The Man Cave 

Like every other great idea, it started with Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip by Bill Watterson. Eager to get away from little Susie Derkins and her ilk, youngster Calvin and his best friend, the stuffed tiger Hobbes, formed an exclusive club. G.R.O.S.S., they called it: "Get Rid Of Slimy girlS."

And thus was born the current-day concept of a "man cave": a room in the home set aside for men only. Decorated to suit the man's desires. Furnished with whatever gadgets, electronics, games, game tables, pool tables, fridges, etc., that the man can dream up (and afford). Man cave: the boys' club writ domestic. Four walls with one prerequisite: an XY chromosome.

From a recent Spring Creek, Tennessee, real estate listing: a home featuring a "Spacious bonus/man cave."

Okay, I can't cite evidence linking the idea of the man cave to Calvin and Hobbes. But, if it's made its way to me and Spring Creek, the man cave has certainly seeped into the cultural lexicon.

(Of course, only a guy could come up with the idea that there needs to be a separate, private room for the man of the house — as if every other room in the household is the sole dominion of the woman.)

Thinking about making a man cave and need somewhere to start, or wanting to update your current one? There's a lot more to it than a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door handle. Before you go spelunking, you may want to seek professional help.

Lesley Samuels Marks, co-owner, interior designer, and buyer at Samuels Furniture & Interiors, talks about all of the possibilities for a man cave: big-screen TV, theater seating or recliners that hook together, chairs with cupholders, stress-less chairs (Ekornes, from Norway) that aid circulation and digestion, poker tables, billiards tables, bar tables ...

"The man may know what he wants, but he may not know all of the things that are available," Samuels Marks says. "We're here to guide people in the right direction. We want to know their wants and needs — but they may not know how to get there: floor planning, space planning, product, color coordination, where to find it, and how to put it together."

The bottom line, Samuels Marks says: "It is their room, and it should reflect them and should be what they want."

Someone else who knows his way around a man cave is Brad Parsley, co-owner of Audio Video Artistry, a company that provides entertainment and communications systems in a home. He's someone who can integrate your video and audio distribution, HVAC, lighting, security systems, pool systems, and other devices. He'll put you in a TV and home-theater system and organize it all so that you don't see the strings.

When contemplating your man cave, "A real clear vision of what you want is important," Parsley says. "So one of the first things for a guy planning a man cave is to come to a place like our design studio where you can literally see all of the options, put your hands on it, and experience it for yourself.

"There's so many different variables to a man cave that it really starts with knowing what all those variables are, choosing for yourself, and having a good road map."

A budget is one major variable to consider. Parsley jokes, "You've got to be careful with the words 'blank check' in my business." Thankfully, he says, "You don't have to spend a ton of money to get a satisfactory system."

One thing Audio Video Artistry promises is simplifying what could otherwise be a mess of wires and components cluttering the place. With a video distribution system, TVs, home theater, and other components can be centrally located. In one spot, you'll have satellite receivers, DVD or Blu-ray Disc players, and a video server that stores all of the movies that you buy.

These closet spaces can be pretty "tricked out," Parsley says. "When you open the door, you've got two or three racks full of all this gear that's meticulously wired. [The closets] get painted and trimmed out like every other room in the house. We put a lot into the wiring — it's all neatly cut to the same length and tied off for exactly that reason. Those rooms are shown off."

It sounds like a topic for another time: the man grotto. ■

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