Evolution of “The Man Cave”

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By Denise Smith, Design Consultant

For some, the term “interior design” conjures images of perfectly decorated homes orchestrated by temperamental designers stubbornly insisting on beauty over livability. Television has certainly done little to quell this prejudice, because—let’s face it—shows with caricatures are fun to watch.

This image is far from the truth. The purpose of design is to make a home work—even if what one household member asks for is anathema to the overall design plan of the rest. This is most apparent in the explosive popularity of “The Man Cave.”

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear a reference to “The Man Cave.” Now granted, I may be more attuned to this trend considering my line of work, but even still, it is obvious that the idea of a male-only sanctuary has invaded popular culture.

“The Man Cave” can run the gambit from an area of the home which is left undecorated to a fully designed, custom- built refuge. This masculine refuge can often be found in  the garage or basement. The overriding premise for “The Man Cave” is function over form with the specific intention of being a respite from the “civilized” (and often feminine) rules of the rest of the home.

In 1992, pop psychologist John Gray coined the term “Man Cave,” which was officially added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary just last year. However, the idea of a personal space for men to retreat goes back much further. What began as an area of the home dedicated to the workbench grew in scope and square footage over decades to become what it is today.

A fully tricked-out “Man Cave” can include a putting green, televisions covering an entire wall, and a built-in bar complete with taps. More realistically, this space is intentionally haphazard. Some couples compromise, and call a decorator, who uses a masculine theme, such as the colors and memorabilia of a favorite sports team, in a portion of the house that satisfies everyone—because, ultimately, it’s an interior designer’s job to be sure the home functions well for the entire family, whether each member has a designated space or not.

Denise Smith is the design and sales consultant of FA Design Build, a locally owned and operated full-service remodeling and contracting firm located in Woodbridge and Fairfax. The company was founded in 2004 as a subsidiary of FlooringAmerica®. You can reach Smith with your design questions at dsmith@fadesignbuild.com.


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