- - Thursday, October 13, 2011

Remember Archie Bunker’s chair? No one other than Archie himself was allowed to sit in his armchair on the hit 1970s television show, “All in the Family.”

While today’s elaborate “man caves” may be a tad more luxurious than that armchair, Bill Millholland, executive vice president of Case Design/Remodeling in Bethesda, said Archie’s chair represents that character’s version of a man cave.

“A ‘man cave’ is basically a space in the home that is the one place that the man of the house controls,” Mr. Millholland said. “If you think about it, particularly in the home, so much of what we do is dictated by women. So a man cave can be any room in the house that is designed to meet the individual taste and interests of the male homeowner. It’s almost more mental than architectural because what it is and where it is depends entirely on the individual.”

Mr. Millholland’s man cave is a first-floor room that might once have been identified as a den or a library. He uses the space for working, reading, surfing the Internet and relaxing away from his wife, daughter and two female dogs.

A man cave can be either a room for solitary pursuits or a more social space for casual entertaining with a male orientation, such as a game room or TV room with a bar for Sunday football marathons.

“There is no typical man cave because this type of room is very personalized,” said Richard Rossi, a designer with Rill Architects in Bethesda. “We’ve incorporated everything from the more common elements like bars, game tables, TVs, gaming systems and wine collections to more unique elements including a smoking room, a gun room, fly-fishing equipment, even an aviary.”

A smoking room, typically geared to cigar smokers, is often an addendum to a wine cellar and includes a humidor for the cigars. The advantage is that the cigar smoke can be confined to one space rather than permeating other rooms in the home.

Mr. Rossi said one former client wanted a man cave - in the master bath.

“We had designed his-and-hers bathrooms and he wanted a television with a lounge chair in his along with the more traditional bathroom fixtures,” Mr. Rossi said.

While the term “man cave” is relatively recent, Mr. Rossi said the idea of a man cave goes back centuries.

“A lot of men used to have an office or a den in their home, typically a place with a big desk, a leather sofa and maybe some bookcases, all fairly dark and masculine,” Mr. Rossi said. “The kids were not allowed to play in there and this was first and foremost a male retreat.”

Lynni Megginson, a design director with Virtual Golf Girl in Gaithersburg, specializes in installing perhaps the ultimate man cave feature for some men: a virtual golf course.

“In the D.C. area we are not blessed to live in a climate where we can golf all year, so when a client requested a golf simulator for her husband, we designed an entire basement room around it,” Ms. Megginson said. “You need a big space for this, because you have to have a 9-foot-by-12-foot screen or larger for the golf-course projection. Honestly, a virtual golf space is more like a man cavern than a cave, because the minimum space you need is a room that’s 15 by 20 feet and has at least 9-foot-high ceilings.”

Ms. Megginson said owners can play 18 holes in one hour by themselves or they can make this a group activity to play with friends in person or virtually with others who have the system.

“The room can double as an exercise space because you have to have lots of open floor space when you are playing the golf game, but we also commonly put in some furnishings and accessories to make it a comfortable place to relax,” Ms. Megginson said. “The golf simulator costs about $50,000, but a completed room with the simulator and accessories can cost $150,000 and up.”

A man cave does not have to be as glamorous and costly as a year-round golf course. Mr. Millholland said the ideal man cave is a little more low-key, because a space that becomes too grand, with a big-screen TV, a pool table and a bar becomes the space that everyone in the family and the neighborhood wants to enjoy rather than a personal retreat.

For many men, the garage becomes a man cave, either as a place to tinker with a car or to set up a workbench for projects.

“You can add a TV and refrigerator in the garage to make it more comfortable to hang out there longer,” Mr. Millholland said.

Other options for man caves that are more low-key include a basement room that becomes the TV-watching space, with perhaps a bar and a game system.

Mr. Millholland said man caves sometime come into being as a side note to another remodeling project.

“When we build a deck and remodel a kitchen and expand the family room, then existing spaces sometimes get repurposed,” Mr. Millholland said. “If the family room off the kitchen gets bigger, than the basement recreation room becomes more available for a man cave. Most men want the best for their family, so they are willing to take the leftover space for themselves.”

While a man cave with chintz fabric and pink walls would be unlikely, the concept of a man cave easily can be translated into a personal space for anyone in the family.

“Everybody ought to have a room in the house that is theirs alone, where their chair, their stuff will always be there and always be untouched,” Mr. Millholland said. “As life becomes busier and more complicated, it’s just nice to have a space to relax and recharge.”

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