Now that we no longer have a private closet to which we can decamp to find peace and seclusion from other family members, it seems like the humble shed has jumped in to fit the bill. Worth more than £5 billion to the British economy, over 20 million ‘sheddies’ admit to spending half a year of their lives in their garden haven. Obviously, they’re not put off by the Slavic superstition that sheds are to be feared because an evil witch called Baba Yaga lives inside, and gets her kicks flying around kidnapping children.
To begin with, sheds were clearly gendered – and, according to shedsdirect.net, they still are to a certain extent a dad-den. Around 77% of men claim access to a man-cave; put another way, that’s three-quarters of the British male population. When surveying a prospective home, as many as 62% of male buyers are put off if there’s no shed in the garden.
So, what is the attraction of what is, to all intents and purposes, just a wooden shack full of junk? Quite simply, it offers privacy and escape – both luxuries not to be found in the average two-up, two-down semi. It provides the opportunity to do a Pepys and take a peek at porn; make secret phone calls and texts; indulge in a sneaky fag or snifter; read over your ex’s love letters; and, perhaps, most important of all, avoid irksome in-laws and nagging partners. Some men even say they prefer shed-time to being intimate with their spouse. Could this be the real reason why David Cameron installed a shed in his garden – ostensibly to write his memoirs?
Whilst the shed may traditionally have been viewed as a male bastion, in recent years, women have been eager to stake their claim to an outside room of their own – especially those living in a house full of men. Desperately in search of a man-free zone, they’ve begun to invest in a she-shed. Partly shrine, retreat, bar, office, studio, it is the woman’s private zone not to be invaded by the male members of the house. Or else.
Male or female, the once-lowly shed has metamorphosed into a very fancy garden dwelling, and, according to The Posh Shed Company, sales are on the up by over 30%. In terms of design, it certainly looks as if people have been letting their imagination get the better of them. The Shed Competition of the Year has seen such whimsical entries as Dr Who’s Tardis and a boat-shaped shed complete with top-deck, rigging, skull and cross-bow, hammock and captain’s quarters.