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Quick - to the man cave

Quick - to the man cave AKRON, Ohio - Geico was right. Cavemen still exist. They're the beings who seek refuge in their own private realms, who retreat to the bowels of their homes or the shelter of their garages in search of a place where men ca...

Quick - to the man cave

AKRON, Ohio - Geico was right. Cavemen still exist.

They're the beings who seek refuge in their own private realms, who retreat to the bowels of their homes or the shelter of their garages in search of a place where men can be men.

They are the man-cave dwellers.



Man caves are male hangouts, grown-up versions of the Our Gang guys' He-Man Woman Haters' clubhouse. Not that their owners hate women, mind you. They just like escaping now and then from frills, flowers and other feminine touches.

Man caves are an antidote to female design domination, said Jason Cameron, co-host of the DIY Network series "Man Caves." "When they're part of the equation," Cameron said of women, "they take over the rest of the house."

But a man cave gives a guy a place to relax and be himself, a place to hang the deer heads or display the hubcap collection. It's a place where design rules don't apply. "It can be a disaster in color if he wants it to be," Cameron said.

And it can be as simple or elaborate as the cave dweller desires.

Sean Whitlam's man cave is his basement - or, more specifically, a basement room outfitted as an amateur recording studio. Whitlam and his wife, Christina, recently had the lower level of their Fairlawn, Ohio, home remodeled to include the studio as well as an Irish pub, a TV room, an office area and a mini-man cave, a playroom for their 14-month-old son, Conor.

The whole basement has man-cave possibilities, with such testosteronal touches as a dark oak bar rail and a flat-screen TV atop an electric fireplace. But this is a space the whole family shares - except for the music studio, that is.

With its superinsulated walls, acoustic panels and exterior-type door to muffle the sound, it's a place where Sean Whitlam can retreat by himself or with a few musically inclined friends to make music without jarring the rest of the household. Whitlam, who played in a garage band as a teenager in Medina, Ohio, and in a couple of bands while at Ohio University, said he likes to grab a few minutes when he can to pound on his drum set, pluck the guitar or play with his computer's recording software.

"It's a lot of fun to just toy around with," he said.


The room's rust-colored walls are decorated with album covers such as Wham!'s "Make It Big" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller." A figure of Queen singer Freddie Mercury, a favorite of Whitlam's, tops a set of shelves. "I said, 'Wow, that can go right down in your studio,'" Christina Whitlam recalled with a laugh.

Utilitarian space

At the other end of the man-cave spectrum is Ken Pecnik's former carport, a utilitarian space he enclosed and outfitted in simple man style with a wood-burning stove, a small flat-screen TV perched on a wall shelf, and speakers to pipe in music from a stereo in the adjacent garage. The seating is appropriately unassuming: It's the third-row seat from his Chevy Suburban.

The floor is particleboard, except for the brick under the stove. The light bulbs are bare. And the artwork (featuring wildlife and nature, of course) was nailed to the wall right through the frames.

It's a place where visitors leave their pretensions at the carefully crafted cedar barn doors, which Pecnik and a friend built.

The outside of Pecnik's cave gives no hint of the rough space within. The front face of the garage and carport are deceptively charming, with shingles on the gable and a flower box under the window.

Pecnik, a painter and building contractor from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, uses the room as both a hangout and a supplemental workspace. "If I want a saw in here, I can just roll it in, use it and roll it out," he said.

And on Thanksgiving, it was an after-dinner gathering space for his male guests - something that didn't sit well with all the women, Pecnik said with a smile.


But he knew from experience that his cave wasn't a place for the female gender. "I've had some women come in and say, 'What's this?'" he said. "They want to bring in love seats."

The male-only aspect is the whole point of a man cave, DIY's Cameron said. All that matters is that the cave reflect the interests of its occupant. Sports bars and game rooms are big themes, he said.

Contractor Ray McElroy, whose Ohio Basement Finishing Co. in Coventry Township created the Whitlams' basement hideaway, has built cigar lounges with huge air extraction fans and a theater complete with marquee, ticket booth and a ceiling dotted with fiber-optic stars. The Whitlams' space would have been complete, he teased, if it only had a putting green.

Apparently there's a desire for such spaces. McElroy said that since he started running a newspaper ad promoting, simply, "Man Caves," he's gotten quite a few inquiries and is working on estimates for 10 customers.

Part of the appeal, he said, is that a man cave isn't on public view. A home's formal rooms may need to be kept clean, he said, but a man can make a mess of his cave and just leave it that way if he wants.

That's not to say a man cave should be a hovel. Because McElroy specializes in basement rooms, he always starts with a dry basement so there's no dampness or musty smell. He uses paperless drywall on the exterior walls to prevent mold growth. He also adds acoustical insulation in the ceilings, and he sometimes even sandwiches two layers of drywall with soundproofing Green Glue, to make sure any caveman commotion doesn't carry to the rest of the house.

After all, what happens in the man cave should stay in the man cave.

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