The desire for personal space transcends gender. But how that personal space should be designed — and what decibel level it should be capable of producing — tends to be almost stereotypically gender specific.

“Everyone needs their own place and space to go get away from their husbands or wives and put their minds at rest a little," says Rodger Powell of Mancave Construction in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For men, that means constructing “man caves," generally subterranean spaces set aside for watching sports and movies on spectacularly large screens with booming sounds systems. For women, “she sheds" are on the rise. They're typically sanctuary-like spaces for art projects, reading and quieting the mind.



Man cave
The phrase 'man cave' often engenders visions of a subterranean space set aside for watching sports and movies on a spectacularly large screen with booming sounds systems. 

Powell says not all women retreat to the shed; he has also made basement spaces for the fairer sex, which tend to demand plenty of custom cabinetry rather than subwoofer speakers.

“They tend to be more artsy, dedicated to crafts and hobbies, and not so much the home-theater set up," he says.

What do you call it if it's not a she shed? “A woman cave," he says, matter-of-factly.

One recent his-and-hers addition included two levels, one equipped with five televisions, a pool table and shuffle board. Directly above that, the husband ordered up a full studio for his yoga-loving wife. Sometimes personal space can be the key to marital harmony. That and “lots of sound insulation," says Powell.

Powell, whose company is located not far from the University of Notre Dame, fields lots of calls to create Fighting Irish-themed digs. “But everyone has their thing they're into," he says. “Whether it's Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson stuff, or college ball. It becomes sort of a display area for them."

The Coca-Cola man cave is a recurring basement theme, calling into mind a more classic atmosphere. This Alberta, Canada, man cave, built into a seven-car garage, has more Coca-Cola memorabilia than a Route 66 diner, for example.

But Norm Lecuyer, president of Just Basements in Ottawa, says people should be mindful of how drastically — and permanently — they renovate valuable basement space. Recreating a scene from a movie, for example, could negatively affect resale value, he says.



Man caves and she sheds
Keep resale value in mind when planning your dream santuary. Classic and tasteful basement designs typically hold their value better than drastically themed renovations.

“Maybe it's because we live in a conservative country, but we don't see a whole lot of that crazy stuff here," he says. “But if you know you're probably going to sell your home in the future, don't do a Bat Cave."

That's not to say he hasn't seen his fair share of exceptional projects, including a basement renovation for a man who owns a home-brew equipment business.

What's a man in the brewery business do with an 11,000-square feet basement? Build an in-home microbrewery, of course. Add to that a bar with multiple taps and a bathroom complete with a walk-in shower, sauna and a urinal, and you have a top-tier man cave.

“Because if you have a brewery, you have to have a urinal," Lecuyer points out — and rightly so.



To some a top-tier man cave might include an in-home microbrewery with multiple taps.
To some a top-tier man cave might include an in-home microbrewery with multiple taps.

This super man cave also boasts a home theater, increasingly popular for basement renovations, says Lecuyer. With all of the speakers and gear the project requires — not to mention the subsequent loud explosions — theaters aren't quite the right fit for an open-concept main floor.

“They need to be tucked away, and the basement is exceptionally handy in that regard," he says

Lecuyer says it's overwhelmingly the man of the house who orders the home theater. “But once we do it and the woman watches a movie in the house, then she's in," he adds.

To create peace in her own marriage, Barbara Techel, a 52-year-old writer, headed out. Techel, with the help of her husband, built a she shed, the increasingly popular answer to the man cave. Techel now credits her creative rebirth — and even the success of her marriage — to her brand-new space, a 10-by-12 room off the deck which she calls her “Zen writing cottage."



Barbara Techel's 'Zen writing cottage'
Barbara Techel credits her creative rebirth to her 'Zen writing cottage.'

The piece and quiet she finds there has helped her nurture her later-in-life second career as a writer, and to good end. Techel has published two children's books and a memoir about Frankie, her dearly departed, paralyzed dachshund who scooted around in a custom-fitted wheelchair. She's currently at work on a fourth project.

Her husband, John Techel, is in the remodeling business, so Barbara's Zen cottage was an easier build than most. Now, when she heads to her private space with its fairy decorations, pot-bellied wood stove and seven windows looking out on the quiet neighborhood, she feels like she's a world away from the hustle and bustle of the house, where John has his home office.



Construction of the Zen cottage
Construction of the Zen cottage.

Barbara isn't alone in her quest for personal space. A recent feature on ABC News spotlighted a Texas woman who had turned her grown kids' playhouse into a shabby chic craft spot. Pinterest is full of boards dedicated to she sheds, including tips on how to build a room of one's own.

Why do women need a retreat in the first place? According to Barbara, for most women, the never-ending "to do" list tends to prevent any real rest, mental or otherwise. Leaving the house — even if it's to go in the backyard — can create enough space to clear the mind.

“A lot of times, women don't think they deserve to, or don't take the time to, go on a retreat and actually leave the home," she says. “But an hour for some women is probably gold, especially if you have kids."

For Barbara, the she shed is much more than just a separate space on the edge of the deck where she writes and practices morning yoga.

“It's a personal sanctuary," she says. “Everyone needs that — we can't live on high speed all the time."