Man Caves, Hideouts, Tree Houses, Forts…

I have a place behind the house that was originally a carriage house and stable.  Most of the construction is of native limestone with cedar siding and reclaimed material such as old glass, old doors, old cabinets and an old wood burning stove.  Most of the basic structure was in place when we moved in, however it was used as a warehouse and had fallen into a sad state of disrepair.

My two stepsons, when they were quite young, would dare each other to go in and whoever could stay the longest, before fleeing in terror, was  the one most brave.  Over the years it had only become more derelict.  I decided that if it I cleaned it up, repaired and modified it would be a pretty good work shed/greenhouse.  The first thing I had to do was get electricity to the site.  Once that I accomplished that, the rest of the work went pretty quickly (for a weekend project).  With help from my friend Bill,  boards and windows soon replaced old cinderblock on half of  the north end.  The other half was protected by stretching a tarp across the void.  Tools, implements and spare materials soon found a home in the humble enclosure.

It didn’t take long before Bill and I thought about adding a few amenities:  director chairs,  a chest on which to place feet and drinks, an ice chest ( cold Warsteiner Dunkel, it has to be the best beer in the world!  Okay, okay, in South Texas) and some other storage chests(for single malt Irish whisky) when it is cold.  All of this in the proximity of the wood burning stove of course!  Not long after we had gotten that far along with the remodel I acquired a 1960 Bugeye Austin Healey Sprite.  It also took up residence in the space.  It took no time for my Mother-in-law to name it the “Sprite Site”.

I don’t think that I mentioned that during the conversion the ceilings/roof of the shed were very low.  A few years ago mother nature solved the problem on the west side when a mini-tornado took down a couple of trees and dropped them on the roof.  The insurance adjuster came and said, “Yup, y’all (Texas for’ you people’) need a new roof on the west side of this here little shed!”

I was ecstatic.  Bill manned up and said he would help me put on a new roof.  I designed a clearstory job that would give us more elevation and more eastern light.  Together, Bill and I, got the roof up and finished out.  Now we have great light and superb clearance in the space dedicated to saws and work table.  We replaced the blue tarp with tall, wide sheets of glass, giving the space a “Phillip Johnson” sense of openness.  The Sprite, stove, liquor, Bill and I still feel secure in the low, leaking roof of the east side.  The Land Rover has  its place to the south, and in front of the Sprite Site.  It will  never be able to get inside because it is far too tall to fit inside the structure.  But it does rest on a bed of decayed granite driveway which does little to protect it from the elements.

At some point in the near future I see glass walls replacing the small windows in the north side of the site,  similar to the tall glass that now makes a wall on the north side of the saw, workbench side more open.  Unfinished wood flooring will extend beyond the wood stove.

My friend Bill also has his space.  It is his garage which houses his pickup, a refrigerator stocked with beer, his ammunition, tools, work bench and stools.  It is just a few steps from his swimming pool.  My friend John, in “keep Austin Weird”, has his space as well.  He has to share it with his wife, Nancy, to accommodate plants and cats.  But his is cool.  He builds models, smokes, drinks beer and watches tv without ever having leave his little “snug”.

My first man cave was on top of my grandparents storage locker in the entry of their house.  I crawled up there one day and discovered that I could look down on my universe!  I felt so secure because NOBODY could get in my space.

I think that we all long for a place like that.


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