A chandelier hangs in the foyer of Robert and Michelle Hernandez's Brownstown home south of Detroit. The front room has candles on the coffee table and flowers in the corner.
Walk downstairs, though, and the theme goes from Home & Garden to Hockeytown Cafe. Jerseys and pictures of sports figures line the wall. A big-screen TV dominates the front of the room. Two smaller TVs flank a glass-block bar in back.
"It was truly a dream come true," says Hernandez, the 40-year-old owner of a blueprint firm, standing in the midst of sports memorabilia. "This is everything and more of what I've ever wanted in a basement."
With cold weather and prime sports seasons on the way, men across the nation soon will be sharing the same dream. They'll disappear on sports nights to a place reserved for testosterone-driven pursuits.
Call it the Man Cave — a hideaway where the TV screen can never be too big, the beverages can never be too cold and the home team can never score too many points.
Some Man Caves have high-tech electronics and rare sports memorabilia. Others are simply odd collections. They are all designed with the express purpose of creating a comfort zone for their owners.
Creating their own Man Cave is a dream for many men, says Mick Mertz, owner of Custom Bars by Mick in Fraser.
"People come in here even before the house is built, and the man is looking for a bar for the basement," Mertz says. "He says, 'This is my domain.' "
Shabby but not chic
George Giovanini, a retired construction worker and driver, started carving out his little piece of paradise in January. Giovanini, 57, converted an old farmhouse behind his West Bloomfield, Mich., home.
His Man Cave is far from fancy. It has a bare concrete floor and a kerosene heater.
A big black fridge, marked "ICE BEER" in yellow letters, sits in the corner. He picked that up from an auto shop going out of business.
Giovanini bought a TV for $25 from a Holiday Inn. He also picked up a discarded urinal from the same hotel. An old pool table was donated by a neighbor.
Some visitors tell him he should add carpet and drapes. Giovanini says he likes the Man Cave the way it is. "You don't have to worry about spilling drinks," he says.
Best seat in the house
Hernandez's wife, Michelle, has become a convert of the Man Cave in their home.
The couple has three sons, Jonathan, 15; David, 13; and Jacob, 10.
"Oh, I love it," Michelle says about the Man Cave. "I don't have a choice. I'm fully outnumbered in the house."
The Hernandez basement is like a mini-sports museum. The walls have embedded display cases with jerseys for Ben Wallace, Barry Sanders, Steve Yzerman and Lance Parrish.
Replica stadium seats are along the back wall, and a Golden Tee video machine is in the corner.
Hernandez started finishing the basement in the fall of 2001. He wanted a place to display his sports memorabilia and a place to watch games.
The Man Cave brings his passion for sports home. For the NBA Finals, he hosted more than 40 people to watch Pistons games.
"It's a given now," Hernandez says. "Whenever there's a big game, everybody is here."
On fall Sundays, he's usually watching the Lions on his 52-inch screen high-definition TV. Hernandez has season tickets at Ford Field, but he says the Man Cave lets him enjoy the game just as much from home.
"To be honest with you, I like it better here," Hernandez says. "I like to hear the commentary on the television."
Here's some cool stuff to consider:
Home theater: Prices for home theaters can reach into the stratosphere. (We've seen prices listed as high as $30,000.) However, even on a limited budget, you can improve your audio/visual experience. Consider giving your current TV a boost by adding one of the prepackaged home-theater systems on the market. Sony's six-speaker Home Theater in a Box with 5-disc DVD player/receiver is about $300 at www.sears.com.
Step up to the bar: If you're handy with tools, you could build a bar. If not, shop around for a ready-made one. The Portable Bar offered online for about $420 at www.target.com opens out to 60 inches wide. When closed, it can be rolled away on casters.
Deal 'em: The Poker Table Top offered online at www.walmart.com turns nearly any table into a poker table for about $38.
Perch in style: A Man Cave wouldn't be complete without a comfortable place to recline. Check out the La-Z-Boy Anderson rocker/recliner starting at $389 (prices vary depending on fabric). Visit www.la-z-boy.com for store locations.
Accessories: Add to the atmosphere with a few small items. Display books about sports teams and stars. Add framed sports memorabilia.
Detroit Free Press and Seattle Times staff