The Garage as the Ultimate Man Cave

Bar with seats designed in the shape of car tires. The logo of the car company is on the floor and wall.

Garages shouldn't just be a home for your car — a garage can serve as the ultimate man cave. (Photo courtesy of DIY Network).

The garage isn't just for cars, workbenches and tools anymore.

Okay, in reality, the garage has often served many roles, from laundry room to teenage band practice zone to, more typically, just plain ol’ storage room.

But, if you’re a guy looking to carve out your own space, or “man cave,” the multitasking garage can be a great choice. Depending on your budget, you can do anything from a basic man cave design to a full-on man cave of one’s dreams — actual cars optional.

For Minnesota homeowner Doug Paape, his garage actually was all about the cars — at first. Including a man cave in his garage wasn’t really part of the original plan when building his home and garage shed. He just wanted a nice space to house and display his classic car collection.

“At first, we weren’t going to go that extreme with it,” said Paape. “But then, I thought about having a space where, if the guys came over, we could watch the game or play cards. And away it went.”

The garage evolved to include a full-sized kitchen and bar (including a built-in beer keg in a cabinet) with an adjacent sitting area with a flat-screen TV, fireplace and plenty of comfortable recliners for relaxing and cheering on the home team. “It’s been a dream of his to have something like this,” said Paape’s wife, Karen, who was closely involved with the interior design.

The Paapes worked with Mark Deichman, the president and owner of the Mankato, Minn. design-build firm, Deichman Construction LLC (www.palmharborcontractor.com) on building their house and went right back to him for the garage. “Since we’ve done this project, we had inquiries from other home owners who have seen photos of it and want something along those lines,” said Deichman. “We have one now in the design phase.”

For a home owner wanting to build (or transform) a garage into that special man cave space, Deichman said that having a budget in place is extremely important. He also suggested putting together a wish list of all possible amenities.

“As a builder/designer, it is very important that we understand what the budget is and design to it,” he said.

And home owners should have in mind how they want to use the space, whether just part of the garage or the entire thing. “Budget, amenities and size — it’s extremely important to have those in place.”

Endless Possibilities

Figuring out how you want to use your man cave and what features to include — all while staying within your budget — can be a daunting task, because the possibilities are endless.

Kay Wade, vice president and head designer of Los Angeles-based interior design firm Closet Factory (www.closetfactory.com), helps jumpstart clients’ thought processes by asking several questions:

  • What is your goal or purpose for this space?
  • What do you expect to have in the space?
  • How much will you spend in the space?
  • How many people can the space accommodate?
  • How do you like to work or entertain, e.g., seating, work benches, bars, etc.?

“We sit down with clients and decide what the goal or purpose is for the space, what they want to accomplish in the space, and what stays and what goes depending on their budget,” Wade said.

If a small budget is the biggest limitation you face, that doesn’t mean you can’t have the ideal space that you want. “Depending on the space and your budget, you can start simply and the space can grow over time,” she says.

The first step to creating a garage that is the perfect man cave would be called the dream fulfillment stage. If you don’t already have an idea in mind, this is where you need to determine how you want to use the space.

Will it be a hangout mainly for you and the guys or will it have more of a family room atmosphere? Do you get to use all of the garage or only part (because of a laundry area or needed storage)? Do you want to keep your car in the garage or use the entire space? Should the space have air conditioning and heating and can it accommodate any electrical and lighting needs (for that big-screen TV, for example)?

Once you have your ideas organized, then comes the really fun part: design and decor. Again, refer to that wish list. For instance, do you have a theme, such as cars or fishing/hunting or sports? What kind of flooring, lighting, furniture or appliances do you need in the space to fit the intended purpose?

“There are so many different options,” Wade said. “A good interior designer can help scout out special pieces to pull a room together. They can design around favorite décor pieces, as well.”

Wade added that you can easily create personality in a room with small elements that won’t break your budget. “There are creative ways to add to a look without a lost of cost. Find art pieces that fit your theme. You can add cool accessories, such as fun handles to dress up basic cabinets, or add paint for color.”

For Doug Paape, having the chance to relax in his man cave alone or with family and friends made the experience of building it more than worth the effort. “It’s been quite an adventure. Now, it’s time to slow down and enjoy it.”

Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor, with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. She covers a variety of subjects, including home-related topics. Her work has appeared in Kentucky Monthly, Keeneland Magazine and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine, among other publications.

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