Calm down, ladies. When a man wants his own space in the house — be it a cave, garage, bar, media room, billiards hall, woodshop or bowling alley — it's not a red flag indicating that he's rebelling in your relationship, trying to avoid you or shirking social commitments. In fact, having one's own personalized space is actually necessary and important psychologically for everyone.
"Space is very important for regulating emotions," says Sam Gosling, a University of Texas at Austin psychology professor and author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You. Gosling studies how space is a powerful mechanism for evoking our emotions, and he's seen firsthand how having your own space, decorated by you alone, can positively affect emotional well-being. "It's incredibly important to be in one's own space and resonate with who one is," he says.
Enter man caves. Whether we're building a boat, playing computer games, reading car magazines, listening to loud music, working on a motorcycle, or watching action movies or five sports games at once, man caves serve a basic psychological function, even if the guy is aware of it or not. And it's especially vital if the guy's emotional needs aren't being met in other spaces. (Sorry, honey, but that fake moss inside a cloche is doing nothing for me.)
"It's a way of saying, 'I love my family and flowers, but that's not what I need to regulate my emotions,'" Gosling says. "Man caves are the architectural equivalent to hanging out with your mates."
So you see? We are fragile emotional beings. We just need a kegerator (a refrigerator for a keg of beer) and power tools to cope.
When it comes to designing and decorating a man cave, Gosling says it's extremely important that there is no compromise. (Shall I repeat that, ladies? No compromise!)
That's because a space that properly satisfies and regulates emotional and psychological needs is much less likely to evolve if someone else influences the outcome.
Because women traditionally take charge of decorating a household, the main living spaces tend to regulate her emotions better than the man's. This can leave us guys feeling isolated, even if it's on a subconscious level.
"Many people are not sensitive to that," Gosling says. "I don't think people are thinking, 'I need to regulate my emotions.' They're thinking, 'I need somewhere to build my boat. While I'm there, I'm going to read the magazines I like. Listen to the music I like.' So it organically evolves."
"Even in situations where both couples have careers and the space is perceived as a compromise, it still may not be meeting the emotional needs for the individuals," Gosling continues. "Personal space is still incredibly important."
While men might be unaware of this need, it's definitely present. Kira Sterling, chief marketing officer for Toll Brothers custom homebuilders, says her company is seeing a dramatic uptick in the amount of requests for extra man space. "Men are carving out space with a lot of technology, surround sound, wet bars, exercise equipment, steam, saunas, wine bars and storage," she says. "It's almost like tree houses from your childhood: no girls allowed."
Freelance motion designer Philippe Vendrolini, who works mainly from home, turned this $13,000 backyard studio space into a personalized man cave, with a small library, a sofa and space for jamming.
This homeowner, meanwhile, wanted to use his garage as an entertainment hub where he could watch TV, serve beer, smoke cigars and easily access the backyard pool and barbecue, but still be able to store things like bikes, strollers and toys. To make all this happen, designer Kate Cullen at California Closets Twin Cities created a kitchen area for a kegerator and overhead storage for his kids' bikes and toys.
The owner even installed a one-way screen that comes down when the garage door is open so he can smoke cigars and people watch, but they can't see him.