5 Steps to Make a Small Man Cave on a Budget (Plus the Big Reveal of Ours!)

I wanted to do something special for my husband. After almost a year of being basically at home, things were starting to feel a little… cramped.

As the only guy in a house full of gals, there weren’t a lot of options for him to grab a few minutes to himself.

Then I had an idea… our finished basement is still fairly unfinished (if that makes sense). Meaning, the construction is done, we just haven’t done much with it aside from plopping a couch in front of the TV.

The back half was really just an empty space so I thought, why not make it into a small man cave? Even if you don’t have a ton of space, you can totally make a tiny man cave happen. And for far less money than you think!

In this post, I’m going to share how to make a man cave on a budget. I’ll give you tips on where to start, ideas on what to include, and show you the before and after of our small man cave.

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No room for the ultimate man cave? Then make a small man cave on a budget! Get ideas for making a tiny man cave for not a lot of money and learn the five steps to DIY your man cave in a weekend.

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How to Make a Small Man Cave

Building a man cave of any size boils down to this: it needs to be specific. Don’t try and recreate a generic sports bar unless the cave dweller really loves sports bars. Choose a specific passion to design to, paint with a favorite color, add some seating, and a few special decor details. That’s really all you need! The point is that it will be a dedicated space created specifically for the man in the house.

Want to see more? Check out the expanded man cave.

1. Find a small spot to dedicate to your man cave

Choose an unused corner of your home to turn into a small man cave.

Choose a space that has at least a little bit of privacy and isn’t a pass-through from one spot to the next. The space doesn’t have to be large at all, but bonus points if there’s the possibility of expanding into an adjacent space down the line.

In our case, I selected the back corner of our finished basement. Right now, it’s just a collection of random cast-offs and is slightly separate from the main media room so it was ripe to add some purpose.

No basement? No problem. Could you steal part of an office or guest room? Do you have a randomly large landing? If you live in a moderate climate and have a garage, you could use part of that. You can even assign one wall of your living room. When you need something small and budget-friendly, think outside the traditional full four-walled room.

2. Decide on a theme

Choose a passion or interest for the theme of your man cave. We decided to do a music theme.

Think about what hobbies, interests, and passions fire your guy up. I think the biggest mistake people make when coming up with man cave ideas is immediately defaulting to the sports bar knock-off. Sure, if Tony C’s is his love language, by all means — recreate a sports bar. But what if your husband/boyfriend/son/dad is a gamer? Or a whiskey connoisseur? Or a literary buff?

Go with what he loves and you can’t go wrong.

You don’t need to be aggressively theme-y, but is a man cave any fun without at least a little bit of a theme? Nope, not really.

In our case, we went with music. Specifically, guitars. Matt is a fabulous player and has roughly 8 billion guitars. And they’ve historically been stacked in closets, leaning against walls, basically been given no love at all.

So this was the perfect jumping-off point.

3. Choose a few small decor items to reinforce the man cave theme

Use decor items that reinforce you man cave theme. We used the guitar hangers pictured here.

Since we’re going small and budget-friendly, I want you to choose just a few elements to showcase your theme. For the whiskey guy, how about a couple of decanters, a masculine bar cart, and a few special rocks glasses? For the book lover, how about a low bookcase filled with his favorite novels and a modern reading lamp?

Get ideas for decorating a bookcase.

In our case, we bought a set of forged iron and leather guitar hangers so Matt would have five guitars at hand in his small man cave, brought in one of his amps, and grabbed his favorite tab book.

4. Paint your man cave

Paint your man cave a favorite color. We chose a deep red.

This step is technically optional, but it’s an extra special touch to paint a budget man cave in a favorite color. It helps to further personalize the space for not very much money.

As you can see here, I painted Matt’s music corner in a rich shade of cabernet to play off the wood tones of his guitars. Plus, he looks really good in burgundy 😉

I also added a reclaimed wood feature wall as part of an “expansion” a few months later. Check out all the after photos here.

Interested in making your own reclaimed wood accent wall? Learn how in this video:

5. Repurpose furniture you already have

Repurpose furniture to make a man cave on a budget.

To keep your small man cave on budget but still special, “borrow” a favorite chair from elsewhere in your house or thrift something cool. If you have a side table, bookcase, or any other furniture you can spare and would enhance the man cave decor, add that too!

The girls generously offered up the chairs from their BFF ladies club because they’re Matt’s favorite to play guitar in (no arms, wide seat). I was also able to rehome this industrial side table that had never really found the right home and now looks AMAZING in the music space. Finally, I snagged one of the marble and brass table lamps from our guest room to give him some light.

Don’t miss my full round-up of the best small side tables.

There you have it: how to make a small man cave on a budget. I hope you got some ideas to use and make one of your own!

Here's our small man cave on a budget, featuring a music corner with hanging guitars on a dark red wall.

Want more? Here’s the full collection of Bloom in the Black decorating posts. If you’re interested in having me cover a particular topic, shoot me an email and I’ll add it to the list!