Space City

Designing the Perfect Man Cave

Men ratchet up their retreats.

By Katharine Shilcutt Photography by Max Burkhalter October 31, 2013 Published in the November 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Raymond Martin didn’t realize it at the time, but he was ahead of the curve back in 1995, when he decided to include a man cave in the plans for his two-story Mont Belvieu home.

For Martin, who retired from Exxon in 1999, the bedroom-sized, octagonal space would not be just any room: the walls would be rough-hewn hickory purchased straight from a sawmill in Kentucky and shipped down to Texas; the surround-sound system would be muffled by custom baffling in the walls, floor, and ceiling; and the well-worn furniture Martin would sink into to watch stock car races on his giant TV would be what decorators would one day call vintage—in a covetous way.

The old concept of man cave as junk room—where the boys retreat to watch football and spill beer and pretzels on the couch undisturbed—is passé. Increasingly, men like Martin are trading Neanderthal for neat, creating retreats every bit as thoughtful and tasteful as the rest of the house.

They don’t even call them “man caves” anymore. Martin’s is a “cubbyhole,” one in which he spends an estimated three hours a day, where he’s “at home, comfortable” surrounded by framed photos of the custom-built stock cars he owned and raced with his friend Ken Caminiti (and still builds in his first-floor garage), the national racing awards he and the Astros MVP won, the trophy bucks they shot together.

Over in Shady Acres, Bob Morgan displays a similarly nuanced sense of caving. There, he and his friends cavort in his bungalow’s two-car-garage-cum-ice-house, or The Pour House, as it is known. Here, Morgan et al. convene every Thursday night to shoot pool, play video games, drink Shiner Bock on draft, and engage in pretty much the same hijinks one sees over on West Alabama.

Bob Morgan's friends spend every Thursday night at "The Pour House," his garage turned icehouse.

A polished maple bar arches into the concrete-floored space with an elegant swoop, while custom-made red-and-yellow patio furniture—after the Shiner Bock label—bears The Pour House name and logo. Super Bowl Sunday is an event, naturally, with the guys making a significant dent in the fully stocked bar while taking in the big game on four flat-screen TVs. It gets loud, but the party stays outside—just as Morgan’s wife likes it.

“This is definitely mine,” Morgan chuckles. “The house is hers.”

Unlike The Pour House—which is conspicuously invisible from the street—Brad Klein’s man cave is front and center, as was intended when he built the home with his wife Stephanie in 2000. It sits just inside the front door of their stately Memorial mansion. 

Called “the study”—a deceptively modest name if ever there was one—Klein’s cave is no less than a two-story, library-sized shrine to spectator sports, displaying memorabilia from Baseball Hall of Famers, Football Hall of Famers, Heisman Trophy winners and more.  All of it has been elegantly framed or displayed by Stephanie.

“I could spend money on this, or money on therapy. This is all the money I haven’t spent on therapy.” 

“I’ve been a sports nut my entire life,” says Klein, whose man cave is more or less taken over by his family when his two college-aged daughters are home. In fact, it’s where they prefer to spend their time, relaxing by the fireplace and enjoying the outright ban on all electronics. (There isn’t even a clock.) It’s the first spot guests venture into when visiting, and where friends ultimately end up during parties, marveling at the rows of autographed baseball bats, footballs, basketballs, shoes, jerseys, photographs, even guitars (signed not by athletes, but by dozens of rock stars including a Beatle or two).

On the second floor of the study, reached by a wrought-iron spiral staircase, Klein beams as he walks past a shelf holding his vast bobble-head collection—one acquired from each baseball stadium he’s visited.

“I come in here every morning and every night,” Klein says with a smile. “I use it as my retreat.” Beholding for a moment his incomparable collection and the not inconsiderable investment it required, he laughs.

“I could spend money on this, or money on therapy. This is all the money I haven’t spent on therapy.” 

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