Man cave, man space, mantuary: whatever the moniker and whether in a home or a more public venue, these bastions of blokey retreat are undergoing a serious designer makeover.
Boasting fit-outs that are strong and definitely not the silent type, they're now morphing into multi-purpose retreats.
The global evolution of the prestige man cave can arguably be traced back to the establishment of London's exclusive Soho House in 1995. Hospitality interiors locally are currently following suit.
The Stables is the first members-only club ever to be located at Sydney's Royal Randwick Racecourse. A genteel watering hole, it's designed for relaxation on both race and non-race days. Nostalgic interiors by acclaimed design firm Woods Bagot evoke the elegance of an 18th century private gentlemen's club of the type that was central to the life of British upper class men.
“References to horse stables have been created through raw materials and leather-upholstered furniture with detailing that alludes to saddles and bridles,” says senior interior designer Linda Boronkay.
Larger spaces are divided into more intimate areas, including a reading room with bespoke chess and backgammon-patterned tabletops.
One of the latest commercial players in the trend towards masculine-centric design is The Dean in Providence, in the US state of Rhode Island. A hip, old school-meets-new-school hotel, it's housed in a historic building that was once a brothel.
“The Dean's aesthetic takes cues from boarding schools to traditional gentlemen's clubs, with simple architectural spaces enhanced by warm textures and luxurious materials such as leather, wood, stone, cashmere and flannel,” says designer Ari Heckman of ASH NYC.
While the white doonas may be perfectly fluffed, there's not a frill in sight.
Individual design muscle
Men are also flexing their individual design muscles, with the latest data from Roy Morgan Research - taken from a sample of 2519 Australians between April 2013 and March 2014 - revealing males comprise 40 per cent of early adopters of home interiors trends.
David Moses, the managing director of building company Horizon Habitats, says many men are time poor and too exhausted to regularly go out and kick back after hours.
He is receiving an increasing number of requests for private spaces in the home that contain all the bells and whistles for downtime escape.
“In many of the houses we're building [across Sydney and the NSW Southern Highlands], we're incorporating dedicated man caves that include things such as climate- and humidity-controlled wine cellars; tasting benches for cheese and wine; humidors (for keeping cigars fresh) plus home gyms, sauna/spa/steam areas. There are also theatre rooms with drop-down screens, surround sound, soundproofing and some caves even have golf simulators,” Moses says.
It's not only at the pointy end that this transformation is occurring. Sydney interior designer Kate Abdou of Designer Man Cave says men are increasingly appreciating stylishness in the areas of fashion, grooming, travel, food and wine, and consequently becoming braver with interior design.
Abdou specialises in creating masculine spaces inside everything from backyard sheds, home basements or office areas to entire bachelor pads.
“For men who spend a lot of time working or travelling, it's important to have a fuss-free, practical place for recharging the batteries,” she says. “I help with the overall design direction or simply offer information for those wanting to tackle their own cave makeover.”
Queensland and LA-based designer Mark Gacesa of Ultraspace agrees that men are becoming more sophisticated and astute in all lifestyle areas, including interiors.
Gacesa's aesthetic leans towards slick new age, rather than the vintage look. “I've recently designed some incredible 'E:Spaces' - entertainment spaces for the modern gent specifically intended to impress,” he says.
“Naturally, a bar is always top of the list but it can't be a regular-looking bar, it has to blow the mates away. Often, too, a lot of effort is put into the overall lighting design because that's where you really get to show off with things that aren't normally found in a regular room. A back-lit blue wine wall to give a nightclub-type vibe, for instance.
“In larger spaces I've even been asked to include a dance floor for when the rules loosen up and the girls are invited in for a party!”
By contrast, John Black of northern Sydney has a unique take on the man cave. The retired engineer/IT professional has created a family history room.
“It's a place to display artefacts, paintings and family photos,” he says. Like The Stables, where the members' restaurant contains a large cabinet de curiosites inspired by Victorian drawing rooms, Black's cave has a cabinet containing mementoes of his own life, such as sailing trophies sitting alongside items such as his father's World War II medals.
“The room is a physical representation of my past and present. It invokes special memories, links me to both my present-day family and my forbears and makes me proud to be a sixth-generation Australian,” he says.