She sheds with author Erika Kotite | Home Front

Aug 31, 2017

Always wanted to have a place for DIY projects or just to sit and read in peace? Ever considered a “she shed”? Erika Kotite, author of “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own,” is here to answer your questions. She can give insight into how people across the country use these spaces as a getaways.

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Erika Kotite is the author of “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own”. She sought out the most interesting little structures that inspire people to pursue their dreams, whether reading, writing, gardening, making jewelry or just chilling. Perched on mountaintops or alongside a stream, these sheds show the personalities of each owner. Erika can give insight into how people across the world built and furnished these little jewels and how they use these spaces as a getaways.

I am very excited to be here. Thanks for having me! There is a lot of interest in she sheds right now and it seems to be building. Speaking of building I'm making a small she shed in my own backyard as we speak - my next book will be about projects for your she shed.

I'd like to create an outdoor playhouse for my daughter and was wondering if you have any great, low-budget ways of converting a shed into a playhouse? Would love a "little door". Thanks!

Hi, what if you designed a shed that was a combined playhouse and she shed? The most important things to do are create nice, large windows and yes, a pretty door. Maybe a Dutch door or a French door. Since I don't know what the shed looks like I'm assuming it's kind of "plain vanilla." I would recommend inviting a friend or two with building skills - you want the structure to be sturdy and safe. Save money by finding free or low-cost materials online or at garage sales. That's really fun and satisfying!

As wives and mothers we put the needs and wants of our families before our own. Do you think a She Shed can be looked at as a good investments for our homes? Obviously it would be a good investment for ourselves and in turn our family, providing that space for ourselves.

You bet it can! I don't have hard data to support my claim but I do know several realtors who have bought my book to show clients what they can do with their new backyard, or how to spruce up an existing utility shed so that it shows better. Building a she shed is just about the most affordable way to add real space to your home. It's still an investment of $4,000 - $8,000 but usually much less than a room add-on.

I'm a fan of washable white slipcovers, looking for fabric that in your opinion wears and looks the best: cotton canvas, cotton denim, linen, hemp, or Sunbrella. Advice?

Are you talking about furniture you can leave out in your she shed without getting ruined? I've never been asked that before! I did find one company that has really great modern fabric for outdoor furniture here. I also really like working with painters canvas. It isn't waterproof but it is so inexpensive and natural-looking. I made a canvas panel that I put underneath the roof for a soft she shed ceiling.

I'd really like to create a comfortable space for guests in my 2nd bedroom, while keeping the option to use it as additional living space the rest of the time. None of the rooms in my 1,200 sf Old Town row house are very big, so I would rather not fill up one of them with a full or queen-size bed that is rarely used. Any suggestions for smallish sleeper sofas or other sleeping accommodations that could comfortably fit 2 people? Thank you!

Actually, I just put a full-size Murphy bed in a small room in our house for my daughter when she comes home from college. When she's gone, it becomes my sewing room. They aren't cheap but they really work and save tons of space. Also, look at futons; they've come a long way. I'm assuming you don't have room in your back yard for a she shed ... right? :)

Do most of the sheds you write about have heat? How do they install it?

Very good question! Many she sheds (at least here in California) do not have hardwired heat just because you need to pull a permit for that. Women use their she sheds seasonally, or they bundle up in blankets during the winter. Space heaters are common but again you will need to commit to electric wiring, which requires a permit in most places; necessary as you do NOT want a fire hazard in your back yard. Don't be put off by permits, however; the process is often not as terrible as you might think. It takes a little more time and money but it could be well worth it for a substantial and beautiful she shed.

has to include a bathtub.

Ha ha! I've seen a few she sheds with an outdoor bathtub next to it. So wonderful! Assuming you have the yard and the privacy for it.

Choosing between BM's graytint, alaskan husky, and moonlight for a bedroom that gets pretty good light. Accents will be turquoise, yellow. Someone recommended gray owl, but I don't think I want a gray that goes green.

You can't go wrong with Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore and you can always cut it with more white.

For instant gratification, do you recommend any kits or manufactured sheds?

Here is what I recommend: Find a design plan that you like and assemble the materials yourself. I'm in the early stages of creating two she shed designs with plans, but there are many out there already that are really nice. Your she shed will be less expensive and will have a really nice eclectic flair, with salvaged wood, doors and windows. It takes longer, but the results are really wonderful. For manufactured sheds I like this company. For really posh sheds look at this one.

Hello Erika, I'm wondering if you have run across converting a shed into a playhouse? A lot of playhouses are either too expensive or too small for my tall 4 year old. Any great resources/tutorials? I have no experience with power tools. I would want it to be able to withstand the elements but it wouldn't need to be a four-season playhouse. Thanks for considering my question!

Hi there, most of the shed conversions I've seen are pretty extensive and would require at least rudimentary building skills. Do you live in a neighborhood with other families? If you know your neighbors maybe you could put together a building party. Let the other kids help with the design and maybe people can donate items for the "kids' club"  in exchange for a fun day and a nice lunch.

My bedroom is a dark (not navy) blue - what people in NC would call Duke Blue. I would like to paint it a more Navy color. Husband insists on using Sherwin Williams products. Can you advise of a color that is a clear lovely navy - not too purple, not too gray. Thanks

Maybe Sherwin-Williams Naval.

Looking for some simple white slipcovered furniture that leans modern and clean. I've checked Restoration Hardware, Ballard Designs, Pottery Barn, and Crate and Barrel. Any source that I'm missing?

Does anyone have specific ideas to add? I would also mention Home Decorators, West Elm, CB2 and Room & Board. Ballard has a great selection of small scale slipcovered sofas.


Our basement family room has real knotty pine wood paneling with a shiny finish. I would like to paint it, but my husband says we should leave it in the original condition. What do you think?

Well this would be hard to answer without a bit more information. What is the reason you want to paint it? Do you use the room a lot? Do you really dislike the pine? It has a cool retro cool actually. You can paint it but it takes a lot of coats. You and your husband should figure out what look you both are after for this room and how you will furnish it, if indeed you want to change everything about it.

What is a good flooring option for a shed that doesn't have heat.

I can tell you live on the East Coast! It's very wise to consider the right flooring for cold and moisture. My first choice no matter what is wood planks - doesn't have to be fancy hardwood. In fact, I wouldn't advise installing traditional hardwood in a shed unless you are planning to really finish it out and seal it (like a house). Salvaged planks (barnwood, etc.) protected with a pressure-treated wood subfloor, or concrete pad, look great and feel good. Remember it's a shed and it's nice to maintain a rustic, unpolished feel. I also would consider laminate flooring. In my sister-in-law's shed we used interlocking laminate panels that resembled wood, right over the primed subfloor. Easy and quick.

Where did the term She Sheds come from?

I'm still trying to figure that out. No one knows, really. The term began appearing in social media about three or four years ago. It sprang up as a counterpoint to the ubiquitous "man cave." The alliteration made the term fun and memorable and it stuck. My book was (to my knowledge) the first book to actually use the term "she sheds" in the title. I wish I could take credit for these magic words, but they belong to the world.

My go-to is a daybed and trundle. The daybed is a great lounging space during the day, but it sleeps two guests. It's more comfortable than a sleeper sofa, and looks nicer than a futon.

Good idea.

It is important to know whether the paneling was stained. If it was just given a clear finish, you should still use a good primer, but if it was stained (like the paneling in our family room), you'll need to use a really good sealer-primer (like Kilz) and test after the first coat to make sure it doesn't bleed through the new paint. You may need two coats of primer.

This is great advice - thanks for posting.

I've just invested in a new sofa and rug for my living room and am looking for a statement accent chair that is colorful (sofa and rug are neutral), super comfy and very affordable (bank account is hurting right now). I'm leaning toward second-hand. Can you recommend any interesting places in the DC area for such second-hand furniture? Apartment is small, simple and cozy.

Yes. Miss Pixie's on 14th St.; Georgetown Flea Market on Sundays on Wisconsin Ave., auction sales at either Weschler's or Sloan's & Kenyon; GoodWood on U Street; Off the Beaten Track Warehouse in NE; Georgia Avenue Thrift Store; Salvation Army  or Goodwill. Others feel free to add. 

Where did you find it? I'm in DC, and have been looking for a daybed and trundle for YEARS!

Can the poster respond?

It's more of a hike, but I've had amazing luck with Ryan's Relics near Baltimore.

Great to know. Thanks.

I ordered my set from Amazon, but I've also seen them at places like West Elm and Ikea.

What is the most unusual She Shed you've seen? Where is it?

In Oregon there is the most amazing she shed on poles, made almost entirely of old windows. Like a glass crazy quilt. It's in my book!

I enjoyed the chat and also looking through Erika's book She Sheds: A Room of Your Own. Thanks for doing it. Next week we have a chat on paint: Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams will be here so bring all your paint questions then. Have a great Labor Day Weekend.

Thank you for your great questions. She sheds are actually very practical little structures; I'm looking forward to using mine as a reading room. I'll be on this show again as a participant, looking for the perfect small-scale reading chair! Thanks again for participating and wishing all of you a terrific Labor Day weekend.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Erika Kotite
Erika Kotite is the author of “She Sheds: A Room of Your Own.” She is also the former editor-in-chief of Romantic Homes and Victorian Homes.
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