A wife often complains that her husband has no taste. That's not true. He simply does not have her taste. This eternal, near-genetic conflict...

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A wife often complains that her husband has no taste. That’s not true. He simply does not have her taste.

This eternal, near-genetic conflict can lead to what is known as “the man room.” Sometimes, he will tread deep into the cobwebbed reaches of an unfinished basement to find a haven where he can express his identity, pursue his hobby and display cool stuff his spouse simply does not understand.

So-called man rooms can be as modest as a recliner, television set and an ugly coffee table.

Or they can be can be as well-considered and -executed as Dan Donlan’s space at one end of the Woodinville home he shares with his wife and two boys, Brent, 10, and Ryan, 8. Donlan, a Seattle attorney and a passionate fisherman, set out to create the look and feel of a Montana fishing cabin.

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Perhaps more remarkable, he was able to envision it from the remnants of a disco room (yes, a disco room) left behind by the previous owner.

He took down the disco balls and put up antler chandeliers. He removed parquet dance floors and fire-red carpets and hung fishing rods (including one he made himself); a deep-sea trophy fish he caught; framed photographs of friends and family posing with catches; and memorabilia from his grandfather, a co-founder of Fenwick, one of the first companies to use fiberglass to make fishing rods.

Donlan seems nonjudgmental about the former owners’ boogie den because he understands how important a space can be to pursuing, or at least embracing, one’s interest.

He worked with Kenmore’s LakePointe Design Studio, which won two awards for the room, to plan and build his new space, from a river-rock fireplace to high-tech wiring to dark-finished oak cabinetry. But he was involved in every step along the way and applied his own faux finish to the walls. He knew exactly what he wanted.

Happier together, separate

It was a win-win for him and his wife, Stacey.

“I had a bunch of stuff that was basically sitting in boxes, stuff my wife didn’t want in the rest of the house,” he says from inside his 660-square-foot room. “So I basically got my room, where I could do what I wanted, and kept it all in here.”

The room works, especially if you’re a guy. He’s got the television set, on which he watches college football, especially his beloved Washington State Cougars. There is a pool table in one corner, a treadmill in another and a bar in another. He succumbed to buddies who asked him to install a Kegerator, too.

A (plush) fish tale

But his fishing pastime defines the room. Outside a glass door is a deck and Cottage Lake Creek, a salmon-spawning stream that wends its way through their property.

Donlan gets to his Seattle office early and works hard during the week and says he’d find it “oppressive” to live in the city, too. The Woodinville home and property help relax him and his wife, who is a medical doctor. The man room is further refuge.

“It’s funny, but I’ve noticed that when we have parties, the guys will congregate in here and the women will come in and look around, but never stay long,” he says. “My sons like it, too. In fact, I think I’m losing it to them a little.”

Decorating sans apologies

ServiceMagic.com, a Colorado-based company that connects homeowners with prescreened contractors, recently polled customers and found that 40 percent claimed to have a man’s room or “man cave” in their home. Thirteen percent said they were either planning one or one was being built. Many envisioned a man room as, “the one place I can decorate myself with no apologies.”

Many of the men polled planned to spend no more than $1,000 on their caves. The most popular item for it? A big-screen TV, followed by a recliner and a stereo. Two-thirds of respondents said they would expect no resistance from their spouses.

Richard Seven: 206-464-2241 or rseven@seattletimes.com

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