In recent years, popular culture indicates it has become fashionable for a man to have a personal dwelling around or within his home beyond the usual living room or bedroom. Thus we have invented a place dedicated solely to the tastes and comforts of an individual. A private retreat from chores, everyday stresses, and even the demands of our beloved womenfolk. The man-cave.
The subject of many an Architectural Digest article, the meat and potatoes of numerous DIY episodes, subject of mystery to the fairer sex, there is a set of principals and basic standards for a man-cave that go largely overlooked.
When I think of a genuine man-cave, I think of my Great-Uncle’s den. A small doorway just past the kitchen, his was a brick walled, dimly lit room that smelled like pipe tobacco and old paper. Glass cabinets lined the left wall, holding books, pistols, and trinkets acquired from a lifetime of worldliness. In front of each was a waist-high sturdy wooden workbench with reloading machines and vices; the tools of a firearm aficionado.
There was plenty of seating, aside from his personal recliner, a small fireplace for comfort, and a large window overlooking the back yard. Next to his chair was a small end-table covered with stacks of old magazines, pens and pencils, and bits of paper with notes on them.
It was a small, cozy room dominated by the things that meant the most to him. In this era, especially now, where so many of us just want to get away, there are some finer points we can take from Uncle Mike’s man-cave.
First, make sure your man cave is a place where you do something. Uncle Mike would clean and work on guns, reload spent rounds, and have Sunday evening discussions with my father and uncles, and now, my cousins and myself. A bright room with flashy colors and decals designed as a shrine to Superman becomes more of a gallery and less of a personal space. It’s good to walk through with the rare (if interested) house guest, but it offers little in the way of practicality unless there is some sort of activity that you can do there that you couldn’t do anywhere else.
Secondly; while a man-cave is generally a semi-private place, this does not make it an exclusive place. It is understandable if you prefer not to have children invading your desk, jumping on your couch, or breaking your something-0r-other from that place with the thing, but prohibiting all others from entry makes you look like a bully on a jungle-gym. Accept that you will have company beyond your buddies at some point: the fact that you have a man-cave at all will deter those who know better than to intrude.
Third–and this is a difficult line to walk–your man-cave should not be filled with piles of useless garbage. Clutter and other forms of mildly organized chaos will accumulate on their own over time, but baseline cleaning should never go out the window. If you’re finding half finished projects with no hope of completion or notes that no longer hold any meaning, discard them. It is certainly your space and you’re welcome to do with it what you will, but remember that you aren’t guaranteed to be the only visitor.
Fourth; your space should make a statement about you and not be you trying to make a statement. Specialized design and extravagance is acceptable only so long as function and purpose are not exceeded by them. An astro-turf carpet and hundred dollar mural of a hole on St. Andrews might look pretty snazzy, but when you’re looking for a comfortable place to have a drink and watch whatever game you enjoy, spending unnecessary amounts of money on a manufactured atmosphere can cheapen the joy of a private haven.