If the idea of installing a man cave in your den feels similar to welcoming a grizzly bear into your home—a rumbling, dank-smelling beast of a room that you plan to quietly shut the door on and pretend doesn’t exist—let us assure you: a liberation of the man cave is well underway.
In an effort to reclaim the man cave, it’s being reimagining as a high-tech media room or low-tech library that both you and your other half can cuddle up in. To kick start the re-do, we’re rounding up the less-than-proud moments unfinished dens (read: one-time man caves) are known for—dim lighting, thumb-tacked art, the mini fridge—and swapping them out for their super chic alternatives. To get our list of man cave make-over essentials, read on.
Trade Bare Basement Walls for… Paneling
The first thing a den make-over warrants? Finished walls. Nothing says hibernation hide-out like exposed sheet rock or a shotty paint job, and to be real, a media room should really have a little more finesse. To the rescue? Custom paneling. Walls armored in wood—whether they be done up in picture molding or wainscoting—look instantly more polished and lend a bit of needed gravitas.
Also Consider: Crown molding. In architectural dead-zones, crown molding is the ultimate “crowning touch.”
Trade the Recliner for… A Leather Arm Chair
In a media room, you’ll be asking a lot of your furniture: comfort, style, and endurance, to name a few. Which is why that ramshackle cast of furniture you’ve been harboring since college isn’t going to make the cut. That said, we totally get that parting with your bachelor and bachelorette-days furniture is tough, so start by introducing a piece you won’t be able to help but love: a buttery leather arm chair. Leather is an easy-going material that only gets better with age, ticking boxes in both the style and low-maintenance departments.
Also Consider: Mohair. The perfect mix of glam and rugged, mohair furniture is the epitome of easy luxury and feels anything like man cave furniture. Bonus: It’s also durable.
Trade Novelty Lighting for… Statement Lighting
Despite the lava lamp’s valiant efforts to masquerade as a legitimate light source, it’s really not. Our suggestion? Ditch the novelty lighting for statement lighting. A sputnik chandelier won’t necessarily entrance you for hours like a lava lamp, but it will instantly upgrade your space. If you’re worried about losing some fun vibes, a retro glass mushroom lamp is a playful alternative.
Also Consider: Industrial stage lighting. A stage spotlight is super dramatic, but still has a fun factor.
Trade Bare Floors for… Sisal Layered with Rugs
Be it bare concrete or shag carpeting in a noxious hue, nothing makes a space feel subterranean like sub-par flooring. For a quick facelift, roll out a thick mat of sisal carpeting in your den. A natural fiber, sisal will absorb sounds and ward off evening chills. That said, sisal can feel a little rough underfoot, so overlay it with an area rug if you prefer something cozier. A bold-striped kilim can add graphic appeal and a touch of softness.
Also Consider: A Hide Rug. Also perfect for layering over sisal, hide rugs are resistant to staining—cue those beer-sloshing touchdown dances.
Trade Dim Lighting for… A Cinema-Like Palette
It goes without saying that a media room will double as a home theater, but that doesn’t mean the sole lighting source should be the blue, fish tank-like glow of the TV. Instead, make sure your space has ample light (rig up a dimmer if there’s any grumbling from the peanut gallery), and try a dark, moody color palette. Colors like navy, soot gray, and chocolate brown impart a cozy feel.
Also Consider: Black and white, another palette both sexes can get behind. It can be paired up with accent colors like ochre or emerald for a bit of zing.
Trade Tack-Riddled Posters for… Framed Vintage Posters
Sports memorabilia or rock posters have a reputation as man cave art, but you don’t have to drop your poster habit altogether. Vintage movie posters decked out in sleek black frames become instant collector’s items, with bonus points for foreign film renditions. Some things to keep in mind? First, if your space lacks windows, try oversized framed posters—they’ll hark back to vintage movie theater art and give the impression your space has windows. Secondly, when in doubt, go with classic photography, as a retro photo of The Stones or Dylan could make even a pup tent look chic.
Also Consider: Pop art. Since media rooms spend a good deal of time with the lights dimmed, pop art can provide a well-needed “pop” of brightness.
Trade the Mini Fridge for… A Bar Cart
We get it, game days passed in front of the big screen call for libations of the ice-cold variety. But the mini fridge? Well, that’s nothing to celebrate. If you can factor one into a hidden nook, go for it, but if it’s going to be doubling as a side table, consider swapping it out for a bar cart with an accompanying ice bucket. In addition to being mobile, a brass or wood bar cart will put your bottles on display, making for a classy moment. You can even top one with a table lamp, if space requires your beverage station to do double-duty.
Also Consider: A wine fridge. So much sleeker than the mini fridge, a wine fridge is perfect for storing celebratory bottles. In fact, break one out to toast your new (decidedly un-cave-like) space for all to enjoy!