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TEDGlobal 2009

Sam Martin: Claim your "manspace"

Filmed:

Author Sam Martin shares photos of a quirky world hobby that's trending with the XY set: "manspaces." (They're custom-built hangouts where a man can claim a bit of his own territory to work, relax, be himself.) Grab a cold one and enjoy.

- Writer
Sam Martin is the director of digital strategy at Texas Monthly magazine, and the author of "Manspace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory." Full bio

So, I am indeed going to talk about
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the spaces men create for themselves,
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but first I want to tell you why I'm here.
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I'm here for two reasons. These two guys
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are my two sons Ford and Wren.
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When Ford was about three years old,
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we shared a very small room together,
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in a very small space.
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My office was on one half of the bedroom,
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and his bedroom was on the other half.
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And you can imagine, if you're a writer,
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that things would get really crowded around deadlines.
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So when Wren was on the way,
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I realized I needed to find a space of my own.
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There was no more space in the house. So I went out to the backyard,
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and without any previous building experience,
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and about 3,000 dollars and some
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recycled materials, I built this space.
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It had everything I needed. It was quiet.
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There was enough space. And I had control, which was very important.
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As I was building this space, I thought
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to myself, "Surely I'm not the only guy
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to have to have carved out a space for his own."
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So I did some research.
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And I found that there was an historic precedence.
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Hemingway had his writing space.
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Elvis had two or three manspaces,
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which is pretty unique because he lived with both his wife and his mother in Graceland.
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In the popular culture, Superman had the Fortress of Solitude,
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and there was, of course, the Batcave.
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So I realized then that I wanted to go out on a journey
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and see what guys were creating for themselves now.
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Here is one of the first spaces I found. It is in Austin, Texas,
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which is where I'm from.
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On the outside it looks like a very typical garage, a nice garage.
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But on the inside, it's anything but.
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And this, to me, is a pretty classic manspace.
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It has neon concert posters, a bar
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and, of course, the leg lamp,
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which is very important.
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I soon realized that manspaces didn't have to be only inside.
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This guy built a bowling alley in his backyard,
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out of landscaping timbers, astroturf.
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And he found the scoreboard in the trash.
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Here's another outdoor space, a little bit more sophisticated.
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This a 1923 wooden tugboat,
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made completely out of Douglas fir.
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The guy did it all himself.
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And there is about 1,000 square feet of hanging-out space inside.
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So, pretty early on in my investigations
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I realized what I was finding was not what I expected to find,
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which was, quite frankly, a lot of beer can pyramids
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and overstuffed couches and flat-screen TVs.
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There were definitely hang-out spots.
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But some were for working, some were for playing,
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some were for guys to collect their things.
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Most of all, I was just surprised with what I was finding.
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Take this place for example.
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On the outside it looks like a typical northeastern garage.
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This is in Long Island, New York.
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The only thing that might tip you off is the round window.
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On the inside it's a recreation of a
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16th century Japanese tea house.
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The man imported all the materials from Japan,
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and he hired a Japanese carpenter
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to build it in the traditional style.
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It has no nails or screws.
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All the joints are hand-carved and hand-scribed.
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Here is another pretty typical scene. This is a suburban Las Vegas neighborhood.
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But you open one of the garage doors
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and there is a professional-size boxing ring inside.
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(Laughter)
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And so there is a good reason for this.
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It was built by this man who is Wayne McCullough.
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He won the silver medal for Ireland
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in the 1992 Olympics,
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and he trains in this space. He trains other people.
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And right off the garage he has his own trophy room
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where he can sort of bask in his accomplishments,
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which is another sort of important part about a manspace.
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So, while this space represents someone's profession,
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this one certainly represents a passion.
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It's made to look like the inside of an English sailing ship.
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It's a collection of nautical antiques from the 1700s and 1800s.
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Museum quality.
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So, as I came to the end of my journey,
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I found over 50 spaces.
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And they were unexpected and they were surprising.
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But they were also --
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I was really impressed by how personalized they were,
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and how much work went into them.
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And I realized that's because the guys that I met
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were all very passionate about what they did.
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And they really loved their professions.
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And they were very passionate about their collections and their hobbies.
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And so they created these spaces
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to reflect what they love to do,
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and who they were.
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So if you don't have a space of your own,
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I highly recommend finding one, and getting into it.
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Thank you very much.
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(Applause)
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About the Speaker:

Sam Martin - Writer
Sam Martin is the director of digital strategy at Texas Monthly magazine, and the author of "Manspace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory."

Why you should listen

As Sam Martin tells the story: "After surviving the writing of his first book at a desk in the living room of his house while his 2-year-old son played in the background, he decided enough was enough. ... He built a backyard manspace -- 168 square feet of freedom where he called the shots and controlled the guest list." A manspace (for the uninitiated) is defined by Martin as a den or hideaway where a man can claim a piece of territory for himself. The experience introduced him to a thriving subculture surrounding these obsessive projects, which are documented in his book Manspace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory.

Martin is author of seven books, a number of magazine articles and a television documentary. An expert on men's issues, green building, residential arthictecture, parenting, travel and spiritual pursuits, his writing has appeared in Dwell, Metropolis and Natural Home. In the summer of 2011, he led an Inside Out Project action in Bastrop, Texas, celebrating a community's resilience after a series of deadly wildfires.

The former director of publishing at frog, he is now the director of digital strategy at Texas Monthly magazine.

More profile about the speaker
Sam Martin | Speaker | TED.com