What to do with the man cave?

Meet my room archnemesis - the basement, aka man cave.

Basement Before

Before a single stitch of renovation work had started, the hubs struck a claim on the space like gold rush prospector. Not only did he claim this space as a testosterone zone, he made the decor choices as well - the paint color and the flooring. Hooray for bonus space.


As you might have surmised, this is a problem room. No natural light (no duh, its underground), low ceilings, an odd layout (lots of doors and a stairway) and those inconvenient (but important) pillars that cut off the room - nuff said? Having the extra space is definitely awesome but outfitting it? Not so much.


I believe this shot, taken in 2008, was the last time I took a proper photo in here (could that be more unlike me?). After it was finished, the room got an infusion of old furniture we had from our last house (the coffee and sofa table), a craiglist find (mid century sideboard turned entertainment center) and finally a blue sectional sofa from Jennifer Convertibles.

sorry for the penguin lair angle, took a quite snap with my phone

What does this room scream to you? I'll tell you what it screams to me: BROWN! BROWN! BROWN! AH! The hubs has had his chance (3 years!) but its time I pay a little attention downstairs. It will still be his man cave but it needs some color and some fun. It definitely needs a rug. And art! And pillows (manly ones of course!)

Have you finished your basement or tackled a problem area that might lend some inspiration? Any suggestions for improvement with the existing pieces? Please share! I could definitely use the help.

Edited to add: I did post a little about the basement renovation back in 2008. Read all about it here.


  1. Melissa @ HOUSEography9:38 AM

    built-ins worked miracles in our basement space. ignore the toys!

  2. Ooooh so much potential! Can't wait to see what you do!

  3. whistlerpotpie10:46 AM

    Instead of windows, put in two giant floor length mirrors and put drapes on either side. It will add color, softness and help bounce the light around. Sarah Richardson has some great inspiration on this.  

  4. Break up the Brown: Paint the coffee table, try a smokey sage green. Find a LARGE rug with a modern/busy print and place it under the tv viewing area. 

    Rest of Room: Ignore the pillars. Add a club chair to the right of the sofa, facing the doors. 

    Have you considered adding a games area to the far side of the room? You could use a table with leaves for card games (poker night) and food serving during major viewing events (Oscars, Superbowl, etc.) Paint a table & chairs like this lacquer black to give the table and room some umph in that corner. (Also ties in with your pillows.) Put an area rung under this furniture to define the space, too.

    Between the two doors, put a console table with a lamp on it, so it can be seen as you enter the room.  Tall bookcase or two would go nicely to the right of the second door, which would also define the doors as being different. A happy place for all your travel guides? Put a long, cushioned/upholstered bench along the staircase wall (flexible seating).

    Wall behind new table (where you took pictures from) gets a BIG mirror, to make the room feel deeper and bounce light from other sources. Consider tall, leaning mirror with some architectural detailing. 

    Lighting: you have good general lighting. Now add a ceiling fixture over the table on a dimmer, for glare control with tv. Something copper or brass for some older, non-black texture? Also add table lamps on consoles for ambient light. You want options to light the room that don't include the recessed overhead lights.

    Art: SO easy! Large vintage travel posters of the favorite places you have visited. Art.com has a HUGE selection. Rich colors in a big scale with bring depth to the room. Mix these with some of you own gorgeous photos of you in some of those place around the room on tables, shelves, etc.

    Accessories: A big cosy throw for two, a stack of floor pillows, A big floor basket for travel maps/magazine storage, several stacks of coasters, some coffee table books in any subjects you love and a big tray to corral remotes on the coffee table.

    That's my 2¢ worth. Great room! Can't wait to see what you decide to do with it!

  5. First we drew up a plan of the basement - we have awkwardly placed pillars as well and the previous owners had divided the space up to create a second bedroom. We tore that wall down for more space.
    One idea we had was to create a bar area (we have the plumbing since we have a second bathroom there) that would tie in with the entertainment center. Hubs like poker so a poker table is in order perhaps with built-ins and a circular banquette. You could consider painting 2 of the walls a slightly darker shade to make it more dynamic. The below stairs area could be used with some built-ins for storage/books.
    I can't tell what is behind you from where you're taking the photo but if you built a bar there you could incorporate that pillar.

  6. Chermart11:35 AM

    I love the paint color, so soothing. Can you tell me what it is?

  7. teri mcgilvray12:07 PM

    No we haven't refinished our basement due to water issues but boy do I want to.  Is that tile on the floor or a linoleum?

    Looking forward to following your progress and getting helpful ideas.

  8. Janell12:13 PM

    Wow, actually a great space! Quite the improvement from the before. It's predictable, but the person that always comes to mind in turning limiting basements spaces into pretty fab retreats is Candice Olson, she might have some inspiration. Janell

  9. Maggie Rose12:20 PM

    What about a neutral but textured rug (like the sweater rug from West Elm)? I'd also add a chair opposite the chaise, maybe in navy (I'd say leather but black might be too harsh and brown would just be more brown!). I like vintage sci-fi movie posters for man spaces, or something else that match his interests - the movie posters have great color though and are large, and reprints are readily available. Or frame sports memorabilia in shadow boxes if he's into sports. Love Cathryn's ideas too, especially lamps on the console, a tray for remotes/controllers, and some great coasters. I know my bf has a ton of video game "accessories" so maybe a storage ottoman or chest/cabinet could help stash that away. And add some reading material for you when you want to hang out near him.

  10. Lisa Raes12:45 PM

    I have a room just like this and if my husband has his way there would be no art on the wall, as I have been told they rattle when the stereo is loud.  We also have similar floors and I insisted there be a rug to warm it up.  I brought in things he liked, pictures of his motorbike, License plate art some red and some darker colors to make it feel more like a man cave.  You can check out some of my ideas that I used on my blog.


  11. JAllen12:47 PM

    I see lots of graphic black and white in here with the blue. What about a wide-striped b&w rug to start off?

  12. I adore Disney's idea of making "manly" t-shirts into throw pillows for her husband;s space!

    Also, I think these funky leather shag rugs are awesome! http://pinterest.com/pin/218253568/

  13. Laura Metzdorff, L.Ac1:29 PM

    Some colorful wall art would lend a hand to your space, which by the way is very nice already.

  14. MrsLimestone1:45 PM

    What a great use of shelving.  I dont think we have the room or height in here for built ins without dwarfing the room further but your basement looks fab.  I wouldn't have guessed it was a basement unless you told me (and isn't that half the battle?)

  15. MrsLimestone1:48 PM

    Oh how funny Im working on the very same pillow project. Im going to do mine with interfacing to make the fabric stiffer - they look a little flimsy to me without.

  16. MrsLimestone1:50 PM

    Yea, Im thinking it needs to be broken up. Im digging this rug but Im not sure if its too much pattern - i wish the zigs were wider: http://www.rugsusa.com/rugsusa/clearancerugs/rugs-usa-chevron/beige/200HJHK04B-508.html

  17. MrsLimestone1:53 PM

    Its tile that kind of has a wood texture. It wouldn't have been my first choice but a lot of people seem to like it when they see it. I think I just have a thing against things that are made to look like other things. :)

  18. MrsLimestone1:54 PM

    Thanks. The hubs gets all the credit. Its Benjamin Moore "Metallic Silver" - but as you can tell its not metallic or silver. So go figure :)

  19. MrsLimestone1:56 PM

    Oh sounds very cool. I would love to see more.

    The area behind the couch is small and floating - so no electrical or plumbing can be run there without ripping up the floor. The hubs does have a little fridge down here for water but Im kind of stuck with its placement b/c it needs to be near an outlet.

  20. MrsLimestone2:00 PM

    Totally with you on the posters and travel items. We have a lot to drawn from there. And great suggestion on adding some metallic - its really missing a little sparkle down here for sure.

    I think the images might make the room look larger than it is. There really isn't any room for anything else in here. Would love to have room for a chair or games table but its already kind of packed.

  21. MrsLimestone2:04 PM

    I would totally love to add some big mirrors but there really isnt any room for that (unless I take out some functional furniture which the mr. will totally veto). I think the images are making the room look larger than it is. Its pretty full right now.

  22. Lavenderandlilies4:21 PM

    I think you should add a table and chairs for cards. It would help fill up the large space. I agree on the. Brown too. Hope you are well!

  23. Julia Hartman8:59 PM

    Did you already post somewhere about how you re-did your basement? Our basement looks exactly like your before and I was losing hope it would ever be a livable space. How did you do the drywall? Do you have problems with moisture? How low are the ceilings? Thank you so much for giving me hope!

  24. Pattern is needed. Perhaps in a rug, pillows and travel posters, but a jolt of color would be helpful.

  25. MrsLimestone8:59 AM

    Yes, definitely. Its totally flat now.

  26. MrsLimestone9:02 AM

    I did post a bit about it back in 2008 (http://www.brooklynlimestone.com/2008/01/going-underground.html) We have no problems with moisture or mold in our basement so finishing it wasn't as complicated as it could have been. The one thing you always have to worry about with below ground rooms is that if/when the sewage line gets clogged, it goes to its next available outlet which in our case is the toilet in the basement. Guess who had the neighborhoods sewage in her basement one day? Thank goodness it was easily resolved, before we had any furniture in here and my husband took care of everything because I so couldn't deal with that. Other than that (knock wood) we have had no issues.

  27. MrsLimestone9:03 AM

    I think our ceilings are under 8 feet high. Not exactly cavernous but certainly workable.

  28. MrsLimestone9:03 AM

    L would love a card table but there isn't really any room for that. Its not a large space at all really.

  29. Hllwnlady10:10 AM

    i think mr. limestone did a great job with the colors.. it looks amazing.

  30. Mhoffman79610:54 AM

    We had a finished basement, until Irene came to town. Now it is missing 4 feet of sheet rock all around the room and all the cabinetry, carpet and electronics went out in the trash. To me your room looks pretty good.

  31. MrsLimestone11:49 AM

    Oh that is horrible! I'm so sorry.

  32. Our Humble A{Bowe}d3:06 PM

    My hubs also claimed the basement as his man cave.  Though, he didn't care if it  looked manly.  He just wanted a kick butt sound system and tv.  So, that's what he got.  You can read more about it here: http://ourhumbleabowed.wordpress.com/category/our-house/our-theater-room/  We still have to figure out art and such, but it doesn't feel too much like a basement.

  33. S staked claim to our basement when we first moved in. I bought him a big desk, we put the second TV down there and made it very man friendly. And then he never went down there unless he was passing through on his way to the pantry. So I set up a sewing nook and started spending all my free time downstairs. I started to look at walls and ceilings and every little space, imagining how I would make it perfect. Then a few months later we decided to add a bathroom in the basement...and ended up with a complete renovation based on every little detail in my daydreams. Now I spend all my time down here; it's like a playroom...and S watches TV upstairs in the living room ;)

  34. I vote paint the tables white & add some white board & batten to the walls for some architectural fun! 

  35. Love, love, LOVE this idea!  The hubs has lots of t-shirts from different baseball teams/stadiums he's visited.  "Letterman's Top 10 for Wrigley Field" etc.  which I would love to make into pillows  (or some kind of wall art) for his baseball man cave and office.  Thanks for the idea!!

  36. What does he like? Sports? Hobbies? Travel, obviously.  Perhaps some great photos in b/w.  I used some old baseball photos for the hubs "man cave".  Perhaps, something similar.  Old photos of travel items, or trains, planes, and automobiles.  Add a globe if you go with a travel theme.  Or maps for the walls.  Is there a wet bar?  If not, maybe a funky little bar cart?  If a travel theme, maybe you could find an old airline cart to store liquor (and cigars if it's for the boys).  Love the club chair idea but I might change out or paint one or two of the wood pieces.  Wait till a rug is in place though.  Sometimes a rug can change how they feel in the room.  Leather always adds a manly feel, so maybe some pillows with leather accents.


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