She Sheds, Man Caves Allow Women, Men to Get Away, at Home

By Jeff Falk

We all need time with our families.

We all need time with our significant others.

And we all need time to ourselves.

She sheds and man caves aren’t sexist, or gender-differentiating. Just the opposite.

Their entire concepts are based on what is similar about men and women. Man caves and she sheds recognize the fact that time is difficult to manage, and that we all must make some for ourselves, no matter our genders.

“Everyone needs a place they can call their own,” said Jennifer Shearer, a New Cumberland resident who owns her very own Shearer She Shed. “Whether it be a she shed or a man cave, it’s somewhere you can go to relax. Whether you’re a female or a male, you need to be stress free. It’s that important. I know mine has helped me.”

“A man cave is a place of solitude or an escape from the world,” said Yuriy Ivanchenko, owner of the Harrisburg-based Nail’d It Handyman Services, which builds man caves. “It’s a place to maybe have your buddies over. It’s a peaceful place.”

This concept of “personal space” in one’s home originated in the early 1990s, and first manifested itself in the man cave. The traditional idea believed that the lady of the home was the homemaker, that she had authority over the rest of the home, including its interior design, and that, within reason, what went on in the man cave, stayed in the man cave.

But as the trend played out, women seeking equal treatment also saw the benefits of having one’s own personal space, giving rise to the she shed and the ‘lady lair.’ She sheds are a much more recent phenomenon.

“Men used to congregate in bars or saloons, and I believe its origin goes back to the 1960s,” said Ivanchenko. “It may have started from a bachelor pad, and it kind of evolved into a man cave when a man got married. In the late 70s and into the 80s, it may have transitioned a bit.”

“My husband has a man cave in his garage,” said Shearer. “He has a couple of benches and a TV. It’s not extravagant. When he’s in there, he works on his hobbies. Of course, I wanted my own place to do my stuff. The deal was, he could have a two-car garage, with an upstairs, and I could have a she shed.

“It’s (she sheds) definitely become more popular over the last five years,” added Shearer. “I have friends who are waiting for their husbands to get them she sheds. For them, it’s ‘in the works’.”

Man caves can be transformed or inserted into current living spaces like garages, spare bedrooms, dens, media rooms and, of course, the traditional basements. They can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000 or up to create, depending upon the features and furnishings.

 Shearer estimated that her husband built her ten-by-ten she shed – next to a fire pit, in the front yard, partly to hide her chicken coop – for around $4,600.

“My husband’s pretty crafty and he built it for me,” said Shearer. “But I like to say I designed it. I just needed a place to recreate, and I needed a hobby. I got some chickens and I started refurbishing furniture. My husband didn’t like my mess in the garage. But it all came about from me needing a hobby.”

“I would start with the design and the feeling you’re going for,” said Ivanchenko. “What kind of feeling do you want? How much area are we talking about? Some essentials would probably be a bar, comfortable seating, a nice paint job and lighting to help the mood. Maybe a neon bar sign. Maybe a little humidor.

“I’m not much of a sports guy, but I’d have a TV for those special events,” continued Ivanchenko. “I’m more of a cigar-and-a-bit-of-scotch guy. I’d have an air purifier, nice leather seats and some art on the wall.”

Interestingly enough, there are few businesses in and around Harrisburg which specialize in the construction of she sheds and man caves. But most local contractors and handyman services will build what their customers are looking for, based on their specifications and parameters.

“I think sports have really propelled the man cave movement,” said Ivanchenko. “It’s a big segment of the market. It’s a big part of that man-cave culture. You can deck out your whole man cave in your favorite team’s colors and memorabilia.”

“It houses my pottery stuff, my chicken stuff, my crafty stuff,” said Shearer of her she shed. “There’s a table where I can do my pottery stuff and do my planting. There’s a chair, so I can hang out in there. It’s not like a man cave. It’s for hobbies. It’s very functional for what I need. It also hides my chicken coop. I’m not trying to have trashy buildings everywhere.”

In that way, the differences between she sheds and man caves can be considered gender-specific. There are also seems to be informal, unwritten rules as to who, and when the opposite gender, is permitted into one’s personal space.

“All those things in my she shed are my things,” said Shearer. “I guess it all depends on what your she shed is for. Is it for inviting guests over? A lot of man caves are going to have a bar and an entertaining area. It depends on how you define it.”

“In my mind, everyone’s welcome, as long as they don’t disturb the vibe of the man cave,” said Ivanchenko. “But it is more of a man’s, or young man’s environment. It’s meant more for men to have their own space. I don’t think it’s sexist. I think we all need a place to get away from things.”

Some would argue that as the world has become stressful, the need for man caves and she sheds have become more critical. For humans to properly care for others, we must first take care of ourselves.

“It’s a place you can call your own,” said Shearer. “It’s a place where you can be by yourself, and take your hobbies with you. It’s a stress-free environment.”

“With the women’s movement, I think it’s very important for us men to be ourselves,” said Ivanchenko. “We need a place to have space and reinvent our masculinity. It’s kind of a mini-therapy session with our friends. That’s a big mental piece of it. You can vent with your friends and feel better about yourself.”