Don't call it a "man cave"
We deserve better. We deserve a study.
It seems to be a universal truth: as men reach a certain age, they need a little corner of the world to call their own, a place to retreat to and keep all their silly little obsessions. It takes different forms in different parts of the world: a shed out back, a barn, a garage, but the newest iteration seems to be known as the "man cave."
Personally, I hate the term. It brings to mind images of surplus neon beer signs, gigantic TVs, disused foosball tables. It's a term that, if not perjorative, is at the very least dismissive; it sounds like a place to regress, not a place to relax. A man cave is where one goes to indulge one's baser tendencies, not a quiet spot to escape from the world's noise and contemplate one's place in all of it.
I do, in fact, have such a place: the back bedroom in the downstairs of our house. It's the only bedroom on the ground floor, and the smallest, and I claimed it as my own before the papers were even signed on the house. One hundred and twenty square feet, crammed full of all the stuff I just won't live without.
Starting at the door, to your left you will find a large set of shelves on the wall, on which reside the bulk of my model car kit collection, and a few choice classic '80s RC cars. In front of this shelf is an Epiphone Les Paul Studio on a guitar stand, with a small VHT tube amp next to it. Next to the shelf is an antique rocking chair that has been in my family for at least 120 years; it's a good spot to sit and noodle around on the guitar.
On the wall adjacent to that is a long workbench, set up for building model kits and RC cars. I try to keep it as neat as I can, but at any given time it's usually covered in parts from whatever the current project is, as well as tools, bottles of paint, etc. Shelves above and drawers below hold more model cars.
On the third wall is a window, and next to that is the computer desk where I'm typing this now. It's a big old thing that's designed to fit into the corner of the room. It houses two computers, two monitors, a laser printer, a small bookshelf stereo system, a turntable (conected to one of the computers, so I can rip vinyl records to MP3), about a third of our vinyl collection (the rest is upstairs where the "good" turntable is), and an original 1978 Mego 2XL toy robot.
The fourth wall is all books. I actually need a bigger bookcase in here. It's crammed full of sci-fi novels, old textbooks and reference books, auto repair manuals, Time-Life home repair books, Dungeons & Dragons books, and more.
And that's where the term "man cave" falls flat. Books. No TV, no mini-fridge, no posters of bikini-clad women holding footballs, not even any video game consoles. I have books, and projects to build with my hands, and a place to sit and read, and a place to sit and write. So there has to be a better name for it: a study.
That's it. It's my study. That's the tone I'm after; that's how it feels when I get to spend time in here. I'm studying. It might be researching the details on a '58 Edsel dashboard so I can get the details right on a model; it might be looking up the lyrics to a Procol Harum song I can't quite make out; it might be marveling over the world-building skills of Neal Stephenson. And I might do all those things with a beer in front of me, like I have now.
But I'm not retreating. I'm studying.
This is my study.