Architecture & Design

Cool Design Ideas for Your Outdoor Man Cave – and Woman Cave

In settling one of those he-shed, she-shed arguments, the crews at Rotelle Builders came up with all sorts of clever bells and whistles to add to your own little cabin in the woods (or your backyard).


He Shed She Shed He Shed exterior

Anticipating its future use, the men who built the He-Shed turned five trees from a nearby forest into a comfortable space to spend the night in exile. | Photos: Rotelle Development Company unless otherwise noted

“All architecture is the decoration of sheds.” —Robert Venturi

There you have it, from the Master of Postmodernism himself. Which means that what people saw at Rotelle Studio(e) in South Coventry this past Saturday (Sept. 15th) was architecture of the highest order.

And truth to tell, the results were pretty snazzy — all in an effort to settle one of those “he shed, she shed” arguments. “Who run the world?” the women challenged the men. They responded, “Let’s get ’er done.”

The chief combatants: Rotelle President and CEO Peter Rotelle and Chief Designer Renée Pratt. They had backup from some very talented sources. The guys, of course, had the brawn: Senior Project Manager Ken Zimmerman got backup and ideas from Ty Pennington, former host of “Trading Spaces” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” as well as the author of several books on design. The women, meanwhile, had the brains: Rotelle Chief Architect Heather Ryan and Design Consultant Emily Wisler came to this backyard brawl armed with ideas.

The purpose of Rotelle’s “He Shed She Shed” contest, which unfolded over the course of six weeks, was to showcase Rotelle’s expertise and creativity when it comes to designing and building custom homes. But in the process, they also produced a slew of clever ideas you might want to try when creating a backyard retreat of your own. These two sheds didn’t cost a bundle, either — the project budget for each was $7,000. But they look like they did. Here’s what each design had to offer:

The She-Shed

He Shed She Shed She Shed with roof open

Clever building trick: Airiness is a hallmark of this hideaway for her, and the shed’s retractable roof lets plenty of light and air inside. When open, the roof also serves as a cover for a small deck on the shed’s left side.

He Shed She Shed She Shed day bed

Layabout: What’s a feminine retreat without a day bed? This one, however, takes its cues from an outdoor hammock. The window behind the bed has a mesh screen to let the air flow through.

He Shed She Shed She Shed serving table

Everything’s been built in: The She-Shed makes extensive use of built-ins. There are display and book shelves behind the day bed and storage for glassware in the kitchenette-like serving area. Behind the door on the left is a wine rack…

He Shed She Shed in-table cooler

Photo: Sandy Smith

…and inside the serving table is a cooler to keep your cold beverages chilled and at the ready.

The He-Shed

He Shed She Shed He Shed drop-down deck

Photo: Sandy Smith

Clever building trick: The way the backyard man-cave lets the outdoors in is by the back door: A winch eases the back wall of the shed down to form a rear deck. A swing-out table holds a charcoal grill (photo below) and a table and chairs are stowed on hooks to the deck’s right to equip this space for outdoor dining.

He Shed She Shed He Shed foldout grill

Photo: Sandy Smith

He Shed She Shed He Shed bar

100 percent recycled material: The He-Shed shows what you can do with found and reclaimed objects, like the tool chest that serves as the storage space for its bar…

He Shed She Shed He Shed faucet

Photo: Sandy Smith

…and the fuel pump that got repurposed to serve as the faucet for the bar’s sink. Here, Peter Rotelle fills ‘er up with unleaded. He also explained that the entire shed was constructed from five trees harvested from a nearby forest.

He Shed She Shed He Shed couch

The perfect place to couch-surf: You might also notice a decidedly automotive theme to the He-Shed’s decor; the boys made good use of an old Ford pickup truck, putting its grille and headlights over the couch. Its tailgate hangs from the other side of this wall, where it folds out to form a bench. And they didn’t forget the beverage cooler either — the beverage fridge is conveniently located right next to the couch.

Those who came to Studio(e) for the unveiling of the sheds on Sept. 15th got to vote for their favorite, and those who didn’t can still vote on the Rotelle website. Both sheds will be raffled off; one will go to a registered voter and proceeds from the other will benefit Ashley Addiction Treatment in Havre de Grace, Md.