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These SLO County man caves are one-of-a-kind

Rick Grantham’s Rams man cave.
Rick Grantham’s Rams man cave. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Rick Grantham’s passion for the Los Angeles Rams pro football team began in 1959. He was nine, and his grandfather took him to a game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where Grantham recalls being “spellbound.”

When he reached adulthood, his obsession translated into a “Ram Room” — Grantham’s Rams-themed man cave that has appeared in every home he has lived in as an adult. In the beginning, it was simple — “a lamp, a blanket and a cup,” he recalled.

But over the years, with the help of eBay and many generous friends, his collection grew. Today, its highlights include more than 50 hats, an antique bobblehead collection and a full-sized mannequin wearing an authentic Rams uniform — pads and all.

When he and wife Claire bought their Morro Bay home 24 years ago, part of its allure was a large space that Grantham immediately claimed as his own. The hillside house consists of six levels, and his Rams memorabilia quickly filled the entire fifth level.

At the time, the couple owned 25 boxes of Rams memorabilia, and it took Grantham around 50 hours to arrange his displays. A television viewing area, bar, fireplace and view of Morro Rock add to the room’s comforts. Grantham hung neon signs and strung lights for ambience. The sofa isn’t Rams-themed, to Grantham’s dismay — “but it’s Ram blue,” he said.

The biggest challenge presented by the Ram Room is the limits of its approximately 180 square feet of space. Each new piece of memorabilia kicks off a flurry of re-arranging. Fortunately for Grantham, the cedar walls are “very forgiving — you can pull out nails and not really see holes,” he said.

Several years ago, his wife moved her sewing room from the finished attic to a spare bedroom, giving Grantham the opportunity to “expand my empire,” he said. This space is now dubbed “Son of Ram Room” and holds a Rams-themed train set and other bulky items that the original room couldn’t accommodate.

While the couple is thrilled with the Rams’ return to Los Angeles, they realize they will be watching more games at the Coliseum than in the Ram Room. Still, they enjoy bringing friends up to the fifth floor and watching their reaction.

Claire, who Grantham calls “a real good sport” about everything, said that most people “become quiet,” stunned by the sheer quantity of memorabilia. And, if tradition holds true, those friends will soon be adding to Grantham’s collection as well.

Jim Robinson

As a youth in New Jersey, Jim Robinson bonded with friends over a pool table. He also developed an early love for furniture building that was reinforced when he performed construction work in the U.S. Navy Seabees. One of his most memorable projects was helping to build a stage for Bob Hope’s USO show.

Robinson’s two passions combined when he built his own mahogany pool table in 1972. In 2002, he finally found a proper room for it.

Robinson, a retired computer programmer, built his man cave himself with the help of his wife, Peggy.

In fact, the couple remodeled 90 percent of their Nipomo house themselves. The pool room now takes up half of their four-car garage. The work took around a month and included framing, adding drywall, running electrical wiring and installing finish materials. They revamped an existing kitchenette, adding a new sink and refrigerator. Peggy Robinson sewed curtains for the room and painted a pool hall-themed mural.

Robinson remembers his favorite pool halls as dark spaces, so he painted the walls a deep red and added oak paneling. He originally installed carpet. “That was a mistake,” he said, noting that man caves tend to be spill zones. He ripped it out and replaced it with wood parquet flooring.

The space was also an opportunity for Robinson to create a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He served two tours in the war and “lost a good friend in Vietnam,” he said. The memorial includes many of Robinson’s photos from the war, his uniform and books on the subject.

Robinson displays his handiwork throughout the space. There are several pieces of furniture that he built, including an 8-foot-long stereo cabinet constructed in 1975. He also displays a model replica of the U.S.S. Constitution that took him over a year to create.

Finishing touches for the space include a small putting green, a dart board, and a television viewing area where he can sit in his favorite recliner.

The man cave has been a popular spot for informal gatherings. “There are (pool table) games that up to 10 people can play,” Robinson said. But he also likes having the space all to himself.

“Whenever there’s a golf tournament, ballgame or whatever, I go out and watch it in the pool room,” he said. “I feel proud to have something like it.”

Tips for creating a man cave

DISPLAY POINTERS Most collections are fluid, so repositionable hooks may save your walls and allow you to tweak displays with relative ease. For more valuable items in your collection, invest in good framing with acid-free backing and UV-filtering glass.

SKIP THE CARPET Spills happen when people are watching games, playing pool or simply hanging out. For easier cleanup, stick with hard flooring.

RETHINK YOUR LIGHTING A single, harsh overhead light can be a mood killer. Instead, incorporate multiple sources of light. Accent lighting, for instance, makes a space come alive, especially at night. Think neon signs, rope lights on shelves to highlight displays, picture lights for special pieces of memorabilia and strings of lights for ambience.