What is a Man Cave?

A “social” man cave is a place where friends can gather for watching the big game.

A “social” man cave is a place where friends can gather for watching the big game.

Everyone needs a little personal space. When it belongs to a woman, it’s called the “house” and spreads from the kitchen and dining room to the family room and bedrooms. When the personal space belongs to the man of house, it is called “basement.” It might also be called “garage,” “attic,” “shed” (but hopefully not “doghouse”).

When a man decides to add a little comfort to his space, it may be called “man cave.” Most man caves are located in basements. They are places where men can withdraw from the home’s more formal living spaces to pursue enjoyable activities without worrying about making a mess or being reminded of all the unfinished repairs and remodeling projects upstairs.

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Two types of man caves

Some man caves or man rooms are devoted to entertaining small groups of close friends. These rooms will typically include a wet bar, fridge, a large-screen TV, and some comfortable seating. “Social” man caves make great settings for informal gatherings, such as watching a sports event or playing cards. Pool tables, ping pong tables, and indoor putting greens are also quite common in a social man cave.

The other kind of man-cave is more personal. It is often devoted to a collection or collections. Many “personal” man caves are driven by nostalgia. Toy trains, vintage cars, sports memorabilia, vintage musical instruments, and even old jukeboxes or pinball machines are common. They are places to display your favorite things without worrying about whether they will disrupt upstairs décor. Personal man caves may be devoted to gastronomic passions as well, such as wine, whiskey, and cigars.

Man cave décor

Finished basements are place to display collections and memorabilia.

Finished basements are place to display collections and memorabilia.

In social man cave designs, deep earthy colors and natural materials -- like stone, wood, steel, and leather -- are often preferred. Above all, materials have to be durable and easy to clean. The idea is to create a getaway from the fussiness that sometimes rules rooms in other parts of the house.

In a personal man cave, décor tends to be eclectic. Collectibles are often the sole decorations. Think of it as your own personal gallery of your favorite things. Maybe it’s your collection of old hand tools or of classical tin toys. Or maybe it’s coins, stamps, or old vinyl and turntables. Some shelves, display lighting, and perhaps a worktable are all you need.

Of course, there are as many approaches to designing a man cave as there are men. A quick search of the internet for "man cave ideas," “best man caves,” or “man cave pictures,” will turn up dozens of examples. Some are, admittedly, somewhat cave mannish, including walls covered by taxidermy, racks of NFL football helmets, and hundreds of old license plates. Others are quite refined and devoted to limited-edition lithographs, sipping aged port and smoking fine cigars.

In the real world, however, many man caves are often assembled from no-cost, “found” materials and used furniture. The idea of spending money to decorate a man cave defeats its purpose!

Must haves for a basement man cave

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