by Dan Ketchum
A classy man cave, woman cave or just plain person cave doesn’t need to be a dark den full of deep mahogany, your dad’s giant TV and neon-drenched sports paraphernalia. Reach all the way back to the roots of the cigar room or smoking parlor and you’ll find a place that emphasizes conversation and creativity just as much as relaxation — and there’s no better time than now to pull that spirit into the 21st century and put your own personal spin on a classic notion.
1. Smart Sound
Whether it’s a pair of lovingly restored ‘70s floor speakers from the Goodwill or a series of top-of-the-line smart speakers expertly concealed in ceiling corners, think of your smoking room as a soundscape. If you go modern, look for Bluetooth compatibility to encourage easy sharing and hopping around from tunes to TED Talks to soothing rain sounds.
2. Big Plants
Ditch the den aesthetic and bring the outside in with an airy, inviting focus on greenery. Fiddle leaf figs, snake plants, pothos and ponytail palms are just a few timeless options that just so happen to be very low-maintenance. And the planters give you the choice of sleek and modern (like cement or marble) or wild statement pieces, depending on the atmosphere you aim to curate.
3. Soothing Lighting
While white, cool light can help increase productivity, warm lighting encourages us to relax and unwind while exerting less strain on the eyes. Embrace that warmth with choices such as eye-catching Edison bulbs, warm-hued lampshades, amber string lights, big candles and Himalayan salt lamps.
4. A Vape Station
The modern smoking parlor has evolved from cigar room to vape lounge, so you’ll need a place to keep the main attraction. A wood, stone or ceramic vape caddy not only makes for an attractive centerpiece, but a practical one, too — because despite the name, you don’t want your Houdini to disappear.
5. Social Seating
Though there will be plenty of time for solo relaxation in your soon-to-be-favorite room, community is the heart of the smoking lounge. Choose comfy furniture that encourages healthy engagement, like an L-shaped or horseshoe sofa. For additional seating with flexible placement, hanging macrame chairs and bamboo papasans maximize comfort. Pick materials that don’t hold on to too much smoke, like linen and tweed.
6. Local Art
Forgo the mass-produced mandala flags and weed leaf posters for man cave decor that means something to you and yours. Start with a few key pieces from local artists or Etsy craftspeople and gradually fill the space with art — from paintings to sculptures to tapestries — that comes backed with real stories.
7. A Touch of DIY
You don’t have to be Ron Swanson to build furniture. To really personalize your smoking room, add at least one thing made by your own two hands. For starters, if you can sand a board, brush on a stain and drill on a set of ready-made pin legs, you’ve got a mid-century style table for a fraction of the usual cost.
8. Good Ventilation
Moving away from the dank dens and basements of yore, don’t be afraid to let your modern lounge air out. Hybrid indoor-outdoor spaces, converted sunrooms and skylights are ideal, but even the simple addition of a high-quality air purifier will keep everyone feeling fresh and clear-eyed (and modern options blend right in with the decor).
9. A Record Console
With access at an all-time peak, listening to music has become an increasingly passive experience, an activity often relegated to the background. Embrace the analog anecdote with a beautiful turntable and bookshelf speakers or a full-on vintage record console to return to the days of focused, meditative listening parties.
10. A Projector
There’s a good chance you’ll want some entertainment in the lounge, but a person-sized TV might not jell with a classy man cave or up-to-date smoking parlor. Fortunately, HD projectors offer a compact, affordable and accessible solution that can turn a spacious wall and a laptop into your own arthouse (or grindhouse) theater.
11. Retro Games…
Don’t let that projector’s HDMI port get lonely, though. Consoles like the Nintendo Switch or a super compact Raspberry Pi — an inexpensive, tinker-friendly tech project that doesn’t require a whole garage — offer group-friendly gaming options that don’t overwhelm the space. Fill up those SD cards with arcade classics and nostalgic retro gems to keep things welcoming and communal.
12. …and Very Retro Games
Speaking of accessible activities that might generate a little convo, you’ll need something to put on that coffee table you built. Time-honored board games like mancala, go, mahjong, hanafuda and chess don’t just provide entertainment, their boards often act as stunningly gorgeous artworks in and of themselves. Pair with Over the Rainbow to stay alert and enhance the experience.
13. A Beverage Console
Even if you don’t drink the hard stuff, a beverage console helps keep you and your guests hydrated and socially lubricated while serving as a statement piece — think tool carts or a repurposed vintage bird cage for a unique touch. Bottled mineral water cooled in an ice bucket will do the trick, or you can choose complementary pairings like zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon with spicy terpenes or good Irish whiskey with earthy strains.
14. Books, Books, Books
They say that you’re truly comfortable with someone when you can sit in silence together. Fill your space with that old book aroma and let some soul-warming texts and a balancing Phantom vape color in those quiet moments. Going vintage with thrifted books is an excellent way to upcycle, save cash and pepper your room with little works of art.
15. …and One More Book
There’s a stack of rocks way out in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and on that stack of rocks there’s a tattered American flag and a metal tackle box. In that tackle box is a well-worn book full of thick, blank pages and a couple of good pens and pencils. The idea is that anyone who finds this space can put down a memory, a thought, a joke, a sketch or whatever they feel at that particular moment in time. Add that sense of adventure to your lounge by hiding a similar book in a tackle or keepsake box.
Dan Ketchum is an LA-based freelance lifestyle, fashion, health and food writer with more than a decade of experience. He’s been fortunate enough to collaborate and publish with companies such as FOCL, Vitagenne, Livestrong, Reign Together, Out East Rosé, SFGate, the Seattle Times and more.
The New York Times Magazine – Up In Smoke
The University of North Carolina – How Lighting Affects the Productivity of Your Workers
Wine Enthusiast – Why Weed and Wine Have More in Common Than You Think