While the origins of the actual "man cave" idea are murky, somewhere along the line someone decided that guys needed a special area to relax, undisturbed. The early man cave was probably not a pretty sight -- a hand-me-down sofa, a battered TV, and maybe an old fridge for beer and other manly food items. But now the concept (and the one-upmanship) has taken on a life of its own: You need a theme and all the latest gadgets to set your man cave apart from the pack.
There are certain nonnegotiable man-cave items, whether you're planning to recreate Yankee Stadium in your basement or focus on a state-of-the-art gaming system: a flat-screen TV (the bigger the better), a sectional couch (preferably leather) and a drinking area (well-stocked). Some sort of memorabilia collection is usually in the mix, too. Beyond that, the sky's the limit -- but if you need inspiration, here are 10 ideas to help you create your very own man cave.
Belly Up to the Bar
Drinking is the underlying concept behind many man caves, so why not be upfront about it with a full-on bar theme? This lair can take many forms. You may want to go upscale -- an Irish pub theme with polished wood and Guinness on tap, or maybe a wine cellar and a humidor. Or you may be the type to prefer over-the-top cheesy décor -- think Daytona Beach spring break, complete with neon signs, Budweiser and Swedish Bikini Team posters. Of course, there are any number of ways to attain the middle ground with the bar theme. All you have to do is concentrate on drinking and watching TV, and there's nothing complicated about that. Pool, foosball and beer-pong tables never hurt, either.
Must-have: A simple kegerator won't suffice here -- you need a full bar with at least two beers on tap.
If you're a biker, the best location for your man cave may well be your garage. There's no reason you can't spruce it up with an orange-and-black color scheme and some sweet flame detailing on the walls. You might not want (or have room for) a huge TV and couch in there, but you could certainly fit a bar and some stools into a corner for when you need a break from tinkering with your hog. If there's a reason why you can't deck out your garage, you can still work the biker look into your man cave in the basement or spare room. Again, orange and black is the way to go, and flames are always a plus -- you may want to stock up on "American Chopper" DVDs while you're at it.
Must-have: It's really best if you have an actual bike on display.
Two collections that might not be appropriate for living room exhibition: guns and dead animals. Thus, the need for the hunting lodge man cave. You don't necessarily have to be a woodsman to pull off the hunting theme, but it definitely makes things more legit (and increases the cool factor) if you actually killed those deer yourself. You can create your hunting lodge in the form of a high-end log cabin, with a roaring fireplace, bearskin rugs and lots of top-shelf whiskey, or you can go lowbrow with lots of camouflage and cheap beer in the mini-fridge.
Must-have: Did we mention the dead animals?
If you're a serious gamer, hooking up your state-of-the-art gaming system in the living room just doesn't cut it -- God forbid a child or dog ruins a session by crossing in front of you at a crucial moment. You also can't enjoy the full range of your sound system in an area where the rest of the family is trying to hang out. A man cave is the obvious solution, and the gaming options for your own private space can truly boggle the mind. No need to decide between a Wii, PlayStation or Xbox -- just get 'em all! If you have the big bucks, check out the CineMassive OmegaPlex computer screen. For $13,000, you get a 27.6-million-pixel multiscreen display that's 2 feet (.6 meters) high and more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide.
Must-have: You'll need at least two specialized gaming seats or rockers.
OK, this one may seem kind of boring, but it doesn't have to be. Plenty of guys have offices in their homes -- you might not think of it as a man cave, but isn't that exactly what it is? It might not involve a TV or a bar, but anyplace you go to be alone can technically be defined as a man cave. And there's no reason that a home office has to be a dull, sterile place. A TV may not be appropriate if you actually have to work there, but invest in a comfy leather chair, install relaxing lighting and surround yourself with memorabilia. Make it a room you like to visit instead of somewhere you have to go.
Must-have: This might be the only kind of man cave that features actual books.
We don't often think of sci-fi geeks as the manliest of men, but they need their man caves, too. Like most man caves, the nerd sanctuary is a place to show off collections and memorabilia that might not necessarily be welcome elsewhere the house. It can certainly (and does usually) feature a big-screen TV. But in other ways, the geek cave is a little different from the rest. The focal point here isn't the bar, it's the stuff: think shrink-wrapped first-edition comic books and X-Men figurines in their original packaging. And the TV is for "Star Trek," not the Super Bowl.
Must-have: The aforementioned geek collections, and a souped-up computer.
This is perhaps the most female-friendly of all man-cave themes, so if your wife objects to a room full of pool tables or Star Trek figurines, try to sell her on the tiki bar concept. Just think -- an island getaway, right in your own basement! You can still have the flat screen, the enormous sectional and the bar; it'll just involve more flowers than your standard man cave. And even if a tiki bar isn't as manly as some other themes, with the right accessories (like vintage surfboards or Hawaiian shirts for every guest) your cave could really wow people. The relaxation factor is pretty high, too -- mix a margarita, throw some Jimmy Buffett on the iPod, jump into your hammock, and you're all set for a day at the basement beach.
Must-have: You can't have a tiki bar without a heavy-duty blender for frozen drinks.
This one is pretty family-friendly, too. Who in their right mind would oppose a home theater with surround sound, motorized recliners and a popcorn machine? And yes, your mini-theater is technically a man cave, but that doesn't mean horror flicks and gangster shoot-em-ups have to be the only features on the movie menu. There's no reason you can't have Saturday-morning Disney parties or (gulp) the occasional "Steel Magnolias" screening when your wife needs a ladies' night. And you can still have your bar, of course -- it just might be a smaller, more subtle one.
Must-have: Don't settle for a regular old HDTV when you could have a projection screen.
What happens in the man cave stays in the man cave. Right? Sure, when you have a Vegas-themed space. You might want to think twice about installing that stripper pole in the corner, but a poker table (preferably custom-made) is a no-brainer. If you're really serious about poker, you can even set up a hidden-camera security system to add authenticity and keep your guests honest. Consider adding craps and blackjack tables, too -- or you can just get a pool table, stock the bar and line up a couple of slot machines along the wall, and you're in the money.
Must-have: Make this one a don't-have -- casinos deliberately keep clocks off the walls, so ban them from your man cave, too!
A huge number of man caves seem to fall into the sports-fan category. If you have any kind of sports memorabilia at all, it's probably rotting in a box somewhere if you don't have a man cave to display it in. Where else are you going to put it -- the living room? The master bedroom? We think not. The man cave is your chance to rescue your posters, jerseys and sports equipment from storage and put them where they belong, on prominent display. You can do a generic sports theme, of course, but a shrine to a specific team (or at least city) is really the best way to show your stuff.
Must-have: A multitude of signed items, and an original seat from your stadium of choice would truly be the piece de resistance.
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- Buley, Taylor. "20 Gadgets for Your Man Cave." Forbes. Sept. 9, 2009. (Oct. 4, 2010) http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/09/kindle-wii-zune-technology-personal-tech-gadgets_slide_2.html?thisspeed=25000
- Chan, Michelle. "Forget the Man Cave; Welcome to the 'Mom Cave.'" Kansas City Star. Oct. 5, 2010. (Oct. 6, 2010) http://www.kansascity.com/2010/10/05/2278754/forget-the-man-cave-welcome-to.html
- Dash, Eric. "The Steelers at the Intersection of Iron City Beer and Art Basel." New York Times. Sept. 18, 2010. (Oct. 4, 2010) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/sports/football/19cheer.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=man%20cave&st=cse
- DIY Network. "Man Caves." (Oct. 4, 2010) http://www.diynetwork.com/man-caves/show/index.html
- Electronic House. "Best Themed Home Theaters." (Oct. 4, 2010) http://www.electronichouse.com/slideshow/category/8890/1244
- Hollister, Sean. "International Space Station Gets 'Man Cave,' Robonaut." Engadget. March 28, 2010. (Oct. 4, 2010) http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/28/international-space-station-gets-man-cave-robonaut-2/
- Theo, John Jr. "Home Improvement: A Peek Inside the Man Cave." GateHouse News Service. Sept. 27, 2010. (Oct. 6, 2010) http://www.wickedlocal.com/chatham/features/x459821891/HOME-IMPROVEMENT-A-peek-inside-the-man-cave