While the first “man caves” were quite literally actual caves, for today’s man fortunate enough to have an entire space dedicated to his favorite things, these rooms or even houses have evolved into specialized spaces designed to show off a particular design style.

A man cave can be created within a large garage space, the basement, or a “Shouse” and is focused on an individual hobby, whether that may be cars, sports, hunting or fishing. All ages appreciate the man cave concept, whether it’s teenage boys wanting to play video games or those older showcasing a garage filled with antique cars, boats or snowmobiles.

“Generally, a man cave is a way to hang out with your hobbies, and the furniture, walls, and décor reflect these interests,” said Derek Lee, co-owner of Lee Custom Homes.

Lee Custom Homes have designed several man cave projects throughout the years, with one being the “Boathouse” located on the north side of West Lake Okoboji. This home was built in the “Shouse” style, which Lee said combines living space, storage and a workshop.

“The Shouse is a shop house built more like a pole barn with tall ceilings and big doors, with the top space considered a house or living quarters and the bottom portion is the garage,” Lee explained. “For some, the house and living quarters can be a primary residence, while for others it’s a part-time place that can be used on the weekends or for their vacation.”

Clear-span trusses provide flexibility for the building design of the Boathouse, as there are no interior load-bearing walls aside from where trusses are connected to exterior wall columns. The entire building is filled with wide-open space and high ceilings, perfect for the equipment storage and workshop on the ground floor. The outside uses timber framing and I beams and the front appears like an old store front. The shop side uses painted gray wood, while the living space is natural cedar that was left raw and will eventually turn gray.

The Boathouse was initially built to store the family’s boats and snowmobiles in one location. The living space is on the top floor, which includes two bedrooms, an open concept living room and kitchen, laundry and bathrooms. There is also a balcony on the second floor, providing the owners with outdoor space to relax and enjoy fresh air.

The garage is split in two, allowing three vehicles to be kept on one side and is highlighted by an old sailboat at the entry. Flipped upside down and on the ceiling, fishing baskets display the lights. The larger storage room uses high galvanized ceilings and white steel walls to allow room for the boats and other equipment. Both spaces are heated and include trough drains in all the bays. There are stairs splitting the two rooms on the ground floor, leading up to the living quarters.

“There are several really neat features displayed in the garage, with one being a salvaged 1950’s freezer door. We found five old fire doors from a factory originally operating in the early 1900s, two of them are oversized sliders allowing the owner to open or close the space depending on what they want,” Lee said. “My brother Dan found the doors at Bower Brother Salvage in Minnesota. We sandblasted them and added matte clear coats, so the original finish remained. One of the hinged doors came with the original frame and hardware, allowing us to recreate sets for the other two doors. We then had a custom track made for the large sliders. They were unique finds and were perfect touches to this project.”

This Shouse enlists 16-foot side walls and 14-foot doors, using shiplap wood artificially aged and wainscoting for the walls in the main living quarters.

“We wanted to make the wood look it had been there awhile,” Lee said. “The wainscoting profile we chose was really popular in the 1940s, so that was also a fun addition. We enjoy using different quality materials that aren’t used every day.”

Another accent wall upstairs uses a material that appears like corrugated aluminum with barnwood studs.

The top floor is covered with windows, bringing in lots of light throughout the day. There isn’t a lot of art included and the cabinets are black, keeping with the man cave theme. The ceilings are white, and the kitchen walls use a tile that appears like brick pavers, and the owner built the railings for the open stairs with galvanized pipe and shelf brackets in the kitchen.

“The entire Boathouse was designed to be simplistic and minimalistic,” Lee shared. “We incorporated a balance of light and color to keep the home from being too dark but still stay masculine.”

The bathroom stands out with blue subway tile. The bathroom fixtures use external wall mounts to create an older look. There are port holes cut into four of the doors, following the owner’s nautical theme without going over the top.

The 16 step lights lining the stairs were salvaged from an old ship also found at Bower Brother Salvage.

“My brother Dan found them, and it was the perfect number of lights to include along the steps in just the right places,” Lee said. “The railing is thick rope, staying with the nautical style.”

While this man cave was larger than some of Lee Custom Homes other projects, they have all followed the same concept.

“It’s a place to hang out and be with your friends,” Lee added. “When you’re deciding what you want, think about what the space will be used for, how long will it be in use at a time, and include your hobbies.”

For instance, for a project Lee Custom Homes renovated in Spencer, they transformed a basement into a teenage boy hangout. One section included space for gaming and watching movies, while another area made room for a pool table and air hockey. Room was also added for food storage and snacking.

“The family wanted a safe space for their kids to hang out and be with their friends,” Lee explained. “No matter your project, there are simple ways to make a man cave budget-friendly and comfortable and fun for everyone.”

For those into gaming, then the budget needs to possibly include projectors and audio equipment for surround sound. Some people may want theater seating.

“Several things to also consider is whether the man cave will only be used for entertaining friends or just to showcase and work on hobbies. Is your space going to be in the basement, garage or its own building? If you’re going to use it as a vacation home different amenities will be required and that makes a difference in how space is divided,” Lee shared.

Most of all, consider your hobbies and what you enjoy in your spare time. Make your man cave fun and comfortable—a place for you to relax and forget about life’s crazy!

Lee Custom Homes is available for all building needs, ranging from new construction building to renovation projects, handling all aspects of the job, from the designing to the building. For more information, contact Dan or Derek Lee at (712) 339-1997, find them on Facebook or lchomesiowa.com.

Staging and interior design by Midwest Modern and
Nichole Johnson Designs.