It started life as a tool shed — dark, grimy, smelling like a butcher shop on an uncomfortably warm day.
“You tried not to associate it with a dead body, but your mind went there,” Brittney Scigliano said. “It was one of those places you would open the door and close it back up again, just to make sure there was no one hiding in here.”
It was terrifying.
Brittney Scigliano, she shed owner
Today, the dank brick outbuilding behind Scigliano’s Roosevelt Flats home sports a sparkly crystal chandelier, a pair of floral wing chairs and an antique dress form. A fanciful mirror with a filigreed frame hangs beside a little Humphrey Bogart wisdom: “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.”
Scigliano painted the walls a soft dove gray, the cement floor a bold burgundy. The cabinets that used to hold drill bits and elbow ratcheting wrench sets are painted a deep blue and filled with craft supplies. The smell has departed. Scigliano has arrived. This is now her space.
“Husbands get garages and man caves,” the 35-year-old said. “I’m going to have a she shed.”
These days, she sheds are all over Pinterest, House Beautiful, The Wall Street Journal and the “Today” show. These pint-sized staycation spots are cropping up in the backyards of busy women across the country who just want a room of their own.
“Late in the evenings, I will come out and have a glass of wine out here,” said Scigliano, who is president of the East End Neighborhood Association and mother of 6-year-old Clara. “It holds birthday (party) supplies. It holds birthday presents. It hides Christmas presents. It’s my crafting area. But mostly, it’s just my breakaway place.”
Mini She Shed
Scigliano is not the only proud she shed owner here. Just look across her English garden and you’ll find another of the tiny hideaways.
She shed No. 2 belongs to Clara, who kicked off her sandals before leading a tour. No shoes allowed in her private domain.
“Mom’s came first, but I wanted my own little she shed,” Clara announced. “I share it with a lot of my friends, so I call it my spot.”
When her mom saw these three tall pine trees in the backyard, she knew it was a perfect place for a tree house. The family hired a contractor to build the structure so it would be safe for their daughter and her friends.
All decorating choices — except for one — fell to the girl with freckles and a tiara. Clara wanted the custom-built tree house to have bright pink exterior walls. Mom vetoed that pick but gave a thumb’s up to the interior hue.
Clara chose a bright, buttery yellow for the inside walls of her little retreat because “I thought I wouldn’t have a light, and at night the moon could come in the windows and shine,” she said. “It makes it brighter to see better.”
An upscale she shed
Style blogger Kristen Whitby went a different route in constructing a she shed in her Meridian backyard. Unlike Scigliano, she didn’t reclaim an existing structure. Unlike Clara’s, Whitby’s wasn’t custom built.
Instead, she partnered with Home Depot and Tuff Shed to design and install a semi-prefab she shed, a process she details in her home-decorating blog, EllaClaireInspired.com. Whitby’s 10-by-12-foot retreat sports barnlike double Dutch doors. Six large windows provide ample light.
A cream-colored, shabby chic sectional sofa curves along two of the white breadboard walls. The ceiling is white planking with exposed brown beams. Whitby’s favorite element is a bookshelf tucked into the roof gable and stacked with cast-off tomes, their bindings facing the wall so only the tan pages show.
“As for the books,” Whitby wrote in an email, “we got them out of an old law office in Star that they were tearing down. The office had been vacant for years, and there were cases and cases full of books. We loaded up the back of our truck and brought them home.
“It was probably pretty comical watching me climb up there. I was eight months pregnant and had one broken hand in a sling!”
The shed and sofa were the most expensive parts of Whitby’s sanctuary. Everything else was DIY.
The walls are hung with antique botanical prints sliced from a calendar purchased at a yard sale or downloaded from the free-ware website TheGraphicsFairy.com. A stack of vintage suitcases form an end table. She caged the vintage dresser from her mom.
Romantic Country magazine will feature Whitby’s she shed in an upcoming edition. Its editor, Fifi O’Neill, said the retreat is not a huge departure from Whitby’s Meridian home, but it’s far more feminine.
“Not so much because of the pieces of furniture she has in there, but because of the little details,” O’Neill said during a recent swing through the Treasure Valley to photograph homes for her multiple magazines.
There’s a collection of colored bottles, a thrift-store chandelier, a hand-painted “garden tours” sign.
“She’s put very personal things that she likes,” O’Neill said. “It’s very sweet what she’s done.”
Freelance writer Maria L. La Ganga is a former reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times.
Designing your own she shed
Planning a little retreat of your own as an antidote to a busy, hectic life? She shed veterans Brittney Scigliano and Kristen Whitby have a few pointers for you.
▪ Paint is your friend: “It’s relatively inexpensive,” said Scigliano, who made bold choices for her own small space, picking hues she’d never use for the home she shares with husband and child. “It’s easy to do yourself.”
▪ You don’t have to spend a lot of money: A neighbor donated the chandelier and the green wicker desk that serves as a bar in Scigliano’s she shed, and her wing chairs came from Craigslist. Both women scoured yard sales for accessories. “Keep it real. Keep it inexpensive,” she said.
▪ Seek out inspiration: A Preservation Idaho Heritage Homes Tour was where Scigliano first saw a she shed. The owner had painted a rug on the floor. “In the corners of the painted rug, she’d put these little sticky rhinestone-looking things. It was very much her. It really stuck with me.”
▪ Don’t be afraid to do it yourself: Whitby and her husband spent a month on the woodwork and paint for her sanctuary. “I thrifted and refinished the chair (a $10 yard-sale find), antique chandelier ($100), bulletin board, vintage ironstone plates, suitcases, bottles (collected since I was a little girl), other decor and more,” she said.
▪ And most of all, be yourself: “I would recommend taking your time in deciding what specifications and design details will be the most functional for you and your needs,” Whitby said, “and then don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty to make the space your own. Fill it with the style and things you love, and it will be your own refreshing little hideaway.”