He Shed, She Shed -- How to Customize a Shed for Work or Play

If you've been dreaming of an addition for your home but don't have the space or the funds, we have a solution for you: a shed.

No, we don't mean those prefab metal contraptions available in the parking lot of your neighborhood Home Depot. The modern take on backyard sheds is anything but a bare-bones storage solution for lawn equipment and bikes. Sheds can be used as outdoor bars, yoga studios, relaxation and mediation centers, private retreats, and office spaces. Some are even nicknamed " she sheds," the feminine equivalent of the man caves. Compact and customizable, they can even be beautiful. And they're a great way to make the most of your existing property.

A shed of one's own

A shed may have a small impact on your yard, but it could have a big impact on your life. Barbara Techel, a blogger and author, credits it with improving her marriage.

"I decided to become a writer at 40. I wrote my first children's book at my kitchen table, and it was loud. My husband was in and out all of the time, and I really craved quiet time," Techel says.

Her husband suggested the basement, but she needed a space that "felt like part of the world." So Techel designed a 120-square-foot writer's retreat in their backyard.

Now, the space is something more than a work center. She uses the shed to practice yoga in the morning, read, and spend some quiet time for herself.

"I jokingly tell my husband, if there was a bathroom and kitchen out here I'd never leave," Techel says.

Options for the exterior, from layout to siding

While interior possibilities are practically endless, designing your own shed-escape starts with the exterior. For the building's shell, you have a few options.

Use the easy route. Companies such as Studio Shed in Louisville, CO, design and install customized modular sheds. Studio Shed offers spaces ranging from a small 6-by-8 structure to a massive 500-square-foot loft. You can customize everything from the layout to the siding to the foundation. Base prices for structures range from $5,000 to $12,000, with additional charges for upgrades such as french doors or premium siding.

If you already have a shed on your property, you can upcycle the old building into something new. The size of the project will depend on your sheddie goals. For example, adding a prebuilt bar -- available at home improvement stores and home goods retailers such as Overstock, Amazon, and CustomMade -- and a few stools is all you need for a simple pub shed. Swapping out the sliding door for swinging barn-style doors can open the whole space to the backyard, perfect for a tiki bar feel.

For workspaces and indoor retreats, you'll want to add electricity and Internet access, which may require professional help. You'll also want to add some curb appeal and functionality with windows.

"An interior shed space works best if it is filled with natural light," says Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, founder of Studio Shed.

Of course, you could also build a shed from scratch like Techel did, but whether you're upcycling or building, don't forget the permits.

"What you'll need varies by area, but generally most locations will allow for the construction of one 120-square-foot or smaller building, which is big enough for a small studio or creative space, without a permit. Once you get into the larger sizes, you'll need a permit," Horgan-Kobelski says. "You may also need a permit if you're adding on to an existing shed." Check with your local municipality before you build.

Make the space yours with smart design

The key to shedded bliss is in the design, but don't let the small space stump you.

"I tried to utilize the space in the best way possible," says Techel. "I have my writing desk in here, a bookshelf, a bigger table where I do some art, a petite gas stove … and an air conditioner."

Start by adding the most functional pieces such as a desk or convertible sofa. To soften up the space, add personal touches like a colorful rug or your collection of souvenir shot glasses. Finish the space off by painting an accent wall to match your design, or adding some bright trim around the door.

Once you're done, don't forget to make the most of the space. "I loved hanging out in my studio shed more than my house. I sold my house recently, and I've been really missing my shed," Horgan-Kobelski says.

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