Before we get to the good stuff, let’s talk about the history of the room we call “The Man Cave”…
I will probably lose my Lady Card for this but I feel disdain for the term Man Cave. There! I said it…And I will do everything in my power to not use the term [except for it’s presence in this article]. Here’s why: one of my greatest peeves is when I heard my own husband call the idea of his own space called a “Man Cave”. “I want a Man Cave.” It wasn’t the fact that he wanted his own space but what he was calling it. I froze; Suddenly, right before me, he became bristly, unwashed and only able to communicate through occasional grunts.. Everything darkened around us and I realized I was picturing him as one pictures the stereotypical cave-dweller. My modern man was standing at the mouth of a cave, as if he were living in a cave. 🙁 That’s when I realized there’s somewhat of a negative connotation to this term…
Some friends and colleagues like to call it a Media Room or a Family Room. I like to call it something more along the lines of what it really is, or, what it used to be: A Gentleman’s Parlour.
The Definition of a Parlour.
” A parlor (or parlour) – An archaic term within a home used for recreational indoor activities, or the entertainment of guests. Also known as the “Living Room” . Also, a room used primarily for conversation or the reception of guests : a room in a private dwelling for the entertainment of guests : a conference chamber or private reception room : a room in an inn, hotel, or club for conversation or semi private uses..”
And then there’s this…
“A Lounge – A public room, as in a hotel, theater, or club, in which to sit and relax.”
Back in the late 1800s, living in an apartment that had more than one or two rooms was BIG. The achievement of actually having a parlour room was a marker of social status. Can you believe it was evidence that you had risen above the majority who lived in one or two rooms at most? Eventually, the parlour became the room in which the world encountered the private sphere of middle class life, saw the family’s face to the world, and therefore had to be the best room where one would entertain guests in the home. This room also displayed a family’s best furnishings, their works of art and other status symbols. Sounds familiar? If you guessed it was the living room or family room, you’re right!
With the increase in the size of today’s homes compared to the 1800s, we have adapted the idea of having several parlours throughout the home. A Family Room. A Games Room. A Media Room. And finally, the Billiard Room. When we added the Billiard Room, we were exposed to a concept that allowed men to claim this room as their own. Rightfully, the sellers of billiards tables – in order to make sales – coined the room “The Man Cave”.
What do you call your own Personal Space?
In homes with ample space, we often see rooms dedicated to ladies’ hobbies. These rooms are often called sewing rooms or drawing rooms or – should I dare say it??? – A Ladies’ Parlour. How upsetting would that be to hear our personal spaces being called something less than what it is when it is directly connected to us? This is something I came to term with long ago. My husband never called my personal room anything other than what I felt was honorable. Say I’m old fashioned and I know I am; there’s a great setting for the idea that perhaps we name the room as we expect it to be reflected. This leads to the term “Man Cave”. Did we expect the men to retreat into a cave as if they were cave-dwellers? Did we expect dirt floors and rocky ceilings?
I asked a few friends about this topic. Here’s what my long-time friend Ethan had to say about it:
“I hate the phrase ‘man cave’. It feels like self-imposed infantilization, and it makes me embarrassed for people who use it sincerely. Also, there is a pretty marked association between men who say ‘man cave’ and men who are incredibly sexist… Honestly, if I hear ‘man cave’, my brain processes it as equal parts ‘romper room’ plus ‘escape the harpy room’…it is invariably a tacky, clichéd [phrase] full of some combination of sportsball references, beer references, gangster movie references, classic rock band references, and/or Harley Davidson branded nicknacks…”
In contrast, when interviewed, my friend Joe said:
“Most Men are fine with it. We all deserve a room for ourselves and it was the book Men are from Mars…that explained how much we all deserved our own space. Personally, I go into my room, listen to music, sometimes make my own music, drink a beer…admiring my favorite sports decor… Some of us have a billiard table, some rooms are for watching t.v…Close the door and leave me alone. I’ll come out when I’m ready…It has nothing frilly or feminine…The woman can have the house as long as we get one room just for ourselves…”
Yet, We All Agreed: Men are not cave-dwellers nor do they want to be seen as one.
So, why do we use it?
I never saw my husband as a caveman, cave-dweller, bat, nor anyone that required ownership of a cave when they needed space because we all need space, don’t we? Perhaps Joe stated the facts: It’s just a room where men will go to and exit when they are ready to come out. For me, it’s the word “cave”. It makes me think Cavernicola [that’s spanish for Cave Dweller]. I’m still not sure what really brought the coined phrase about but I do know that I care about how my husband feels when he is in this room – or any number of rooms – dedicated to his personal likes. I also care about how I feel about his parlour. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time in this area of our home, I find joy in knowing that the room reflects his style which just happens to work for me too.
Yay! Happiness, found! 🙂
So back to the subject: Don’t mistake a Parlour for a Lounge.
“A Lounge is a public room… in which to sit and relax.”
The same could be said about a parlour but it’s private, not public. They hold the same purpose. A place to sit, relax, entertain, play games. Men’s parlours and lounges were known as private clubs where women were not allowed. They housed liquor, billiard tables, card games, and entertainment. We can hear these terms used interchangeably. A man will call a parlour a lounge and vice-versa. And that’s okay! Today’s lounge or parlour is in the form of a room or series of rooms dedicated to the personalized style of the [home]owner who will set the mood for relaxing and entertaining. Equipped with large-screened televisions, recliners and some fermented refreshment, they are no different than the old-world lounges. Once located in someone’s home, it is no longer a lounge but a parlour.
Let’s talk about details:What Makes a Great Gentleman’s Parlour?
I’m going to share a few tips about what I think really helps make and set the tone for a parlour. It makes no difference if you have taxidermy, sports decor or a home distillery kit. Make it your own but make it work. Start with these key items and tips if you haven’t already considered them.
Color. Dark and Moody.
Don’t be afraid to add dark tones to the space. Very masculine rooms are usually darker in color since darker tones reflect strength, ruggedness and dominance. If you’ve ever walked into a dark-wall room, you’ll recall that the wall color tends to dominate the room because it’s deep, recessed and draws your attention. This allows other things to stand out in contrast which causes a floating effect on the lighter furnishings, not to mention the glowing effect of the lighting.
Wet or Dry Bar.
Barware and Cabinetry. Make sure you have an area to prepare or store beverages. Have a great supply of glasses and drinks of choice with which to entertain guests with. Keep it stocked just in case you have surprise guests.
If you have ample room, a card table is a great idea. Maybe it can even double as a dining table with a convertible top!
Because the right light fixture can really help you set a theme. In the design world, lighting is equal to color – it is everything!
Adequate and Appropriate Seating
If your sofa needs replacing, splurge on new seating. Fabric or Natural Hide, it’s a must…unless you don’t want people to visit. If you need a few tips on selecting the right sofa, this article may help.
Pick whatever size works best for your space. Add a great sound system and you’re on your way to becoming the “Host with the Most” during your favorite sports season.
…And A Pool Table.
Just in case you like to have pre-game parties. Or after-parties.
And to add a little more insight, remember what my friend and design colleague Deb says about the term “Man Cave”:
“I’ve always thought it was funny. I don’t mind it, it’s just a trend, this too shall pass… It seems to be a bucket list item for many men… and in our house…I like to use the name, because then I can then relegate the MOOSE & football decor to that room! “
Finally, One More Thing…
Why I Have a Preference to Dark Walls in Theaters, Media Rooms and Gentlemen’s Parlours, explained.
Dark walls recess, allowing everything that is on the walls to stand out. In rooms that are meant to be used in dim lighting, the dark walls disappear and create a floating effect on art and any reflective pieces in the space. This also allows any greenery to display better. It’s a visual effect that we learn to appreciate with continued use of the room. Take a look at the beautiful dark- wall rooms below and see the lighting and floating effects for yourself. No Caves in sight. 😉