Five things every man cave needs

Men, is it time to build the man cave of your dreams? After all, you really need a quiet place where you can think deeply on important matters.

By which we mean, of course, that you need a place where you, your sports-crazed buddies, and your comfy sofa can hang out in the house. Well, maybe it's finally time to convert that junk-stuffed garage or basement, or even the unused den, into a man-space of epic proportions.

Lisa McDennon, an award-winning interior designer in Laguna Beach, Calif., has designed many man caves, from lounge and cigar room lookalikes to sports and gaming retreats, and she understands why men prefer to dwell in caves.

"I think it's really important for men to have their own quiet, personal space that they can retreat to at the end of the day or on the weekend. A place where they can watch sports or play their video or casino games, or just hang out with friends," she says.

Finally - someone who understands the delicate needs of men!

Now that you have a really sound rationale for having a man cave, all you have to do is build it. But before you go hanging up flat screens and dragging in keg-o-raters, consider these smart strategies for a successful room-to-cave transformation.

Find the Right Space

Like the men who hang out in them, man caves can take on a variety of personalities, says McDennon.

"Some are dark and moody. They make you feel like you're in a club or a lounge," she says. "Another kind [has] all the games: a pool table, a bar, gaming tables, maybe a slot machine or pinball machine. It's a more active space. [Some] are focused on memorabilia or collections."

Whatever your preference, McDennon says that garages and basements are great rooms to convert to man caves. "I think the lack of windows in a basement or garage is a benefit because it's already dark and cave-like. It's also separated from the house by a wall or can even be far from the house."

[Got the perfect basement for your man cave? Click here to find a contractor for the job.]

Additionally, garages and basements often already have water and plumbing, which can be used for a bar, she says. And if you're a gearhead, a converted garage is perfect for parking an accent piece like a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Create the Right Lighting

Since the first man illuminated his cave with fire, lighting has been a main focus of any subterranean dwelling - modern-day man caves being no exception, says McDennon. "Lighting is key. You could design a great space and if it's not lit well, you've blown the deal," she says.

She says that for dark spaces such as converted garages and basements, a combination of lighting is important. You'll want to use recessed lighting, lamps, and chandeliers. "But avoid the typical decorative pendants over the bar or the pool table," McDennon says. "In a man cave you want something a little more hip and cool. I would say think outside the box."

One new trend is LED strip and dot lighting, she says, which are about an inch in diameter and can be installed in the ceiling over a bar. LED lighting is also very efficient - freeing more funds for other man cave essentials, like beer, pizza, and cigars.

She adds that creating good lighting, especially in barren garages and basements, can be a challenge to do yourself because it requires installing new electrical wiring, which is not the safest DIY project. Because of fire and personal injury dangers, as well as code restrictions, McDennon suggests calling on a professional to get the fire started in your cave.

Install the Right Flooring

Spills happen. But in man caves, spills happen a lot. So you'll want a floor that both looks cool and is easy to clean. That seems important, as less time cleaning means more time spent on man cave stuff like watching sports and, uh… spilling things.

"A really cool floor that a lot of guys tend to gravitate towards is a porcelain tile that looks like wood," says McDennon. For one, it's bulletproof. And it's hard enough to drive a car on, so it's perfect for a garage conversion (in case you - or future owners - want to commit sacrilege by converting it back into a garage). "It's also really easy to clean, so spills are easy to deal with," says McDennon.

If you'd rather have carpet, McDennon says there are some really cool stain-friendly materials that allow you to express yourself - in a masculine way. "There is a product named FLOR, which is modular carpet squares," explains McDennon. "If you stain it, you just peel it up and stick a new square down in its place."

And while modular carpet squares are fairly easy to do yourself, there are some issues to consider with other flooring choices, such as wood and tile, says George "Geep" Moore, a contractor and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

[Need a hand installing a new floor? Click here to find a contractor in your area.]

Many types of adhesives need temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees, Moore says. Cold air can stop the glue from drying properly, resulting in a bonding problem. Since garages and basements tend to be colder and damper than the main house (and strangely cave-like?), Moore recommends having some way to heat the space and control drafts before installing the floor. Or swallow your pride and do the one thing you hate doing: Ask for professional help.

Set Up Audio and Video

Let's face it: The main reason most men crave a cave of their own is to blast music and have the boys over for the big game. Which is why high-definition, big screen TVs with digital cable and sports packages are almost a given, says McDennon.

She also says that when installing your equipment, it's cool to hide as many components and as much of the wiring as possible. This could mean having a motorized screen that descends from the ceiling or a giant flat screen with hidden components and wiring running inside the walls.

"If you're converting a garage or basement that hasn't been completely finished off with drywall, it's a great opportunity to get all the wiring done before you put the drywall up," McDennon says. Special drywall can even hide speakers within the wall.

If you choose to finish off your basement with drywall, you may want to consult a contractor, says Moore. Although it violates the man code, he admits this project is difficult: "Getting the seams right [where the pieces of drywall meet] is not easy."

Get the Right Furnishings

No matter how comfy that tattered old Barcalounger is, it's about as stylish as a donkey in clogs. But if you think embracing style in your man cave means giving the cold shoulder to comfort, McDennon says to think again.

"You don't have to have a cup holder in a chair in order for it to be comfortable," she says. It’s more important that your man cave match your personality and the activities you'll be using your man cave for. "You can and want to create a balance between comfort and style," she says.

One way to do this is to incorporate memorabilia or collectibles as part of your man cave style. McDennon says if you do this in a polished way, with display cases or even nice shelves - as opposed to just dumping the stuff in every open space - it creates a theme to the room that reflects your personal interests. The added bonus is that your significant other will likely be relieved the football shrine is finally out of the family room.

"Too much is too much, though," she cautions. Having any sense of style in your man cave will require you knowing when to let go of some things.

But the Harley can stay, of course.