Return to the Man Cave

Synthesis Design Inspiration

As a forty-something husband and father of two I think it’s about time; I need a Den.
When I was growing up, my dad always had a space that was distinctly his (although as the father of four boys he likely remembers this very differently!) In the 70’s it was a small room in the basement of our “Vancouver Special”, complete with shag carpeting, faux wood desk, typewriter, and a small printing press. The 80’s found us moving to a larger house, and Dad’s new Den was in keeping with the times. It featured “forest green” walls, an amber display computer monitor, and a dot matrix printer. Ever the renaissance man, his space was a constantly changing reflection of his interests. Over time, shelves filled with his favourite books lined the walls, and a painter’s easel appeared, signalling his debut as an artist.(4)


 Now all grown-up and working as a Designer I have walked many families through the process of deciding how a home’s space will be used. In my experience, men are usually content to let the lady of the house take the lead in these conversations as long as there is one space that will be specifically his. This could be a den, workshop, media room, wine room, or even a tool shed (ask my boss Curtis about this one curtis@synthesisdesign.ca ). These spaces are varied, but when it comes to finishing them we usually gravitate towards similar masculine elements.SONY DSC


 Everyone likes natural materials, but a guy really likes them. Spaces featuring wood, stone, concrete, glass, and steel resonate with him as these materials are used in the structure of buildings and have an authenticity he respects. Tongue and groove wood on ceilings, natural stone tiles on walls, concrete floors and fireplaces, as well as steel, glass, and leather furniture speak of comfort to him.
Although “whatever” is the most frequent response when men are asked what colour they’d like to paint walls; the request to keep things simple with neutral taupes and off-whites is a close second. Greys and browns are also colour directions we like to suggest as these elemental earth tones have an inherently masculine quality, and work well with natural materials.(1)
Although a man’s space will likely have room for that family portrait you had taken last Christmas, he also likes to surround himself with his “trophies”; even if they are electronics, rare wine vintages, cigars in his humidor, power tools, or the picture his kids drew of him for Father’s Day. Mementos testifying to personal and professional accomplishments, as well as art that is reflective of his pastimes, passions, and goals are important to him.
And what about my Den? My “Man Cave”? Unfortunately my desire for open concept spaces led to the eradication of the majority of interior walls in my home long ago. But all is not lost. For me and other spatially-challenged dads our escape could come as something as simple as a favourite chair with an adjacent bar cabinet in which to keep the good scotch hidden.(7)
Don’t get me wrong, I am still striving for that “separate” space that I can truly call my own, but for now, I will pontificate about that space in my favourite chair, with a tumbler of single malt.