Theodore Roosevelt had his trophy room, George Bernard Shaw a summer house that revolved to catch the sun and Thomas Edison a library complete with bed.
It wasn’t just Virginia Woolf who wanted a room of her own. Men, too, have always hankered after their own space – be it a shed at the bottom of the garden or a gentleman’s study.
In recent years, designers and architects have increasingly been commissioned to create so-called “man caves” in the home: rooms that are a designated male space fitted with everything from DJ booths to cigar humidifiers, wine fridges and bespoke pool tables.
Caroline Takla, managing director of The Collection LLP, a London property-buying consultancy, says segregated space within homes is on the rise and describes one masculine room filled with furniture made from different aircraft parts, including a desk from a Boeing 747 engine cowling and an armchair made from Spitfire fuselage and leather.
“There is an increasing trend for men and women to live separate lives under the same roof and the desire for a man to have his own space is just as popular as it is for women to have a dressing room,” she says.
“We have found that the discovery of a man cave can secure a purchase. The wife might make the overall buying decision, but finding a man cave, which gets the husband excited, can be the icing on the cake.”
Laurence Bray, a guitarist with the band The Pre New, has recently set up PYLØN with five other musicians, artists and designers, sourcing and selling furniture designed to appeal to men. He has a list of ingredients for the perfect masculine space: some original art, at least two pieces of classic furniture – such as a 1970s Falcon chair, antlers, chrome-and-glass tables. And strictly no cushions.
“Cushions or pillows represent rules. They’re always perfectly placed in your aunt’s house, there’s no room for them in a man den. Get a luxurious rug instead,” he says. “When you have a wife and kids, your own space can get diminished and we felt it was important to provide men with a place to buy the furniture they want.”
Nasser H Al Ansari, a Qatari businessman and chairman of the franchisee Octagon International Qatar, has a man cave which was designed by Katharine Pooley. It is, he says, the ultimate male idea of luxury.
“It is the only room in the house that is completely mine so I wanted it to be as masculine as we could make it. In Qatar men and women entertain separately so it’s the perfect environment in which to entertain my friends for hours on end. It has everything I need including a bespoke bar, billiards table and Wurlitzer jukebox.”
Lochie Rankin of Lichfields, a property search company in central London, says that now cinemas and bars are commonplace there has been a push towards rooms that are more than just a quiet hide-out. “These include tables for wine tasting with temperature-controlled storage that wouldn’t be out of place in high-end restaurants, cigar humidors and bars.
“Generally, these rooms will be painted in a darker palette, combining materials such as suede and Alcantara on the walls, leather seating and walnut or mahogany woodwork and classic movie posters.”
Interior designer Maurizio Pellizzoni, director of the Chelsea-based MPD design practice, was recently given free rein to design a “playroom” for a 25-year-old client who had just bought a five-bedroom house.
“We created a purple pool table and a bar and painted it in dark masculine colours with black wallpaper and a grey sofa. There is often so little room for a man in a house and they are trying to find their own space to go away from the family – whether it’s a study or a playroom.
“Often it’s set up as a study. Adding a bar can be a common feature and there has to be a desk, although it’s not really there for work.”
Alan Waxman, director of Landmass property developers, has recently finished one man cave which included a wine fridge, a waterfall, a large television screen along with sunken seating and a fireplace. The coffee machine was built-in and there was even a Gaggenau cigar box. “Often we add bookshelves to give a library feel. Or perhaps a gym area, and there has to be really good surround sound,” he says.
A sound system tends to be one of the key requirements, but it must not interfere with the decor. Simon Williams, of London-based Olive Audio Visual, was asked by one client to install a DJ booth and sound system as well as a drop-down cinema screen and projector.
“The visible equipment had to fit in with the aesthetic of the Italian design team and we had the speakers custom-finished in the precise RAL colour of the walls,” says Williams.
Daniel Kostiuc, of London design company Intarya, has worked on several projects where the technology had to be concealed. “We have had 95-inch televisions hidden behind panelling and even a fully stocked bar complete with fridge, sink and shelves for snacks. Full automation is also popular – to control blinds, lighting, air conditioning and audiovisual equipment, all from an iPad.”
When it comes to paint, while dark tones are always popular, Kostiuc has recently started using richer colours such as navy and emerald green. “We try to steer away from classic brown and towards dark furniture rather than dark paint to create a masculine and calm environment,” he says.
Men are generally drawn to a structural approach and take hotel suites and bars as inspiration, says Sharon Elalouf of Ash Design London.
“They like Poliform wardrobes and built-in desks. The finish is very important – lacquer, leather and crocodile skin with black-and-white photography. We use olive greens, browns and duck-egg blues and furniture from Vitra, Smania, Armani and Edha.”
Massimo Minale, of Buster + Punch, whose designs have included a bespoke bar and a leather-and-brass reading chair, says the main aim is to create a masculine space within a house. “We don’t want to be stuck in the basement and hidden away. We long for islands among the family where we can express our personality,” he says. “I can often be found in my wingback chair, which has a dedicated reading light and high sides so I can hide in plain sight with a whisky and a book.”