Forget Man Caves—Build a She Space

Local designers share their tips for creating "a room of her own"



Whether it is a whole room or just a corner of one, more and more women are designating a space that is just for them. We found three designers — Ruth Axtell, Renee Carman and Alice Williams — who are helping women carve out room to create, rest and recharge.

Room To Be Bold

All the designers agreed that the space just for her is bound to be bold. “When they don’t need to please anyone else but themselves, it can be a little unexpected,” says Alice Williams of Alice Williams Interiors in Hanover. “One client had a coat closet with a window that was long and narrow, and we made that her room with a built-in desk and comfortable chair. I think she surprised herself. She thought it would be neutral but it ended up being black and white with lots of pops of fuchsia pink. It was really bold.”

“When you give women permission to be creative, it is amazing what comes out,” says Renee Carman of Mandeville Canyon Designs in Exeter. “There is a huge energy that really reflects who they are. I worked with a client and we just went wild — two tones of green, a coral sofa. When you have to share the space, you need to acquiesce, but if it is just for them, it becomes a collection of peace and energy and fun.”

“We’re really drawn to color, something that is pleasing and inspiring,” says Ruth Axtell of Tout le Monde Interiors in Merrimack. “When you go into your personal space, you like to be surrounded by things that inspire you.”


The space doesn’t have to be large to look creative. A few funky design elements can make a big impact

Room to Retreat

The designers also agree that what women need most out of their space is a quiet place where they can draw inward. “When there is a man’s space, often the room is action-oriented, with very outward activities such as playing games, watching TV, hanging out. The majority of women are looking for exactly the opposite. They want to be alone and get quiet,” says Carman. “Maybe because of the work we do, women are constantly being pulled outwards. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes to recharge before we can go back to taking care of everyone.”

“Really, it’s about finding a space in the home that can accommodate a quiet corner. I’ve created these even in the nook of a kitchen, the corner of a bedroom,” says Williams. “I think that women are always giving of themselves, especially at home. When they want to recharge they’re looking for that space where they can take themselves away from all of that, and be quiet and reflective and stop and think.”

As for where to find this space, look for the unused corners in your home. “A lot of women put sitting areas in their master bedroom, and I think too often those areas don’t get used,” adds Williams. “And once they realize how little they have company, they are willing to give themselves the guest room. I’ve also seen a space made from the large opening at the end of an upstairs hallway. It looks great, and it makes the open area more charming. If you just stop and look at spaces you already have, see if you could use them differently.”

Axtell agrees: “A spare bedroom happens to be my space, and that is for many women. Oftentimes, it is a room in the basement. For some, it might just be a desk in the living room or a corner in the family room. Just a spot in a room that they’ve carved out.”


Rooms That Function

Function is key when it comes to planning this space for women. “Usually the spaces are pretty small, so they have to be high-functioning,” says Carman. “One woman has a pantry that she is using, so we have a desk that can unfold to make it more wide or narrow. The walls usually have to do multifunction, whether it is pegboard or shelving, something efficient.”

“Every space has to function. You want to reach for something and have it be organized,” says Axtell. “I have an antique card catalog, and I have a space for every stamp, business card, window treatment hardware. For painting and sewing, everything is at arm’s length. If you’re a writer, you want your books organized and a comfortable place to sit.”

Planning out your space is also deeply personal. “Sometimes, just spending the time to think about you or what you would envision is important,” adds Carman. “I think the whole process is part of the journey because a lot of times it might be the first time in years that they can imagine what they would want in a space just for themselves.”

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