A Room of Their Own

Originally man caves were simple settings found in basements, tool sheds or garages. The purpose behind them was even simpler: A place to do what one pleased without encroaching on the rest of the home. But across Long Island, man caves have evolved to celebrate a variety of hobbies and pastimes—creating a space perfect for hosting the guys and the family.

Annemarie diSalvo, president of diSalvo Interiors in Carle Place, credits the change—from sparse décor in an unused space to luxe accommodations—to a desire for ownership within the home. “Sometime in the very early 90s, the concept of a specialty room for men started to take hold in the imaginations of men everywhere,” she said. “I think men were tired of feeling like a guest in their own homes and wanted to claim a space of their own.” As a result, the rooms became more personalized and innovative.

When it comes to creativity in the man cave, the sky is the limit. DiSalvo has seen home theaters, gyms, bars—even batting cages. “It was one of the most interesting spaces I’ve worked on,” she said. “We lined the walls and ceilings with gym mats and flew a team in from the West Coast to set up the remote controlled pitching machine. With the push of a button, you could change the height of the pitcher as well as choose between a curveball, fastball, etc. The family has three teenage boys…need I say more?”

When imagining his man cave, the homeowner should first decide what he wants to do in the room. Beer aficionados might install a full bar with taps and specialty bottle coolers. Card sharks might prefer a full-size velvet poker table with built-in shuffling machine. Movie buffs might enjoy a full-size home theater with projectors, in-seat sub woofers and even a popcorn machine to add an authentic vibe. In the modern man cave, nearly any hobby can be pursued in solitude—or with a few friends lucky enough to be invited over. “Almost every home we build in the tristate area has a space designed exclusively for the man of the house—the man cave is no longer considered a luxury or a splurge space,” diSalvo said.

If man caves are grown-up versions of a kid’s play room, then the technology included would be the toys. An acoustically sound room with high-end speakers can create a transformative experience for an audiophile looking to enjoy a collection of vintage vinyl. For a more visual experience, homeowners can choose from a robust market offering classic arcade machines. While not every budget can accommodate a luxe movie and sound experience, every space should devote some of the budget to the basics: music, TV and maybe a modern gaming system.

One of the most popular choices continues to be a home theater, especially for those who love to entertain the gang around big events like the Super Bowl or the final episodes of a TV series. Joe Calise, president of Sights-N- Sounds home theater company in Seaford, said home theaters have always been popular on Long Island, but the last few years have seen vast improvements in technology. “Many of our customers have constantly upgraded their technology because things change so rapidly,” he said.

The upgrades often come in the form of additional technology beyond Blu-ray players and projection systems. Calise said lately he has seen designs that incorporate motorized drapes, advanced lighting and thermostat control. When installing a home theater system, special consideration has to be given to lighting, heating, cooling and soundproofing.

The man of the house is rarely the only one to enjoy the space. While it’s a neat idea to call it a man cave, what fun would it be if the family couldn’t occasionally join in? Today’s varieties are designed around social interaction, meaning the layout has to be comfortable and stylish enough to host duel- gender parties. (A far cry from the man cave’s original garage and unfinished basement origins.)

Comfortable seating for a crowd is key— leather sectionals or perimeter-skimming built- in benches piled with upholstered cushions are popular choices—and everything should be centered around the primary purpose of the room, like the TV, to encourage a social atmosphere. Mobile furniture helps the design adapt as does furniture that pulls double duty, like a plush coffee table that works as a seat. A leather recliner is perfect for smaller spaces designed for solitary use.

A nearby bathroom is also helpful for keeping gatherings in one spot so guests aren’t running upstairs or into the main house. And it wouldn’t be a man cave without easy access to snacks and refreshments. Whether the homeowner splurges on a full bar or simply installs a mini fridge, keeping drinks cold (and within arm’s reach) is a must. Like a formal event, food and drink engender camaraderie between guests.

justine lorelle lomonaco

Born in California and raised in the Midwest, Justine Lorelle LoMonaco spent the last four years indulging her East Coast side on Long Island and in NYC. She has contributed to a variety of lifestyle magazines and websites and maintains a blog, StopMeIfYouveHeardThisOne.com. In her spare time, she loves reading, running and eating in her Astoria neighborhood.