THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Modern day cavemen
By Roger Greene
Just like the living room or bedroom, man caves are becoming a staple in households across the nation. They can be a planned part of new home construction, take shape in a refurbished basement, or be built in a converted garage.
Wherever their man caves are, homeowners expect them to be the center of attention. A place where friends and family can gather, forget the stresses of the daily grind and celebrate the things that make life worth living.
"I was inspired after we had a western-themed murder mystery party at the house," said Matt Lowenbach of Pawleys Island. "We had the garage done up like an old western saloon and a friend and I started talking about how we could use the space for other events. I got the go-ahead from my wife and soon we were turning the garage into our man cave."
"I always wanted a place where I could have friends over and hang out," said Hagley resident Matt Pugh, whose refurbished basement doubles as his hideaway. "There aren't many basements in the area to begin with, so that alone makes it kind of unique. We put on the television and the stereo, turn on the neon signs and it is just like being out somewhere. We always have a good time."
The growing popularity of man caves was illustrated in a recent poll by ServiceMagic.com – an online home improvement site – where 40 percent of respondents said they already had a man cave and another 13 percent had started building or developing ideas for their own rooms.
Former NFL player Tony Siragusa and contractor Jason Cameron host a popular show dedicated to man caves on the DIY Network and ManCaveSite.org allows visitors to view rooms from across the United States.
Sports play a central role in many man caves with allegiances showcased for geographic favorites such as the University of South Carolina or Clemson, to teams that have a more national appeal like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.
Accessories range from the elaborate – mini replicas of the Red Sox's famed Green Monster in Fenway Park or the Cubs' classic Wrigley Field scoreboard – to the more basic such as game-worn jerseys from favorite players or collections from marketing campaigns like Iron City Beer's celebration of the Steelers excellence in the 1970's.
ManCaveSite.org lists the definition of a man cave as "a dedicated area of the house, such as a basement, where a man can be alone or socialize with his friends."
While some adhere to that seemingly male-only credo, others take a more liberal view toward admittance.
"We're known around the neighborhood as the garage bar," Lowenbach said. "We have an open-door policy, anyone can come anytime we are open."
Having a sports theme is also not a hard and fast rule, perhaps best illustrated by Prince George resident Rob Honeycutt. Honeycutt's man cave is actually two rooms, a home theater and a separate bar area.
The home theater features a 14-foot screen and a state-of-the art Creston home-entertainment system. Nine suede and leather recliners offer comfortable viewing and the theater area is capable of seating 18.
Though the NFL package is available, the room is not strictly for viewing football.
"We're having our first annual Indigo Film Festival this year," Honeycutt said. "It's a collection of short, amateur films my friends and I have put together. And we watch a ton of concerts in here. We're fans of groups like Rush, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.
"Being in here for a concert is a million times better than being there in person."
The entrance to Honeycutt's bar area is adorned with 500-year-old doors that were once used in a Chinese castle. Once inside visitors are greeted by a wall display from the Academy Award-winning film Gladiator.
The room's dark mahogany wood and brick blend perfectly with the display and guests can take a seat at the bar or at the Texas hold'em poker table. The poker table and the televisions behind the bar provide entertainment and Honeycutt will often perform on the room's piano.
"We've had people over for things like the Super Bowl or New Year's Eve," Honeycutt said. "Friends can come over and bring their children and know there will always be plenty to do. Being here is more convenient than going out."
Entertainment options in Pugh's man cave include a pool table and X-Arcade gaming system.
Pugh and a friend bought the pool table when they were in their teens and it has been through several phases in appearance and several residences before taking on its current look and finding its permanent home.
"It's hard to believe at one time there was plywood tacked to it and that battery acid had taken off the felt," Pugh said. "We've spent some time fixing it back up. We put on oak rails and added new felt. I'm glad we've found a place where it can be used instead of being stored in a garage or a tool shed."
The X-Arcade's joystick controls and action buttons are familiar sights for those who grew up going to an arcade. Furthering that effect is the display Pugh built for his gaming system. He painted an old storage cabinet to resemble the arcade games of yesteryear and installed a television screen inside that creates the appearance of a monitor.
Game options like Pac Man, Space Invaders, Galaga, Defender and Joust add to the throwback effect.
"It will play more than 800 games," Pugh said. "People who see it love it. It's all the games they grew up with."
Those who appreciate vinyl will also enjoy Pugh’s retro look. Old record albums adorn shelving next to the room's sitting area, which also includes a television and fireplace.
"I've got the Doors, the Rolling Stones, pretty much anything people want to listen to," Pugh said. "My favorite thing is probably the fireplace. You get that going on some of the cold nights we've had recently and that really takes the chill off."
The walls of Pugh’s man cave feature pecky cypress paneling, the floor is dark tile and the red oak circular bar is backed by a cooler built into the wall. A covered patio with the mandatory grill is built off the room making for ideal warm-weather entertainment.
"It's a fun place to be," Pugh said. "Something is always going on."