June 17, 2007 — -- Sports bars and pool halls used to be the haunts of men craving time alone.
But now, some men are creating guys-only spaces in their own homes.
Tired of being sidelined to the neighborhood pub, basement or garage, they're creating chic retreats for their enjoyment -- and no one else's.
These spaces include an old water cistern in California, a backyard barn outside Boston, a room in a Harlem apartment -- each different, each a "manspace."
Sam Martin, who literally wrote the book on the subject, explained that a manspace is an area a man carves out just for himself.
"Guys, for one reason or another, they just need a space -- a space to get away," he said. "We used to joke that a manspace can be as small as a good set of headphones and a comfortable chair."
Today's manspaces have come a long way from a worn, old armchair.
Bill Sarni's is a barn, where he carves and paints wood duck decoys for hunting. Before he had his manspace, he had a room and a basement of his house, but it created a smelly mess for his wife and two daughters. So, three years ago, he built a barn in the backyard.
"It's the best therapy you could have," he said. "You get wrapped up in your work, you get wrapped up in a piece of wood that you're working on and you forget everything else."
Jeanette Sarni, his wife of 37 years, fully approves.
"He always wanted his own space," she said. "He always wanted the barn. The barn was always his dream, so that's why it's nice to see the dream come true."
Joe Masibay's manspace is smaller and simpler: he converted one of the three bedrooms in his Harlem, N.Y., apartment into a toy room.
"Once you have that space, it's really hard to give it up," he said. "It's really hard. Even if I didn't do anything in there, just knowing that you have a space to go to is really great."
Playing with toys for hours isn't all fun and games: Masibay is a professional toy designer. Sometimes he works in his manspace; sometimes he doesn't.
"Basically, it's just playing in there a lot and you just go in there and get lost," he said.
Martin said a manspace doesn't have to be off-limits to the rest of the family or anyone else. It just has to be his to play in or do nothing, to decorate as he chooses or to make a mess.
"The only think that makes a manspace a manspace is that the guy has total control of what goes on in there and who comes in," he said.
Even single guys are making them. Bachelor Eric Deam created his manspace in his Berkeley, Calif., home, in an old fire department water cistern under his living room where he plays his guitar. For Deam, the time he spends there is well worth the effort he put in to carve out the unconventional haven.
"The room actually helps me get into a different frame of mind," he said. "For example, I can take my classical guitar, rather than my electrics downstairs, and play it, and I feel like Jimi Hendrix in the middle of the room because it's so reverberant. It's a great place to feel good about your playing."