In response to the craze of the Man Cave—usually indoor spaces designed by and for men to drink, watch sports, and play video games—a countermovement started, empowering the opposite sex to claim their own space and, at the same time, enjoy their yards.
The outdoor structures are known as She Sheds, explained A Place to Grow, Recycled Greenhouses owner Dana O’Brien, who crafts the one-of-a-kind sheds and greenhouses with the help of her husband, Sean. She was inspired to start the business after acquiring an old greenhouse that her husband disassembled, transported, and put back together in their backyard over the course of an afternoon.
“It was in my heart and in my head for the next eight years,” she said. “I just thought: ‘We could do that.’”
O’Brien began by building custom greenhouses for customers who had collected antique windows or had other glass panes left over from building projects. The impulse to upcycle and use reclaimed materials brought out O’Brien’s creative streak, and she began numbering the structures and providing a certificate of authenticity with each.
- PHOTO BY JOE PAYNE
- INDOORS OUTSIDE: Sandy and Virgil Clarke’s shed constructed by A Place to Grow offers the couple a break from the afternoon wind as well as a shady spot to enjoy some wine.
The small buildings she was commissioned to create began expanding beyond simple greenhouses as well, O’Brien explained, and soon she was getting requests to construct art studios, meditation retreats, and outdoor rooms. Sandy Clarke, who commissioned a structure from O’Brien for her backyard in Orcutt, still can’t name her outdoor room, constructed from her collection of windows, a French door, and reclaimed wood and aluminum siding tracked down by O’Brien.
“I don’t know what to call it, it’s just our little house,” Clarke said. “We have some lawn chairs out there, a table; it’s great for people to sit and enjoy a glass of wine.”
The rustic, three-wall room includes stained glass windows and a French door, which acts as a long window that opens up and out. The structure lets in plenty of natural light, but also provides a respite from the afternoon sun.
Clarke and her husband, Virgil, use the room to enjoy morning coffee, meals, wine, relaxation, and a break from more than just the sun’s rays, she told New Times from her shady seat which overlooks their small garden and vineyard with the rolling, Orcutt hills in the background.
“On a windy, horrible day, you can come in here, and it’s perfect,” she said. “You get the whole view and not the wind.”
- PHOTO BY JOE PAYNE
- NEW USE: The Clarkes’ shed includes windows and a French door the couple collected, as well as reclaimed wood and aluminum tracked down by A Place to Grow owner Dana O’Brien.
When O’Brien takes on a project, it’s important for her to understand not just the materials she’ll work with, but the space the structure will inhabit, she explained. She visits clients to see the windows, doors, or other pieces they’ve already collected, and gets an idea of what they want before sketching up a design that incorporates the collected pieces with materials she already has. This was the case with the Clarkes’ outdoor structure.
Those curious about a greenhouse or shed can also visit A Place to Grow’s location in San Luis Obispo, O’Brien said, which includes her workshop and a yard full of display pieces available for purchase. They also make arbors, potting tables, and other outdoor works of art.
“You’re bringing the indoors out and the outdoors in, if you think about it, and this is a great thing that is drought friendly,” O’Brien said. “We call them outdoor lifestyle structures, and it doesn’t take any water, so a lot of our clients are taking out their lawns and putting in hardscape, which is perfect for one of these—all you need is a flat, level surface.”
A Place to Grow, Recycled Greenhouses is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 445 B Prado Road, SLO. Reach out to owner Dana O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-1155. Learn more at recycledgreenhouses.com.
Arts Editor Joe Payne from New Times’ sister paper to the south wants an outdoor-meets-indoor music studio. Contact him at email@example.com.