Man caves may seem like a recent phenomenon, but he-men of every era have had their private nooks, from Thomas Jefferson’s elegant book-filled study to Winston Churchill’s paint-covered art studio. Mark Twain required two spaces: an octagon-shaped writing hut perched on a cliff and a billiards room. But where a man’s room used to be off limits to anyone who couldn’t grow a beard, today, men seem more willing to share their spaces with wives and children. “I designed this room, and I love spending time here, but it’s a wonderful place for events,” says one owner of his multi-room manly suite. “I built it so everyone could enjoy it.”
Interior designer Ellen Taylor, who has helped a number of local men create their spaces, is amazed at the level of detail that goes into these areas. “Men are serious about what they want, and they want their spaces to be perfect,” she says, “including separate ventilation systems so they can smoke cigars, kitchens so they don’t have to carry food up and down stairs, beautiful carved wood bars and incredible media systems.” One of Ellen’s clients has just completed an outdoor man cave complete with a wood-burning fireplace, outdoor television and seating for eight. “He likes to have friends over to sit by the fire and smoke cigars. Since he has a gorgeous golf-course view, he put it all together into the ultimate outdoor man-centric gathering place.”
He’s not alone.
“When you live with three women you definitely need your own space,” Patrick Cobb says. Now he can visit his man cave, which is a large over-the-garage space, pop his recliner back and watch sports or just listen to music.
In northeast Columbia, the expansive man cave of a real estate developer features a media room with both a ten-foot screen and a 53-inch 3-D screen, a seven-speaker surround sound system and two rows of theater-style seating. There’s also an adjoining room where the owner’s extensive collection of signed baseballs, baseball cards, uniforms and autographs are on display in glass cases. “My wife has been known to send me down here when I’m in the dog house, but I don’t mind a bit,” he says. “I spend a lot of time down here as it is. I can watch sports or movies and listen to music. I’ve even got a cassette player and turntable for old records and tapes.” While it might seem like the space is a getaway, the owner says that more often than not, his wife, other family members or a group of friends — both male and female –- are on hand for sporting events and movies. “I planned it and designed it, but it’s definitely not just for me,” he says. “We’ve held a number of parties down here.”
When Creighton and Curtis Miles purchased their Camden home, Curtis knew he wanted a space to display the exotic animal trophies he’d collected from a lifetime of big game hunting all over the world. He had his eye on a certain spot, a former garage with ceilings tall enough to allow him to mount the trophies at a height where visitors could walk through the room without fear of banging into a wildebeest. The contractor, decorator and Creighton, however, were leaning toward converting it into a kitchen. Afraid the room might slip away at any moment, Curtis took the first chance he saw. “There was a moment in their discussion when someone said that it was awfully far from the dining room,” recalls Curtis. “I knew I might not have another opportunity, so I slid in while they were figuring that out and suggested a trophy room. To my delight, they liked the idea.”
Although Curtis had help designing the room — decorator Ann Temple added cool relevant accessories like vintage hurricane glasses filled with multicolored shotgun shells, while son Joe, an international hunting guide who had seen dozens of trophy rooms, helped with the setup — Creighton stayed out of the process. “It’s his room,” she laughs. “He knew exactly what he wanted.” Filled with a remarkable array of animals, including a Cape Buffalo, a warthog, a pronghorn antelope and several species of deer, Curtis’ room is also a remarkably stylish and cozy den. Warm mahogany panels and floor-to-ceiling bookcases cover the walls, rich oriental rugs have been laid on the floors and an overstuffed sofa sits in front of the largest television in the house. “It’s definitely my room, but I love nothing better than sharing it with my grandchildren,” says Curtis. “There are 40 years of stories here just waiting to be told!”
Patrick Cobb is another man cave owner who doesn’t mind sharing his space — as long as the interlopers are Appalachian State fans. That’s because Patrick’s room, a large over-the-garage space that he lucked into when each of his daughters turned it down as a potential bedroom, is an ode to his alma mater. The walls are painted bright App State gold, and colorful decals and newspaper pages celebrating championship wins cover the walls. “When you live with three women you definitely need your own space,” he says. “I can come up here and pop that recliner back and watch sports or just listen to music. The surround sound rocks the house so much that I was afraid I’d scare the neighbors the first time I used it!” However, like Curtis, Patrick welcomes his family into his domain. “It’s mine, but it’s their’s too,” he says. “We’ve actually had a lot of fun as a family in here.”
Zach Snead has also learned to share his man cave with his two children. Zach’s space, which occupies its own building, was originally created as a memorabilia-filled haven for sports watching. “My great uncle set up his man cave in the basement,” he says. “It was very rustic, but it was his. He always told me that a man needs a place to get away, so when I had the opportunity to build this, I did.” The focal point of the room is a large mural that Zach made from original Sports Illustrated magazine covers from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Surrounding the mural are photographs, many of them signed, of Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench, Brooks Robinson and other baseball greats whom Zach has admired since he was a child, as well as a healthy dose of Gamecock and Atlanta Braves paraphernalia. The room also offers storage for hunting and fishing gear. But the pièce de résistance is the set of movie-style seats, complete with cupholders, that Zach had installed in front of the television. “They’re just like what you’d find in the theater,” he says. While Zach built and decorated the “man-ctuary” as his own private domain, over the years, it, like many man caves, has become more of a family party space than he ever planned on. “Our friends come over to watch the games on Saturdays, and the kids run around in the yard, so I know it’s just a matter of time before they’re in here, and we’re in the house,” he says. “I know I’ll come up here one day and find it full of Barbies.”
Not every man cave has the potential to be transformed into a family den. Jessica and Harper Lovelace loved a number of things about the Datura Road house that they toured during a house hunting expedition in April, but it was the home’s potential man shack space that sealed the deal for the couple. “Harper loves music and has collected an amazing amount of records, keyboards, guitars, drums, amplifiers, speakers, posters and even a few clocks made from drum faces,” says Jessica. “When we spotted that shed out back, the house went to the top of the list.” In the year since the couple moved in, Harper has transformed the shed into a multi-purpose man cave that provides storage for his various collections, a place to work on computers, a music studio and, when necessary, an alternative locale for football watching. “We had polite company over to watch the game the other night,” says Jessica. “The guys got a little rowdy. It was nice to have a place to send them where they could get as crazy as they wanted.”