story by Janice Henshaw, photo by Bonita Talstra –
Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Worn out from getting home from work and trying to fit too many activities into too short a day? Does your partner retreat to their hideout or special room and your kids to the family room with their friends from where they burst out every few minutes asking for snacks or drinks? Does the phone never stop ringing? As every mother knows, even the bathroom may not be a safe refuge. So where do you go when you need a slice of rejuvenating peace?
Your very own She Shed – that’s where you go.
A “She Shed?” What exactly is that? Well, they have been around for decades but the terminology is relatively new. She Sheds can range from a repurposed garden shed to a shelter made of canvas-covered woven vines, a classy tree fort house, a manufactured kit shed, or a custom-designed She Shed outfitted with a chandelier and drop-down window bar. The design can be humble or grand; cozy; rustic or modern; or one of a kind, but the main thing is – it’s yours!
In short, it’s a warm and cozy one-room “shed” located conveniently in your backyard. It is your haven: a shelter that protects you from the noise and complexity of the world, a place where you can just hang out, sit back in a favourite chair with a cup of tea, heave a big sigh, relax and daydream. Or it can be a place where creativity thrives, allowing you to focus on inspiring work or crafts.
“Too expensive to build,” may be your first thought. But what if you fire up your imagination and hunt down recycled materials and repurpose doors and windows? Do the work yourself? Once you begin your search, creativity is the key, and you will find unique solutions to fit your budget. Yes, this project may be daunting, but it can also be fun!
It’s important to figure out the function of your She Shed before you build it, so that your design will meet your space requirements for furniture, shelving and creative space. Every inch counts! Will you use it for writing, reading, meditating, exercise, business, art or socializing? Is it a serene, humble space to be used on warm days in the summer or do you need additional lighting, heat, cooling, plumbing, power and the internet? Before investing in these, make sure to check your community bylaws to see if a permit is required.
What kind of siding will you use? You can match your home, or, even better, come up with your own unique look. For the outside walls, you can use plywood, corrugated metal, or put on wood shingles, board and batten, or clapboard siding. Or how about an eco-friendly abode – a smooth, sculpted cob house made of straw and clay?
Finish off the look with exterior trim and your own artistic touches. Search for a style you like and go for it! Mistakes happen, but they can all be fixed (paint and putty do wonders!). Don’t go for perfection – go for the best you can do at the moment, and that’s good enough.
For the roof, you can use rolled roofing, asphalt composite shingles, metal or wood shakes. The floor can be anything from bricks tamped in sand to concrete, tiles, or carpet. You can learn how to do it yourself, or invite friends and family to visit and have fun working on your project.
YouTube videos are invaluable for learning how to do construction projects. Another treasure is the wonderful book She Sheds Style by Erika Kotite. The book has great photos and easy-to-understand information on everything you ever wanted to know about building and decorating your own She Shed.
Once the outside of the shed is finished, the best part is still to come! You get to finish the inside of your She Shed with your favourite colours, textures, art and much-loved treasures. Be bold, and dispense kindly and firmly any limits to your imagination. After all, you can change the look whenever you feel like it!
“A room of one’s own: Is there anybody who hasn’t at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn’t turned those soft words over until they’d assumed a habitable shape?” Such a beautiful question asked by architect Michael Pollan in his book A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams.
Bonita Talstra transformed her long-held wish for a room of her own into the habitable shape of a She Shed that she uses for quilting. She and her husband Roger decided that building a shed was the best way to accommodate her growing collection of supplies and equipment, without having to move to a bigger house. “I had taken over most of the family room,” said Bonita, “and it was becoming too cluttered for our family. It wasn’t bringing me joy anymore.”
Roger designed the nine- by 18-foot shed and they hired a contractor friend to build Bonita’s new space. Bonita and Roger wanted to do as much of the work themselves as possible, so their friend did the main contracting, and he also taught their kids Ruby, Cameron, and Simon some basic building skills at the same time. Apparently, they really enjoyed using the nail gun and table saw, but weren’t quite so enamoured about digging the trench for the electrical work!
Bonita says: “It truly was a family effort and I am so proud of them for their contributions to the end product, which I love! They are proud of the work they put into it as well and learned so much in the process.”
They used recycled and repurposed products wherever possible to cut down on costs, but also to add character. For example, the flooring came out of a local 100-year-old barn, as well as the barn boards, which they used for a feature wall. “I added my own personal DIY touches, such as upcycling a blingy chandelier, painting an upholstered vintage chair, and cutting the antique door in half and turning it into a Dutch door. “I love looking out of the large windows into our yard and seeing all the deer, rabbits and birds. It is a very peaceful space to quilt. Sometimes I sit in my studio in the morning, with my coffee, and do my menu planning or just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet.”
All I want is a room somewhere,
Far away from the cold night air,
With one enormous chair;
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?
(“Wouldn’t it be Loverly” 1956 song from My Fair Lady – lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner).