could also work well in the Shed.
6. Blank Canvas
Now that you have the basic building, insulation and lighting sorted out, you can get to the fun part: furnishing and decorating your space.
White is a popular colour for the interior, as it bounces light around and makes the area look bigger. However, it’s your home-not-far-from-home, so go with whatever colour pleases you. Draping the walls with fabric can soften the edges and help insulate the Shed, but has a tendency to attract dust.
For the outside, you can blend in with the garden – in the hope that you can’t be found! – and go with foliage-greens, or you can opt for a feminine pastel. Spare a thought for your neighbours, however, if they can easily see your Shed. Rainbow or fluorescent colours probably won’t win you any friends.
7. Floors and Windows
If you’re drawn to that vintage, shabby-chic, beach hut look, white-painted floorboards with a large faded rug look wonderful. A more contemporary effect is to sand, stain and seal the floor before adding a bright, abstract rug. Yes, that’s a fair bit of work, but it’s a relatively small area and you’ll be spending a lot of time in there, so you may as well get it right.
Windows don’t need dressing, unless you don’t like bare frames, but floaty voile is perfect for most looks, while chintzy fabrics go well with a shabby-chic or country garden feel. If you want to control the light somewhat but don’t like curtains, go for practical blinds.
8. Furnishing Fun
Now you’re at the nice bit! Furnishing your Shed is a bit like playing with a dolls house – anything you like is okay as long as it fits. Bits and pieces that you haven’t used for a while in the house could probably be re-purposed for your haven, but if you want it to be all yours and not feel like an annex of the house, it’s time to hit the flea markets, car boot sales and local auctions.
You’ve decided what your Shed’s main purpose will be, so you’ll already have a good idea what furniture you want. That could be tables or benches for crafting, shelf or drawer units for storage – ones you can fix securely to the wall are great as they don’t take up precious floor space – a low table for drinks, a comfortable chair or sofa for lounging, perhaps a chaise longue or daybed for that sneaky nap.
When it comes to objects d’art, indulge yourself. Knick-knacks disliked by the rest of the family, pretty pictures or your favourite avant garde print, the collection of antique ring boxes that you’ve always wanted to start (or vintage typewriters if you’re anything like Tom Hanks) – let your imagination run riot. You are the sole mistress of this little piece of paradise, so fill it with your heart’s desires.
9. Privacy Please
Since you’ve worked so hard to create your own cosy little domain, make sure it stays that way. No little ones using it as a Wendy house, no uninvited bigger ones barging in when they feel like it. Get yourself a large ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign for the front door and possibly a cute little hanging doorbell too.
Enjoy your She-Shed – you’ve earned it!
Now… Share Your Shed!
Is your shed the perfect haven or work space? Are you particularly shed-proud? If so, we want to hear from you.
Simply upload a photo or video of your shed here, tell us a little bit about it and you could be in with a chance of winning a €1,000 Chadwick’s voucher. There will also be €500 and €300 vouchers for the two runners-up.
The best entries will be decided by the public, and we will announce them on the 20th March, 2017. Good luck!