When Erika Kotite was an editor for home and garden magazines she found herself drawn to the intriguing little buildings behind the main houses she featured in her publications.
There was something about the miniature size and the mystery of what might be inside, that proved magnetic. So years later when several former colleagues were looking for the right person to put together a picture book on what have come to be known popularly as “she sheds” — the female answer to the 'man cave' — they immediately thought of Kotite.
The Piner High School graduate, who now lives in Huntington Beach, happily took on the challenge, creaming out from Pinterest, Houzz and other sources, some of the best examples of small outbuildings and structures that have been turned in to tricked out retreats for women.
“I think it’s linked to playhouses. It’s a room of our own,” said Kotite, the author of the new book, “She Shed: A Room of Your Own” (Cool Springs Press; $25). “You can decide who can come in and who cannot. Women are squeezed for space. Now all of a sudden there is an easy, low maintenance way to have a new space for yourself in the backyard. It’s pretty clever.”
Space and privacy-starved women have quickly embraced the concept, seeking out forgotten sheds, shacks, freestanding garages built for Model Ts, small goat barns and coops, and turning them into nooks where they can engage in artistic pursuits and hobbies. And some women, if they don’t have an old building, are getting DIY kits or buying ready made garden sheds and customizing them.
The concept of dolling up a weathered, rattletrap outbuilding into a feminine hideaway is an offshoot of “Shabby Chic,” the Rachel Ashwell invention that become the trend that never dies. Many women love the idea of repurposing, and it’s a design idea that is accessible to any budget. A flood of new books on the subject has hit the market like “Women’s Huts and Hideaways” and “Shed Decor” and kit manufacturers are catching on, marketing cute garden sheds to women. Summerwood Products out of Colorado even features a backyard cottage called “The Sonoma.” a little hip-roof shed that you can customize to your architectural taste and which promises “to bring the feeling of wine country to your piece of the world.”
Kotite’s book, which features a range of styles from a cute converted corn crib with slatted walls and window boxes, to a minimalist ultra modern shed sheathed in corrugated steel, is already entering its fourth printing and she is gathering materials for a second volume.
Kotite said that while men tend to seek out clubby, often dark places attached to the house, like the garage or basement for their caves, women want to get away from the house and demands of family and chores. And they are bathing their tiny sheds in light with lots of glass — doors, windows and skylights.
Men are still struggling to understand why women are taking their traditional turf — like tool sheds — and feminizing them with furniture, paint, pictures and even chandeliers.
“But they’re slowly coming around. And some are offering to help build or assemble She Sheds for their wives,” Kotite said.
But it’s not all about gender specificity. Tracy Sawyer of Sebastopol actually shares one with her husband. Together, they carved up an old outbuilding on their slightly-under 2-acre property. Sawyer, who oversees education and outreach programs for the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, turned her half into what she calls her Scrap Shack. The 11-by-13-foot space, is where she indulges her passion for putting together elaborate scrapbooks.