Move over, man caves, make room for 'she sheds'

Soon after Leila Sayegh and her family moved into their 1915 Silver Lake home a couple of years ago, a family member made a suggestion as what to do with the carriage house in the backyard.

"She wanted me to put in plumbing and rent it out as an Airbnb," Sayegh said. "Instead, I liked the idea of having a space to escape to."

Sayegh, a lawyer, tasked Los Angeles designer Karen Vidal with converting the 10 x 12 structure -- typical of properties built out in that era -- into a place where she could read, watch TV, and just be alone.

In other words, a she shed.

She didn’t know it then, but Sayegh was a pioneer in an emerging trend in home design, something widely referred to as a female-centric option to a “man cave.” 

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Using social media as a barometer, she sheds are typically made from prefab sheds like the kind you'd get at the local home improvement store, or from a specialist outfit like Studio Shed, a Louisville, Colo.-based company which ships ready-to-build sheds around the country.

But sometimes, they are converted from garages or an unused garden shed.

Los Angeles designer Justina Blakeney says that the growing popularity of the She Shed is simply a revival of an ancient ideology.

"For a long time in history, women have either yearned for or been sent out to have their own space. This idea of a woman having a sacred space — to be creative, to relax — is a really old idea that's now having a resurgence."

Blakeney was tapped by sustainable Italian wine brand Santa Margherita — given that wine and a woman's downtime tend to go hand in hand — to create a jaw-dropping she shed inside the hip Los Angeles store, Mar Vista Art Department.

She included touches such as a Pegge Hopper print of a trio of women lounging, hung on lavish leaf-patterned wallpaper from Hygge and West. 

"You don't need a ton of space," Blakeney said. "Ideally, there should be a flow between the indoors and outdoors. And even if you have a very tiny shed, make sure it has big windows or a skylight. Just because it's small doesn't mean you should feel hemmed in."

Costa Mesa artist Melinda Yates installed a 12 x 12 she shed in the backyard of the home she shares with her husband, and says that while it started off as an art studio, it has become her "sanctuary."

"I come here to write, to read, to listen to music. Every inch of it was created with purpose."

She ordered it from Studio Shed, installed a red couch in ultra suede and did a series of stains and washes on the walls to convey "a more rustic and natural feel."

She distressed the poplar floor, added spotlights and copper twinkle light strands, and put in blue glass panels for more color. The rest of the space is given over to canvases and paintbrushes.

"This was my goal since we bought the house six years ago — to have a space that was uniquely mine," she said.

Designers encourage embracing a particular theme for a she shed, and running with it.

"My biggest tip is to not hold back," said Jessica McDermott, she shed expert for furnishings retailer Wayfair. "Have a big overarching concept to begin with and let your personality come through."

McDermott took that to heart when working on a she shed for Ana Machado, who works in financial services in her school district in Oceanside. Machado is an avowed movie buff, and also loves flavored coffees. McDermott combined those interests to help Machado create a she shed for an episode of the “He Shed She Shed” series on the FYI network. 

"We went with a retro Hollywood glam theme," said Machado, referring to the poster of her dressed like Audrey Hepburn from “Breakfast at Tiffany's.” 

McDermott culled pieces from Wayfair — an antique popcorn machine, espresso maker, tufted settee, an industrial wall sculpture of a film reel. The interiors are inspired by traditional movie theaters, with thick red drapes at the windows and red velvet seating.

There is also a miniature loft area accessed by a hidden ladder.

"We're seeing lots of different themes," said McDermott. "Bold glamour with pink walls, chandeliers and cowhide rugs, or rustic French country, or neutrals with beiges and browns and leather ottomans. It should speak to the owner's personality."

Sayegh, the Silver Lake homeowner who lives with her husband and stepson, worked with Vidal on converting the carriage house into a feminine and functional space: shades of dusky mauve and rose, a vibrant patterned rug, bright pops of color in festive, floral cushions. 

"I wanted it to blend with the flowers that we have outside, to feel like it's a part of the garden," said Sayegh. She put in a magazine rack which she keeps freshly stocked with her favorite travel and foodie publications, and a small refrigerator to hold wine. Her girlfriends come over to see what's on Hulu.

"It's really my favorite place in the world to sit in," she said.

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