Creating A Man Cave And A 'Her Cave'

Man Cave

“This is going to be my room,” the owner of this West Harrison home told Evelyn Benatar, principal of New York Interior Design in Great Neck, as they surveyed the traditional living room of the house he and his wife had purchased for their family two years earlier. “I want this to become a very cool bar-lounge, and I want it to feel ‘downtown’ but also ‘Paris,’” he says.

And with those instructions, Benatar was off and running, soon taking the husband shopping to show him her concept for the room—which he loved. It is a stunning guy’s paradise, as well as a sophisticated hub for entertaining. Planned features include a mirrored bar, seating area with movable chairs and tables, and a slate fireplace. She envisioned a charcoal-blue color scheme and striking mix of materials and fabrics throughout. 

Now that it’s finished? 

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“I think we pulled off a very cool space that does have the feeling of being in a downtown bar,” Benatar says. “They’re the most popular people in the whole community. Everyone stops over for a drink and watches ballgames and movies.” 

Her advice for achieving a similar look:

Put function first. “[The husband] really wanted this room to be used, unlike a formal living room that no one sits in,” Benatar says. “He wanted to be able to relax with family and friends in a fun space everyone would enjoy being in.” The bar and seating area accomplish that, and the layout also allows easy access to the patio outside the French doors—another area used for entertaining in warm weather and a priority. 

Make a statement. “The bar is the main concept of the room,” Benatar says. It’s mirrored in the back and has thick glass shelves. The countertop is hammered pewter, and the wood is stained black (as is the crown molding). “It isn’t like everyone else’s bar,” she says. The addition of four leather stools and a TV—and every possible beverage anyone could want—make it the perfect hangout. 

Aim for a flow of materials. Benatar didn’t want to repeat the intense dark wood throughout the room, so she moved into metal (the countertop and drink tables) and then stone (the fireplace with a custom mantel). She also added luxe fabrics: elegant wool drapes, club chairs upholstered in mohair (“the ultimate luxe fabric”), and vintage fox-fur pillows. “The balance between hard and soft is what makes the design work,” she says.

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Mix metals. Benatar didn’t want the room to be all cool colors; she wanted warmth, as well. She achieved that with the lighting: pendants over the bar and brass sconces over the fireplace. “It was important to combine silver and gold,” she says.

Invite creativity. The room may be used for a few friends or a big party. Guests may stay indoors or step out onto the patio. The movable pieces in the seating area allow for flexibility. “All the chairs and tables are on casters, so they can be reconfigured,” Benatar explains. “Chairs can also be brought in from other rooms.” She considered a sofa instead of the club chairs but found it didn’t work. “[The homeowner] really wanted people to be able to move around and specifically to be able to access the patio,” she says. “A sofa would’ve been in everyone’s way.” Instead, he has a flexible, fun arrangement that offers limitless options for entertaining and enjoyment. 

Her Cave

Tara Kantor loves ping-pong. “I’m pretty good at it,” she says. How good? She once placed in the top four out of 200 competitors at a charity event. 

So when it came time to decide what to do with the formal living room she and her husband hadn’t furnished in the two years they’d occupied their Scarsdale home (“We were waiting to see how we would live in the house”), her favorite game inspired her. “I asked him if I could create a ping-pong room instead of a living room, and he said ’yes,’” she recalls. And then she designed it herself. 

Step one was choosing the ping-pong table. “I’d seen one made of glass and thought that was the coolest thing ever,” she says—but maybe not the wisest choice with two young children in the house. So she did some research and came across Jonathan Adler’s living room, which featured a ping-pong table she loved. She had Modshop make her one like it—a complex undertaking, given that it had to be regulation size with a surface that allowed balls to bounce properly. But Modshop got the job done. “And when the delivery guys dropped it off, they were loving it,” Kantor says.

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As for the rest of the room, Kantor went bolder than she did elsewhere in her home. “Our house has a lot of blue and gray—very neutral—and I just thought, Here’s my chance to do something fun.” So she chose bright artwork and fabric for the Lucite stools. “It became more feminine than any other room in the house.” 

It’s also an entertaining space, where family and friends gather to play ping-pong and socialize. “It’s an accessible, fun room that looks really awesome,” she says. “If we had a ping-pong table in the basement, it wouldn’t be as connected to the rest of the people in our home. I like that it’s on the first floor, where everyone else is.” 

She also likes that it’s hers. “It’s a room that’s used by everyone, but I do feel it’s my room,” she says. “Because it’s very me.” Her tips for other homeowners:

Balance colors. Gray walls provide a restful contrast to the pink fabric and the bold paintings on the walls and over the fireplace. “The neutral background balances the colors,” she says. “Otherwise, the artwork would be too much.”

Consider multiple uses. If you take the net off the ping-pong table, it can be a dining table. “We have a huge family, and when I have everyone over, that could be the kids’ table, and the formal dining room can be for the adults,” she says. 

Leave out what you don’t need. The floors are the same custom-stained dark-gray planks used in the rest of the house—and she’s not planning to add a rug, with good reason: “People would trip on it when they’re playing.”

Choose what you love. The Muriel glass-bubble chandelier and white lacquer tables are pieces Kantor fell in love with and worked into the room. “If you love it, it’s probably going to work,” she says. “If you’re lukewarm about it, it’s not the right choice.” Same with the artwork: “I saw them, I loved them, and I knew I had to find a wall for them,” she says. “I go with my gut, and so far that kind of works.”  

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