Originally Posted by The Globe
To the man cave!
More than ever, the indigenous New England male seeks a place where he is free to just act like a guy
By Kate M. Jackson, Globe Correspondent | February 4, 2007
After graduating from Bentley College in 1996, Larry Cannalonga moved to "Man Town." Reluctant to give up the college lifestyle, he and 11 buddies rented out a 12-bedroom house in Waltham -- a former nursing home -- and moved in together. For more than two years, they lived out the habits of the indigenous New England male: hanging out, watching the Red Sox and Patriots, drinking beer, and eating take-out every night.
"We all pitched in for a pool table, a big-screen TV and a jukebox," Cannalonga recalled of life in the "508," as they called it , after the house's street address. "It was a great time in our lives."
Like his buddies, Cannalonga moved on, and out. Now 32, he is married with two children and lives in North Reading. But he recently found himself missing the spirit of his old crash pad; it was time, he knew, for a man cave.
Dingy basements, chilly garages, a beat-up den, or even an oversized mud room, the "man cave" is a designated area in a home for all things mannish -- or, boyish, depending on your view. Mythologized in beer commercials broadcast during weekend football games, the man cave is a place where guys are free to smoke cigars, fart, yell at the TV, or indulge in other guy-like activities .
For the Super Bowl today, Cannalonga's former housemates will be among the 50 or so guests enjoying the game in his new man cave, complete with supersized television and a wet bar.
It used to be that Dad would toss some chewed-up old couch next to the furnace, watch football on a 16-inch TV with a wire hanger for an antenna, and refresh his beer from an old frig that had to be cinched shut. Those musty lairs of yesterday, however, have been replaced by grown-up playrooms more fit for king than caveman, outfitted with home theaters, media rooms, or recording studios, wine cellars or a barroom, gyms or a workshop that would make the TV carpenters jealous.
"Caving is huge," said Chicago real estate broker Mark Nash. "Buyers are looking for homes that have -- or at least have the potential for -- a personal, dedicated space for one person in a household -- most often the man."
Nash recently commissioned a report, "What's in, What's Out with Homebuyers in 2007," that surveyed 923 real estate agents, brokers, and industry executives nationally, and which found that upscale garages and basements are an amenity of choice now.
Indeed, Home Depot is "seeing a lot of male customers purchasing larger outdoor sheds for use as entertainment rooms or workshops rather than just storing tools," said company spokeswoman Nicole Hunnicut.
The home improvement store also recently launched a paint line called "Team Colors" where customers can purchase paint in the exact colors of their favorite sports teams, she said.
Television's DIY Network has a special airing this spring, "Man Caves," featuring Tony "The Goose" Siragusa, a former NFL player whose colorful afterlife includes stints as a game-day on-air commentator, host of a big-time party Super Bowl weekend, and restaurateur and ribs aficionado.
In Siragusa's outsized description, a man cave is no place for anyone but, well, a real man.
"Women have taken over the rest of the house. We're teaching guys how to create their own spaces," he said. "If you're the kind of guy who gets pedicures, we're not coming to your house. The man cave is a true man's space and the d?cor is non negotiable."
Siragusa spoke in North Reading in December, where crews from DIY Network were beginning a makeover of Cannalonga's basement. The show selected him as a candidate based on the recommendation of an old friend of Cannalonga's whom he had let crash at the 508.
With six of his 508 buddies on hand, the show's crew began carving out Cannalonga's vision of an ultimate man cave: a home theater with recliners, gym, parquet floor, bar, and, best of all, barstools fashioned from the old yellow seats of the original Boston Garden. Cannalonga also recently rescued the 508's old jukebox from storage and gave it a permanent home in his new cave.
"I'm really lucky. I never could have done this on my own," said Cannalonga.
The increase in upscale man caves may be due to the rise of the do-it-yourself movement, and introduction of state-of-the-art electronics, such as plasma screens and souped-up appliances like personal vending machines.
Not that it's anything new that men want their own, er, space.
"Women call each other on the phone to chat. They get together for dinner," said Jim Twitchell, author of "Where Men Hide." "Men don't do this. When they get together, it has to be focused around some kind of activity like watching a football game, going golfing or fishing. That's why so many of these man caves are focused around men's interests and activities."
While moving into their Duxbury home , Bruce Fenton's wife found a drawing that he had made of his "dream home" when he was 11 years old. The drawing included a "cave-type" space even back then.
"Batman has the 'Bat Cave' and Superman has the 'Fortress of Solitude' so I guess it's something that appeals to many," said Fenton. "We start with tree forts, cardboard box houses, and eventually move on to bigger and better toys."
Fenton, a new father, is converting his basement into a home theater and martial arts gym. He jokes with his wife when a pink wreath or bouquet creeps into "his" area, but takes his space seriously.
"Women don't seem to get the man-cave thing," he said. "It's kind of like when I owned a '67 Mustang -- about one in 100 women liked it but about 99 in 100 men liked the car."
Larry Wentworth began transforming his dank garage in Hanover into a top-notch workshop last year one wall at a time. Wentworth, a fishing enthusiast, makes custom wooden fishing plugs and wanted his own space to work in, listen to his iPod, or hang out with his friends, a posse of local fisherman who call themselves "The Shacknasties."
"It started because my fianc?e really wasn't crazy about me hanging a mount of a trophy striped bass in the house," he said. "I also like to hang up my fishing lures with sharp hooks and there was no place in the house for that either."
Wentworth's man cave, a work in progress, now features a wood stove with brick hearth and new, large windows that bathe the interior in natural light. In other words, it's no longer so . . . cave-like.
"Men are tired of wandering in the wilderness," said Sam Martin, author of a new book, ManSpace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory. "They no longer want their spaces to be dark and musty. The cavemen are evolving."
? Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.