Author discovers the power of personal space

“We are conditioned and raised to tend to others, but we absolutely need a place to unwind and refresh.”

Imagine a place where you can let your creative spirit run free. The very walls that surround you inspire you to get lost in your passion projects, which are all within reach. There’s no one to clean up after, no one to entertain for, no one to invade your most personal of spaces. This is your oasis. This is your “she shed.”

Magazine editor and writer Erika Kotite was entranced by the potential these buildings can have to empower women and spark their creativity. While researching for her new book, She Sheds: a Room of Your Own, Kotite discovered one story upon another of women finding great individualism in their sheds.

As a lover of antique and historic dwellings, Kotite was the editor of two vintage home magazines, Romantic Homes and Victorian Homes. The years she spent on these projects gave her an appreciation for the summer kitchens, chicken coops and carriage houses that once were so commonplace. She recognized they served an important purpose, and she soon discovered they paved the way for another important home design trend.

“I loved the notion of intentionally designing a utilitarian structure that was pretty and harmonious with the landscape,” Kotite says. “We never called them she sheds back then, but all of the backyard structures we featured were certainly the basis for the she shed movement we are seeing today.”

Her book She Sheds is not only a detailed guide to creating one of your own, but it’s also an exciting look at how women are taking matters into their own hands to give themselves the space they need to succeed.

It’s so much more than a shed

“When I started searching for she sheds I had an idea that I’d find a decent variety of style and expression, but never dreamed it would be so vast. Sheds are such practical, overlooked little structures – the idea that each could take on a look that is unique, beautiful and habitable was proven to me over and over again.”

The purposes they serve also became just as fun for Kotite to discover. She says many women struggle to find privacy in their life. But after building a she shed, their passions, hobbies and careers flourished.

What would you use a she shed for? Your painting, your potting, your reading or writing, your meditation and your yoga practice. Building a she shed is giving permission to yourself to create a home away from home.

Relive your fondest childhood memories

Flipping through the pages of her book, these sheds might remind you of a simpler time. Many are reminiscent of treehouses, dollhouses and clubhouses. Kotite says there’s a reason for that.

When we were kids, these places were entirely our own. We made up passwords and let our imaginations run free. As Kotite illustrates in her book, we don’t have to give up those tea parties, the wild paint colors or secret outlooks.

And now that we’re grown, we have even more to gain from them.

“The smallness doesn’t matter, in fact it is an advantage,” she says. “The coziness of a she shed or a playhouse makes us feel safe in a hard world.”

The design of your dreams is in reach, but you have to be patient

In an important section of her book, Kotite puts her own family to the test constructing a she shed for her sister-in-law and Santa Cruz resident. Designed to be a home office, Kotite helped transform a Costco shed kit into an eclectic, inspirational space. She gives readers a realistic glimpse at the process.

Ready to get started? Kotite recommends keeping these steps in mind:

  1. Take a good look at your backyard and select the best place for she shed to capture the light, the view or the privacy you want.
  2. Be patient. You’ll need a sturdy foundation and air-tight roof, which may take several weeks to complete.
  3. Rummage through your storage closet for design inspiration.

“The neat thing that will happen, is that you will find homes for a number of cherished objects around your house that never quite fit in before. You can pull out all of those funky cocktail shakers you have in a box and put them on rustic wood shelves or a folk art cabinet you snagged at a flea market in the summer of 2010,” she says.

The pictures and stories in Kotite’s book may leave you anxiously awaiting your own she shed to get to work on your passions, but she warns readers not to lose sight of the process. The love you put into it will be the love you get out.
“My biggest tip is to take your time in building your she shed, so that the journey is just as fun as the destination.”

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