When her artistic pursuits grew larger than her living room could hold, Katie Locke looked to her backyard in Bradley for the solution.
“I have been an artist since I can remember, and I’ve always worked on the dining room table — or a TV tray,” Locke said. “Every artist dreams of a space to spread out and put all of their junk.”
That space came in April 2016, when she and her husband, Casey, began constructing a shed to serve as a studio.
Locke, a photographer and painter, hardly could wait to move in. She didn’t care it was winter — she brought a space heater. She also didn’t care the walls weren’t painted — she plastered them with pictures, signs and banners. Her daughter gave her a pink and gray “I (Heart) U” sign that hangs above her work space. She hand-painted the sign above the outside door that reads, “This is my happy place.”
And while Locke has plans to tile the floor and take another look at those walls, for now, she’s content to spend several hours per day in her “she shed.” Locke, who works as a teacher’s assistant at Noel LeVasseur Elementary School, has a booth at Indian Oaks Antique Mall in Bourbonnais, where she sells handmade and vintage items.
Men long have had their man caves, but the trend these days is “ma’am caves.” With women spending less and less time on themselves between work and family, these spaces allow them to create a space for hobbies, reading or relaxation — a home away from all the craziness of home.
And what once was reserved for lawn and garden storage has become something of a fairy tale for many women. Pinterest is filled with photos of dreamy she sheds with sparkling chandeliers, lattice work and corbels and delightful sitting areas inside and out that welcome girlfriends to come in and sit a while.
The 39-year-old Locke filled the interior of her shed with materials for her many projects — painting, photography and refurbishing furniture. Wicker drawers of paints and tools are stacked along the back of her work table, while a box of piano keys and hammers awaits some future application. Outside, there’s a deck with a turquoise couch and chair, the perfect place for an iced tea on a hot day.
Lock estimated the cost of the 96-square-foot shed at about $3,000. Her entire family put in work, and she enlisted the help of friends, too.
“I think it’s worth the work to have,” Locke said. “As a busy mom with kids and sports, sometimes it’s nice just to be able to come out and close the door.”
A fancy focal point
Drew Dunlap, 48, recently inherited her own thematic shed when she moved into her mother, Pam Dunlap’s, home in Bourbonnais this past May.
Pam, now of Florida, had the shed built a few years ago to house garden tools, which is still the shed’s purpose today. But it’s the highlight of the backyard. Built by her son, Steve, the shed’s exterior has taken on the main home’s nautical theme, with a coat of red and white paint. A copper shrimp sculpture is mounted on the top cupola; it was designed by Pam’s late husband and created by Florida artist Kevin Jenkins. Pam and her husband loved to scuba-dive, which inspired the Cape Cod style of the house.
For the Kankakee Kultivators’ Garden Walk in 2016, Pam “fancied up” the interior with plants and curtains made of fishing net.
“For a ‘she shed,’ it was just perfect for me,” Pam said, “because ruffles and pink [are] not me.”
Shed for the little ones
It might not be your typical “she shed,” but Jane Hove has her own beloved backyard mini-house.
When Hove’s family was younger, her father built a small playhouse for her and each of her six siblings.
The playhouse has moved with the Hove family from house to house, undergoing a series of revamps along the way. But it is one of only three remaining of the seven that originally were constructed.
“My husband said, ‘Let’s just leave it because it’s too heavy to move,’ and I just wouldn’t have it,” Hove said.
Now painted and wallpapered to fit her home’s English cottage theme, the playhouse has cedar shake siding, a door knocker, an American flag hanging outside the window and ivy growing up the walls. And while it’s a little girl’s dream, now that Hove’s children are grown up, it houses outdoor games such as cornhole. It, too, is the talk of the backyard.
“It adds a little eye candy, a little charm,” Hove said. “And, of course, it’s a constant reminder of my dad.”
Anne Halliwell is an intern at the Daily Journal. She hails from Lafayette, Ind., and graduated from Indiana University in May. Her interests at work include health reporting, magazine writing and video editing. Her interests outside lean more toward fantasy and sci-fi books, comics and cats. Email her at [email protected] (Especially if it’s about cats.)