A lot of men like having a space to call their own and when it comes to the benefits, it turns out science is on our side. One 2010 study conducted by the University of Southern California found that men in their 30s and 40s had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they were able to pursue solo leisure activities at home. Guys actually benefited more than their female partners from having a place to withdraw from the world.
In popular culture the man cave has been alternately celebrated and mocked but the science is sound. 2015 research in the Journal of Consumer Culture backs up those earlier findings. According to a co-author of the study, men reported that their personal hangout spots allowed them to display their unique identities, relax and even reflect on their life goals.
The Purpose Driven Space
While the term man cave may bring to mind visions of a sports memorabilia, that’s an outdated way of thinking. A man cave is simply a space that is wholly devoted to your interests – it’s a place in your home where you can be you away from the constraints and responsibilities of family life.
Maybe that means sports memorabilia hanging over the wet bar but it just as easily could be a space for making music or reading. Some man caves are hangouts – a spot for that weekly poker game – while others are there just for the enjoyment of the men who built them.
So before you begin creating your man cave, think about why you’re building it and what you want to use it for.
Man Cave Must-Haves
There are a lot of lists of man cave essentials out there but these are typically exercises in stereotyping so will only work for the sports-loving dad or the dad who fishes or the beer enthusiast. A broad list of man cave must-haves is simpler but highly customizable.
Seating: A comfortable couch or recliner to kick back on is one of the most important components of a well-stocked man cave and if you’re planning on inviting the guys, make that recliners.
Décor: What are you into? Whether it’s the Lakers or literature, this is the place to put all of the memorabilia that hasn’t found a home in the rest of your house. This is the time to represent for your favorite team like the Eagles. You could head to Fanatics to get jerseys or to Neon Mama to find a nice sign for the man cave.
Entertainment: TVs, gaming set ups, sound systems, pool tables and poker tables are the meat and potatoes of the typical man cave but if your tastes run in a different direction, entertainment can take the form of electric guitars or woodworking and gardening supplies.
Refreshments: This can be a mini fridge or a full bar or anything in between, as long as it gives you and whoever you invite into your man cave easy access to drinks and snacks.
Where to Put It All
The first step to creating an awesome man cave is deciding where it will be. For a lot of guys the obvious choice is in a garage or basement, the shed or an extra room. But before you earmark any alternative space think about whether that area of your home has temperature control and proper ventilation. A man cave you can’t use in the winter or in the height of summer isn’t much of a sanctuary.
Of course, not every guy will have access to an extra room or even a full garage that can be transformed into a gaming mecca or a personal sports bar. Apartments in San Diego or New York City, for example, may not leave a lot of space for creating a full size man cave and renters will come up against restrictions when it comes to built-ins and even painting. In the absence of a “cave,” a closet or nook that’s your solo gaming, reading or creative getaway space can be just as relaxing.
Remember that a man cave doesn’t have to be expensive or a tribute to all things manly – it can just be a space to explore your interests and to express your enthusiasm for those interests. It’ll probably be the one place in your family home where you have complete control over how it looks and can recharge your batteries on your own terms.
Is that selfish? Maybe. But before you rethink the idea out of consideration for your family, consider that the men in the 2015 study referenced above said that having a space to relax and recharge made them better fathers and better spouses, too.