When Bruce and Mary Bolich moved into their farmhouse-style home in Hempfield, Mary knew she wanted space all her own where she could pursue her love of plants without dragging the mess indoors.
A prolific gardener, her ideal space would have some storage for her equipment. There would be windows that opened for fresh air; space for her to decorate any way she liked; room to display some collectibles; patio seating outside next to a water feature for evening relaxation.
The shed that resulted is fronted with old barn wood, topped with a cupola and decorated with a salvaged chandelier, a cast-iron sink-turned-planter they acquired after a church remodel, and an auction-purchased door that’s become her fold-down work table.
It’s a potting shed, true, but Mary’s extra touches have turned it into her “she shed”: part work space and 100 percent relaxation space, she says.
Creating a personal space
Television renovation and construction shows have popularized the she shed idea — a small backyard shed built solely to use as a personal space for solace, entertainment or study.
It’s slowly making inroads in local backyards as homeowners realize the traditional shed, an off-season home for lawnmowers, shovels, rakes and bikes, can be used for a lot more than storage.
“We’ve always customized sheds with certain customers who have needed something,” says Jeannie Kontis of Fox Country Sheds near Brickerville. “But I think it’s been pretty recently that this whole she shed thing has been coming around.”
Do you want it to be a place where you can read books, or do you want it to be a place where you can entertain?
Part of the trend, she says, bucks the traditional idea that a project of this type has to have a practical application.
“Women don’t spend the money on themselves, really,” Kontis says. “So we have had through the years a lot of women come in and they want a potting shed or a garden shed. Something for their own,” but with a practical use to “justify” it.
The practicality of a she shed, meanwhile, may simply be so that there’s a place of sanctuary, of retreat, available.
“I would argue just creating your own private space for beauty is also practical,” Joyce Burkholder of Penn Stone in Lancaster says. “You know, it may not be productive, but it’s very practical in terms of your own mental health and well-being.”
“Men can have man caves and women can have she sheds," Pam Denlinger, also of Penn Stone, adds. “A little escape for women is just as important as it is for men.”
What to consider
So, let the brainstorming sessions begin.
Before you get carried away with what you’re going to put in your new she shed, what are some considerations to take into account?
The first step, says Ashley Dennis of Homestead Structures in New Holland, is to determine how you’re going to use the space.
The company, started in 2003 by the Stoltzfus family, often has potential customers come in brimming with ideas, she says. Coming up with a plan, Dennis says, “is just a matter of a lot of conversations”: Will the client use the shed for reading? For entertaining? To do work? Homestead Structures even has constructed a shed used as a napping space.
The client has to consider what size will be needed, “as well as what can you fit in your yard, really?” Dennis says. She needs to determine exterior colors for siding and shingles and, then, the function of the shed can determine the interior space: shelving, electrical and plumbing starts, lofts for storage or seclusion.
The homeowner needs to check what municipal permits, if any, will be needed. A basic shed that won’t be hooked up to plumbing or electric, for example, will require less than a shed that has those additions.
And, finally, Kontis says, the placement of the shed needs to be considered: Is the chosen spot within setback rules, does it fit all neighborhood-specific regulations and can it be maneuvered around the house and into place with minimal disruption.
This past winter, Kontis had her crew at Fox Country Sheds take one of their existing designs — a peaked-roofed, windowed shed — and tweak it.
It started as a basic 10-foot-by-12-foot shed. “That’s probably the smallest I would suggest for something like a she shed or a finished space,” Kontis says, “because you want to make sure you have room to walk around and do what you want.”
Then, Kontis upgraded the doors to an all-glass style that admits sunshine, and added a few extra windows to fill the interior with even more light. The crew added a deluxe trim package, painted the interior and exterior, and topped the structure with a copper weathervane. Kontis then visited a secondhand furniture shop to source a vintage settee, bought an inexpensive, airy ceiling light fixture, laid a neutral area rug on the floor and hung flowing curtains at the windows.
The result? A breezy, uncluttered space in which there’s plenty of room to sit back and read, tackle a work project on the laptop or add a few chairs and have friends over for a drink.
And the cost? With the upgrades, and before furnishing, under $3,500.
‘I knew what I wanted’
If Mary Bolich could change anything she wanted on her own she shed, she says, she’d add electric and water.
Still, the structure, with its repurposed antique hardware, salvaged antique windows, rain barrel and custom features handmade by Lititz-based Hosler’s Homescapes, is pretty perfect, she says. It reflects her own interests as well as the aesthetic she shares with husband, Bruce.
It’s home to birdhouses and feeders that the couple can watch from their living room, and it sits right next to their outdoor living space, with water feature, fire pit and dining space.
“In my mind’s eye, I knew what I wanted,” Mary says. “And I knew I wanted to save the old windows, the other things I’d collected, for something unique.”