What do she sheds and shops have in common? A lot, actually. Sheds are like canvases, offering creative women the chance to express themselves over and over again. Donna Jenkins, a store owner in Tipton, Indiana, has known this for many years. Her rustic backyard shed with its oversized vintage windows and worn wood floors, gives her product and merchandising ideas simply by being there for her.
Tinkerhouse, which is what Donna dubbed the shed when she and her family built it about 12 years ago, is small but mighty. Its windows and doors let light in from every side (even from the roof, which is fashioned mostly from square glass panes in the greenhouse style).
“I’m always renewed and ready to go whenever I spend time in Tinkerhouse,” says Donna, who was recently written up in Tipton Magazine about her unique shop on the corner of the town’s downtown historic square. When she opened two years ago, Donna named her shop Tinker and Delight. Recently, however, after her husband’s serious illness during the pandemic, Donna took time to really think about her family, her shop and what was important to her. She returned to the shop after a three-month leave, rebranded it Tinkerhouse, and drew freely from her inspiration in her own back yard, where she paints, gardens and dreams. “I needed the creative outlet my shed brings to me,” she says in the article.
A former creative director for Ethan Allen and at a boutique for many years, Donna has finely honed skills in forecasting and creating visual effects through merchandising. Her idea is to evoke a European haven for mind, body and spirit, focusing on home and garden items with local roots. Products range from whimsical ball point pens to fine vintage items and women’s clothing. Art and craft kits and lots of gardening supplies line the shelves as well.
This concept was built slowly in Donna’s imagination as she tended to her “garden folly” shed through the seasons. As she stocks her store and contemplates new products, Donna’s first thought is Tinkerhouse: would this be a good fit for creative living? “We use a lot of new and vintage garden pieces in our vignettes so it has a whimsical garden feel year round,” she explains.
Tinkerhouse Shop Tips
Here are four ideas to keep in mind when you are ready to set up shop:
Draw them in with your imagination. Donna planted a tree right within her shop and decorates it seasonally, so customers feel dazzled yet also sheltered by this unexpected sight. At Christmas, the tree’s branches are filled with lights and snowflakes.
Create little worlds. Consider re-creating the allure of a she shed within your shop. This could be in the front window or just a wall with some stained or painted siding. If you carry hammocks, ottomans or little teepees, show the customer the ideal way they can create magic at home.
“Keep shop” in your shed. We style our sheds all the time at She Shed Living, using items that are “for sale” and “not for sale.” Bring home samples, substitutes and color options; play around with them until you get a concept that is perfect for the shop.
Think local, woman-owned, small batch. Just as each she shed is unique and very personal, your products should reflect that intimacy and curatorial care. Remember to ask your product suppliers whether other shops carry the same item in your area.