The first time I contemplated a haven to myself was probably upon hearing the fairytale of Hansel and Gretel. True, there is an evil witch in the woods by herself, but that’s one heck of a she shed she’s got, trimmed in cake, icing, cookies and candy. Just don’t go knocking on her door.
There’s something about playhouses and treehouses that make my heart sing. I never had either as a child, though I coveted both. The closest I ever came to having a quiet place of my own was my stepdad’s shed at the back of our large lot. I could easily climb it and sit on the roof, our dogs looking up with adoration, me waving at them like a queen.
That long-ago experience began my love of private places and tiny dwellings, so much so that it is hard for me not to see an out building and imagine it decked out for the greater purpose of a woman’s escape. I love my children, but most of us actually do require recharging our batteries with alone time, and time by one’s self is hard to come by if you, like me, have four busy boys and a husband occupying the same house.
In the last year, I’ve begun to design my dream “she shed” in my head. I even purchased a coffee table book on the design and purpose of these escape hatches. Then, one day, I saw a she shed in the backyard of a friend. I heard that Leslie had built most of it, which was completely impressive, so I had to interview her. Anyone who can install a window sideways, against the advice of guys, must know something.
If you are considering designing and building a she shed of your own, Leslie advises getting clear about the purpose. Is it for reading, crafts, woodwork, painting, yoga? Hers is designed for stained-glass work.
Here are a few other things to consider:
♦ Lighting. What will be the source? How much natural light will be utilized, windows, skylights, or will it be overhead lights or a sun tube? What electricity do you need and where?
♦ How will you equip it for winter and summer?Will it need plumbing for water?
♦ Decide your exterior style. Do you prefer craftsman, cottage, whimsy or modern?
♦ Don’t neglect storage. No matter what the purpose, no one wants a cluttered sacred space.
♦ Don’t obsess on perfection. It’s a place solely for you, not to be judged, critiqued or held to an unreasonable HGTV standard.
If possible, help with construction at some level. Leslie told me that rehabbing much of the old building in her backyard allowed her a good measure of self satisfaction. As she continues to work on the inside of the building, she has come to appreciate her own determination and strength.
All parents need time away to recharge. A lot of guys enjoy man caves with assorted leather, a large screen and beverage unit. In fact, some women may want to create a woman cave with similar fittings, or maybe a craft room or a sewing space.
No matter what your choice, find a place that is your “inner sanctum,” a sacred place to be you apart from parent life. We all need to time to indulge in play. To be a kid again gives us a path to better see our children and their creativity and imagination.
This blog post was originally published in Betsy's column, "Parent-ish" in Little Rock Family Magazine.