How to create the perfect she-shed garden retreat, according to top interior designers

How to create the perfect she-shed garden retreat, according to top interior designers

Now that summer is in full-swing, it’s time to turn to the garden for interior inspiration. We talk to award-winning interior designers to find out how you can turn your garden into a welcoming outdoor oasis. Plus, there is definitely one thing that they all agree on; she-sheds are the latest must-have garden getaway. 

What is a she-shed? 

Forget sheds that house a couple of bikes, garden furniture and empty pots. She-sheds are a whole new useable room outdoors with a female touch. They’re filled with soft cushions, pretty throws, and represent a way to ‘get away from it all’ and enjoy a book, get on with work, or just relax as the summer breezes drift through. 

“According to the consumer organisation ‘Which?’ there has been a 12 fold increase in the number of such sheds in the last three years. Figures show that sales of sheds have gone up 50% so far this year,” says Judith Todd, from Homestyle 4 U.

Image: Homestyle 4 U 

Why are they becoming so popular? 

“There seem to be two reasons why women are buying into this concept,” says Judith. “One reason is having somewhere to escape to. We lead increasingly busy lives and find it difficult to switch off, but a shed is a place where you can go if you want to just have a bit of time to yourself, and this is true equally for men and women. 

“The second reason is the growth of the home office. Over four million people now work from home, and one third of whom are women so that they can have a better work/life balance or because they are running their own businesses. We tend to struggle with space in our homes and simply may not have enough room to have a separate office or even workable office space. Having a she-shed that works or doubles as a home office could be a much cheaper alternative than moving house.”

Image: Homestyle 4 U

Designer Sarah Jane Neilsen says: “The 'she-shed' is the ultimate me-time indulgence - an ideal quick-fix escape from the demands of family life and work. A few minutes of 'she-shedding' a day can be the perfect antidote; it’s far less costly than extending the house, with often no planning consents required (remember to check to see if you need permission first, especially if you're in a listed property). Then all you need to do is make sure you have a power point to plug in your kettle (or take a flask), a mini fridge or grab the ice bucket for a cool glass of something, and a speaker or a fully charged device for all your music.”

“Mine also doubles up as a printing studio for those moments I can find outside my interior design day job to indulge my other creative passion. Creating large charcoal sketches and print plates can be too messy to have lying around in the home - and it's great to be able to leave them out as a work in progress to come back to when I'm feeling inspired.”

How can you make the perfect garden getaway? 

“The short answer is that a shed can have whatever you want in it,” says Judith Todd, designer at Homestyle 4 U. “For me, I would say that she-sheds should feel like a home rather than a shed, so give free rein to your feminine side.  I love ones with a soft and possibly vintage style. It definitely needs to have comfortable seating, preferably a sofa or daybed, but if the space is small, a couple of cane chairs and side table are really all you need for a bolt hole. 

“Furnish with lots of cushions and throws and pretty curtains at the windows. The essence of the shed is that it is a personal space, so fill it with the things that give you pleasure. On a practical note, double glazing and underfloor heating mean that your shed will be usable all year round.”

Sarah Jane Neilsen agrees. “My own Sarah-space has all my favourite things around me, inspired by my personal design influences and, as I'm Danish, also my Scandinavian roots,” she explains. “Pride of place in my own she-shed is a Scandi Trip Trap chair, a BRDR. kruger table, and a Secto pendant lamp. Even the images on my wall evoke a favourite location in the Lakes and I also love my photographer friend's work, displaying here her gorgeous horse picture. 

“The green throw (pictured) comes from Ardbeg Distillery (malt whiskey) in Islay, another personal favourite get-away. I've used a bank of full-length mirrors to create an illusion of extra space but also to reflect the light, adding to the magic of my 'she-shed'. The wood-burner makes a great centre piece but also adds warmth, making it a cosy year-round retreat. Just add decorations and mulled wine and my she-shed is just as wonderful as a Christmas winter wonderland as it is during the summer months.” 

“My top tip is to think carefully about the finishes you use in your chosen fabrics and pieces. Ensure they're made to survive the range of weather conditions we have in the UK, so check they're humidity and damp proof.”

Images: Sarah Jane Neilsen 

Other summer trends

Samantha Morphew, Morph Designs, says: “Why not add some outdoor lighting to make the most of your summer evenings? We absolutely love the current trend of festoon lighting, they look stylish and create a warm ambience – perfect for these long summer nights, come rain or shine!”

“It’s also easy to bring your interiors outside too, with a wide range of exterior fabrics and accessories available, you can get your style to flow seamlessly throughout your home and garden. Don’t forget the golden rule – layering. We have some scatter cushions perfect for the occasion, full of colour and texture, making your outside space comfortable and inviting too.”

Image: Morph Designs 

Sarah Jane Neilsen has a more nautical summer aspiration. “I dream of a boat house - but if your budget can't stretch to that, sometimes just having access to a rowing boat and a lake makes for a great get-away. Take along your favourite throw, a comfy cushion and your classic Stelton vacuum jug (available at You could opt for a tree house or a network of timber platforms built high in the foliage, where small people cannot climb. Or what about a portable structure such as a bell tent? Dress it to the nines with a comfy sofa and a few of your favourite things. A deluxe glamping retreat, without the camping!”

“Linking the indoors with the outdoors and vice versa is an integral part of our design approach. Every re-modelling, refurbishment or new build project we look at will have a simple escape route from either the kitchen or the living space into the garden, usually through concertina or sliding doors. With the often changeable British weather, canopies or awnings are often a good idea. Barbeques, ovens and prep areas can be brought outdoors where you can prep and cook alongside your guests, making sure you don't miss out on the fun,” Sarah continues. 

“At home, we've selected multi-purpose furniture that we use for lounging and for al fresco dining - Vincent Sheppard, Dedon and super-comfy fat boys which work well inside but can also easily be moved outside.  With a fabulous collection of outdoor fabrics on offer they look just as good inside as out.”

Feeling inspired? You can buy your own she-shed from around £500, and don’t forget to factor in the cost of cushions, throws and bright paint. 

Find yours at: 

10th Aug 2016

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