Designing a man den
Here's how to create the perfect getaway, whether you're into sports, music or projects.
Every guy needs a getaway, a place where he can go to hang out, by himself or with his buddies. Batman had his secret cave, Superman his remote Fortress of Solitude. Well, you're not going to tunnel underground or fly off to the Arctic for your special sanctuary. But you can create the perfect hideaway within your own home. All it takes is a spare bedroom, a corner of the basement or even an attic to carve out a manly escape — especially if your idea of escaping is locking yourself in a room to listen to Miles Davis albums at floor-shaking levels, shouting encouragement to your alma mater's football team or tinkering in the privacy of your workshop.
Here we present three fantasy spaces for the modern man, complete with all the gadgets and gear a guy could want (especially if money is no object). So come on in — just don't give away the secret handshake.
1. The sports den
The guy: You haven't quite outgrown your love for hoops or video games, and Sundays are holy to you because of pro football. Whether it's March Madness or the latest action-movie DVD, everyone wants to watch it on your big screen.
The getaway: Your basement home theater has to be big enough to accommodate a crowd, but you don't want to sacrifice anything in the way of sound or video quality. That means a high-definition digital projector, a 75-inch (or larger) screen and at least 5.1-channel surround-sound speakers. For comfort, you need ample plush seating, and for convenience, a built-in bar complete with taps for your favorite suds.
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Setting it up right
Today's high-quality projectors have excellent "off-angle" viewing, which means you don't need to sit directly in front of the screen to get a sharp image. Marc Leidig, owner of Ambiance Systems in Clifton Park, N.Y., suggests mounting the projector against the back wall or in the wall cavity to avoid the distraction of a machine hanging overhead. An acoustically transparent screen, with thousands of tiny holes that allow sound to pass through, lets you install the center channel speaker of your surround system behind it, further reducing visual clutter. Leidig recommends a fixed screen rather than a retractable one. "It saves money that you can spend on other features in the room, and it performs better because it can't move around and affect video quality."
2. The listening room
The guy: Your tastes run more to single-malt scotch than malt liquor, and you want a sophisticated space to indulge your passions: vintage jazz, fine cigars and the occasional game of Texas hold 'em with the guys. You're one of the few people you know who still keep a collection of LPs and a turntable to play them on, the centerpiece of an audio system that gets pride of place in this mellow den.
The getaway: Think Edwardian library, updated for the 21st century with built-in storage for stereo equipment, sound-absorbing floor and walls, and a wireless tabletop remote control to operate everything from the music to the lighting to the thermostat.
- Design Center: Create your home theater
Setting it up right
Whether it's in a downstairs den, a converted bedroom or the attic, the key to a good listening room is containing the sound. After all, you can't crank up the volume if the kids are next door trying to sleep. The best method, says Utz Baldwin, president of Houston-based electronics installer AD Systems, is to build a room within a room, creating an air buffer zone to deaden sound. But if you're not inclined to construct a high-tech listening chamber, you can install sound-baffling materials on the floor, walls and ceiling. And don't forget to audition your speakers. "Listen to your ears, not to a salesperson," Baldwin says. Try to position your sitting area so it creates an equilateral triangle with the speakers, and place the speakers at least a foot or two away from the side and back walls for best sound quality.
3. The wired workshop
The guy: Just because you're not in the office doesn't mean you're not keeping busy. Weekends find you ensconced in a corner of the basement or in the garage, tackling projects from building flower boxes for the bay window to sharpening the lawn-mower blades in anticipation of spring.
The getaway: Since you get restless just watching other people fix stuff, the flat-panel TV is within sight of your workbench, so you can TiVo “This Old House” and cue up the segment you need. A stainless-steel fridge lets you slake hunger and thirst without tracking sawdust and motor oil into the house. Music is a must, so why not a boom box that charges your batteries? And you're going to need your laptop to download projects from online, but a wimpy one won't do the trick. This is a hard-working hangout. Things could get rough in here.
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Setting it up right
Where square footage is at a premium, "you need to decide if you want to maximize work space or storage space," says Jaime Twitchell, owner of Custom Garage Systems Inc. of Bozeman, Mont. "You can run out of one or the other in a hurry." An organized system keeps clutter in check: sports equipment and kids' stuff in one area, yard tools in another, power tools in the workshop. "Use modular cabinet systems so you're not stuck with one configuration as you accumulate tools and toys," Twitchell says. Other important considerations are lighting — Twitchell recommends swapping out hot-burning incandescents for cooler, energy-efficient compact fluorescents — and ease of cleanup. An air compressor hooked to piping around the perimeter of the room comes in handy for blowing away debris (as well as pumping up bike and car tires).