It's easy to throw a dart at the term "man cave."
Aren't they the basement hideaways where wall-mounted jackalopes, oversized recliners and Dallas Cowboy cheerleader posters are considered symbols of good taste?
When the Kansas City Star's lifestyle staff decided to have a "Man Cave Madness" contest coinciding with football season, we knew we'd see some of those characteristics. But what we weren't expecting were how ceilings, walls and floors -- mere rooms -- could show such passion and personality. We were so utterly charmed by the attention and care to detail that this became our contest criterion: Does the cave truly reflect the man?
The latest furnishings include:
Tricked-out sofa. The Transformer sofa by Lane ($1,260) recently hit the Nebraska Furniture Mart showroom floor, said sales manager Misti Raven. It features automotive-inspired seat design, power adjustable headrest and reclining, illuminated cupholders with smart-touch technology for cold ones, a hidden storage arm for remotes or peanuts, a drop-down table with overhead lighting, two AC adaptors and two USB-port plug-ins. Yes, matching loveseats and recliners are available. The only feature missing is a cooler, but a sofa by Franklin includes that.
Big TVs. The Sharp 90-inch (you read that right, a 7 1/2-foot wide screen) is the largest LED television available ($10,000), Raven said. It's high-definition and 3-D ready.
Convenient urinals. Without installation, your no-frills basic white model starts at $150 with sophisticated models at $850 and higher. A few pluses: Urinals cut down on water use significantly (toilets typically use 1.6 gallons of water per flush) and there are no fights stemming from leaving the toilet seat up. Your local hardware store should have all the parts you need (or at least be able to order them).Bruce's Palace
Description: Part of the reason Bruce Hubert made a man cave was to turn his Kansas City, Mo., home's unfinished basement into a less-scary space for his wife, Arlene. Mission accomplished. Ceiling joists and concrete floors are left exposed. There's a 200-gallon aquarium, a 70-inch TV, a pool table, a dart board, a bar, a hockey table, a train set and 1:24 and 1:32 scale race tracks with hand-painted pit crews and lights for racing.
Decor: The coolest aspect of Hubert's man cave is he made most of the details by hand, using his imagination. He spent weeks crafting, feather by feather, an eagle that's the focal point above the bar. He hand-rolled sculpted grapes for a vine that surrounds the bar. He sculpted the octopus flanking the aquarium and the Greek ruins inside the tank. And he made the snake surrounding the dart board. He's also built miniature versions of Arrowhead, the "K" and Union Station. And he made artwork, including Egyptian-style masks, paintings of playing cards and a jazz scene.
Next up for Bruce's Palace: an interior water garden; a spot to keep baby koi from his outdoor water garden alive in the winter.John's Garage Mahal
Description: John Stuerke's man cave is a 50-by-30-foot detached garage with reclaimed wood siding interior walls and a tin ceiling from a barn he deconstructed. The floors are shiny clear-coat concrete. This cave has a 52-inch plasma TV shadowed by a large mounted elk. "Of course I only hunt at auctions," said Stuerke.
Decor: Vintage signs galore -- including 1950s restaurant menus and lighted beer advertisements -- dot the walls and ceiling. Furnishings include two sofas: One is a converted rear quarter and trunk of a 1967 Chevy Impala. The 8-foot-tall Frankenstein is upstaged only by the flying mannequin.
Stuerke has hosted many events in his cave, including a sumo wrestling birthday party, a wedding rehearsal dinner and many games on the big screen. Even zydeco musician Chubby Carrier has played there.
"It's my Mississippi juke joint tucked into south Kansas City," Stuerke said.Dan's Cove
Description: Dan Uche of Kansas City built his outdoor man cave in 2009 after his wife, Marcy, asked him to build her a pergola to cover part of their back-yard patio. A small group of friends helped build the shack-style man cave out of spare parts, including metal railings salvaged from Uche's dining room.
Uche's "cove," as he calls it, includes two bars, two full beer coolers, cable TV, a sound system, side shutters, ceiling fans, pergola and an attached deck.
"I feel like when I'm in here, I'm on vacation in the Bahamas or Jamaica," Uche said.
Decor: Beer and liquor memorabilia, neon and an ever-evolving collection of favorite beer bottles from the many tastings the Uches host. When the weather cools, they put down the shutters, crank up the propane heaters and light the chimeneas.
"We watched nearly every football game through December out here," Uche said. "One of the bonuses is that my next-door neighbor has a man cave as well, and if we run out of beer at one place, we can always go next door."
Some of Uche's favorite details about his cave are the clocks. There's one his daughter gave them that's missing a second hand. "I'll tell guests it's 7-ish if they ask." And there's a 1985 World Series clock that's off by a few hours. But at least it gauges how much time is spent in the cave.