Two years ago, when Sam Martin published ManSpace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory, the remodeling industry was riding high. The market is tougher now, but that doesn’t change people’s needs — one of which is a craving for a personal space. A “man space” or “man cave” might be seen as a necessity — as necessary as a new bathroom or new kitchen.

No longer relegated to the garage or dark unfinished basement, modern “man spaces” may offer a unique niche for remodelers.  Spaces should have masculine design elements,and room for grown-up toys and visiting areas. Stainless steel, dark wood, and slate create a masculine feel in this wine tasting/cigar room.
John Tsantes No longer relegated to the garage or dark unfinished basement, modern “man spaces” may offer a unique niche for remodelers. Spaces should have masculine design elements,and room for grown-up toys and visiting areas. Stainless steel, dark wood, and slate create a masculine feel in this wine tasting/cigar room.

In a recent survey by Service­Magic — a Web site that connects consumers with service professionals — 40% of respondents said they have a “man room” or “man cave” in their home; another 13% said their “cave” is in the planning or construction phase. It seems it might be a marketing niche to follow up on, especially among homeowners without children. Making It Personal

“A finished basement is a general term,” says Mark O’Grady a designer with Grossmeuller’s Design Consultants, in Washington, D.C. “But saying you specialize in personal spaces for men or women — for an individual based on his or her tastes and lifestyles — is more marketable than saying, ‘We can do a finished basement.’”

What makes a room a “man space” is subjective, but there are design commonalities: “masculine” colors and materials, room for grown-up toys — from media equipment to pool tables to motorcycles — and visiting areas. Martin’s three essentials for a man space are distinctive boundaries, unquestioned control, and room for friends to hang out. Survey respondents want space to “do [their] own thing,” most likely in the basement, with amenities such as a wide-screen TV, recliner, and surround sound. Only 19% want a “neon beer sign.”

A pool table and bar are but two amenities in this large basement makeover.
Ron Blunt A pool table and bar are but two amenities in this large basement makeover.

O’Grady designed this wine-tasting space as part of a whole-house remodel with an addition. The husband loves wine and cigars, and he wanted a wine-tasting room/cigar room in the basement because of its proximity to the outside patio. His wife’s spaces are on the home’s upper level. O’Grady used wood wainscotting, slate tile, and dark paint. “The stainless steel wine cooler with wood shelves give a more masculine feel,” he says. In most man spaces that he has designed, O’Grady says, clients want real wood that’s stained and not painted, natural stone, and darker colored walls.

A pool table was a must for Bruce Wentworth’s client. A married, retired business executive, the client had Wentworth, owner of Wentworth Inc., in Chevy Chase, Md., gut the basement to create an entertainment space with built-in TV and high-end audio system, workout room with lockers, home office, granite bar with espresso-stained wood, and glass doors leading to the outdoor swimming pool.

Fulfilling a Need

Though his firm has done a few man spaces, Wentworth is doubtful that, in the slow economy, “people will be asking for this kind of thing.”

Perhaps not projects as high-end as those shown here, but 42% of survey respondents said they would spend between $2,501 and $10,000 on their space. Though that’s still a small sum for a remodeled room, it’s probably enough to buy a man some peace and quiet, and more than a few neon beer signs.

(Hanley Wood, the company that publishes Remodeling, has a business relationship with ServiceMagic.)