Usually when we hear about this idea of a “man cave,” we hear it from men looking to dominate a space entirely. Our minds instantly go to those days of guys back in the dorm, who could hardly keep their half of a 150 sq. ft. dorm room clean, let alone a room designed entirely for them. We imagine wall to wall pictures and posters of sports teams, trophies, drinks and clutter taking up all the tablespace, a bed that hasn’t been made since move-in, and a general untidiness.
So many times, we find this space occupying the depths of the basement, the trenches of unfinished garages or a small room furthest from the rest of the public living areas. This space is often so disconnected from the rest of home, both in design and in proximity, because it is the one room that most homeowners feel they can tackle themselves and because it is the one that they don’t expect to keep clean and orderly like the other ones.
Let’s break down this “Man Cave” idea a bit more.
Q: Do we think this space is gender-based, meaning that only a man needs his own space?
A: HELL NO.
Some men feel a need for a room to disconnect from the ordinary for personal time and space. Women have that same need but culturally, we rarely hear about the idea that women might need a “cave” of their own.
I’ve heard some clients who are seeking this type of space ask for a space to perform a specific function, whether it's for private in-home retreat, for projects, for reading or just a meditation area, the truth is that women are just as much in need of a “man’s cave” but many times, that need gets completely overlooked or negotiated away for the betterment of the whole family.
The “Man Cave” is given a creative license to be completely different from the rest of the home because it is serving the functions of one particular person, as opposed to functionality for the entirety of the family - it seeks to give us thought for the rest of the environment, it seeks to give us privacy, and it seeks to provide us with the exact role we want it to. Let’s describe this space in the way most Harry Potter fans might understand- The Room of Requirement.
When we enter this space, we interact with it differently than any other user ever will, especially when it’s designed by you and for you. We understand the functions this room needs to offer for us, whether it becomes a mental health room or just a room to hang out alone. In each direction, we often think of encountering this space by ourselves, or maybe with one other special guest.
This is a room meant for privacy, a sanctuary meant for freedom from the rest of the world/ life that has us outside of our comfort state. So, we should treat it as such, BUT nowhere does that say that this room must be free from design and good consideration. Let me walk you through some things to consider before you tackle your “Man Cave” space.
Design with the functions your space is calling for. The main reason these types of space exist is to provide its user the benefit of having a space they feel comfortable in. This should be affecting all areas of your “comfort” level- physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I recommend sitting down and thinking about what this space wants to do for you - what kind of feeling do you want to have when you enter/ use the space? What kind of result do you want to come out of the said room? What type of activities are you going to be doing to achieve these desired effects? Once we’ve broken down the functions we want this space to offer, we must think about what goes into that space to inspire those functions?
Make it personal. This is a space that usually designates its own sort of creative freedom, completely unique to the rest of the home, but I don’t think we have to let that freedom run us ragged.
So many times, I find or hear of this space just turning into a catch-all sort of room. If you’re designing the rest of your home with your style and desires in mind, you should be looking at carrying that through all the spaces of the house including the “Man Cave.” In the same way that our style can dictate the type of lifestyle we want, this room’s style will dictate the kind of self-healing and meditation from the rest of the world we seek. Now focus in on the exact actions you want this space to be able to house: theatre room, yoga zone, Sunday night football, sewing & crafting, computer gaming, etc. Break down the uses of this room.
Most of the times, though we may achieve a level in life to have a “Man Cave,” we don’t necessarily have the largest space to make our own and to house everything we want it to. Once you’ve broken down those uses, think about ways you can achieve those actions. Can you use the same desk space to comfortably sew as you can to comfortably play computer games? Can the seating area house your personal theatre comfortably, as well as provide a good area to nap/ meditate in? Is your furniture flexible enough for you to use the space for yoga comfortably? These are all good thoughts to be pondering when trying to figure out your “Man Cave.”
Though this is a room that may find its way out of the Remodel Budget, it’s often not a bad idea to think of some ways that space can be designed while at this stage. Maybe it calls for some harder surface items, like cabinetry to house all your artwork or your movie collection, maybe it's a large work surface, or hell, it may just be paint/ wallpaper application.
No matter the extent to which the design budget allows for this room, think about the materials at play in the rest of your house. Why are you using them in other areas and not in your own space? Why are you using it in those other areas? Does it make sense to include it in this room? What is the material providing me via my sense? And if any of those questions find a similarity to why you need a “Man Cave,” then it may not be a bad idea to find a way to use that product in your space. It’s dual function at this point because 1) it is blending the two spaces and allowing them to be more in the same design style/ direction and 2) you’re supplying yourself with another product/ material that can help you achieve the desired effects of visiting this room.
Provide yourself the right space to achieve your desired outcome. Just as true as this space tends to become a catch-all room, so too does it often become overcrowded very quickly. Whether its due to our ability to continue to find more ways to pile useless stuff into space, or it’s due to our declining abilities to maintain the cleanliness of a room, we don’t want to turn what is a positive environment into a negative one.
Whatever desired to wish we want this room to help us achieve, we need that to put off a positive vibe as opposed to a negative one. For some people, this means cluttering the space with all our unique possessions that mean something special to us. I will say as nicely as I can, that you sadly need to choose your favorites.
Sometimes, seeing all our worldly goods around us can give us a sense of comfort, but at the same time, it can also remind us of the congestion and clutter of the everyday life we are trying to actively avoid when we enter this space. Think about choosing the most important pieces and spacing them around the room in a balanced fashion - give these pieces room to breathe and stand on their own artistic value rather than the one you give them.
You’ll see this will give it more power when other can see why it's so special for you. Also, make sure you give yourself enough room to do the activities you want to. Is it really going to be that escape you need if you can’t watch the tv/ game/ movie without being able to fully sprawl out and get comfortable? Are you going to have enough clearance room on your desk to manage this craft-job? Do you have enough room to move comfortably and free from obstructions? The last thing you want to do is clutter a space to do all the things you want uncomfortably as opposed to giving yourself the room to do a few important items the most comfortably.
The Man Cave in each home is always going to be a unique room for each homeowner. Whether that space is for a man or woman, we all need to recognize the importance of providing ourselves a space to unwind and disconnect, a place where we can find meditation and peace from the rest of the world. We all do this through our own specific actions, but the key is to design it.
Don’t allow the room to become a clutter-all of unused goods and furniture items; be honest with your needs in this room and design it accordingly. Sure, comfort does not need to have the same price tag in this room as it does in the rest of the house, but it deserves just as much thought and contemplation. Provide yourself with materials and furniture and art that are all going to inspire the kind of outcome you need this room to provide.
Let this be your new Room of Requirement!
By Jake Neidlinger, Staff Designer