|TACOMA, Wash. - You can call it a Man Cave, as owner Gordon Robinson does, but Garage Mahal might be a better term. Sure, it's a room with recliners, big-screen TVs and drinks on ice. But that's only the beginning. Where other dude hangouts end, this one's only beginning.
Robinson, 57, built the 2,300-square-foot Guytopia for himself, but it has quickly become just as popular with friends and neighbors.
"Everybody stops by all the time. It's nice," wife Debbie, 55, says.
Debbie has the rest of the 7,600-square-foot house for her own amusements, which include a TV lounge, kitchen and craft room. It's all situated on the shores of American Lake in Lakewood, Wash.
The first thing that strikes a visitor to Robinson's lair is a shiny blue 1941 Willys Pro-Street hot rod parked just beyond the bar. Next to it is a 1965 Pontiac GTO and a 1966 Chevrolet El Camino. All three have been restored (the GTO on a rotisserie) and gleam in mint condition.
How did he get the cars in there? "I take them apart and then put them back together," Robinson answers before breaking into a laugh. The real method is just around the corner: a $30,000 hydraulic car lift that descends from the otherwise normal-looking two-car garage above.
Robinson, the owner of Jack Roberts Appliance, is clearly big on cars. Near the elevator is a shop room filled with tools. In the center sits a detailing cart crammed with more than 50 squirt bottles, rubbing compounds and waxes.
The El Camino, used in Robinson's construction business in the 1980s, is just one of the $150,000 worth of cars and memorabilia in his man cave.
The house was built in 2008, but Robinson completed the man cave in July 2010. He contracted out some of the finishing work, but his construction background allowed him to install the drywall, cabinets and millwork. The construction cost, not including his labor, was $100,000.
During Debbie and Gordon's 27-year marriage and numerous houses, he has always had garages, man caves or some variation thereof, the couple say. Though the current incarnation is not the biggest he has had, it is his crowning achievement.
"He's down there all the time with his buddies, and that's great," Debbie says.
During the Super Bowl, the basement was filled with about 20 friends watching the game and eating brats and steaks fresh off an outdoor grill.
Robinson's basement is more than just a temple to cars and football. Near the tool shop is a walk-in gun vault surrounded in 8-inch concrete and protected by a vault door. A flat-panel TV provides entertainment while guns are being cleaned and serviced. Robinson, a target-shooting enthusiast, stores a couple of dozen handguns and a dozen rifles and shotguns. In case of an emergency, the room can also serve as a safe room.
A three-seat bar has a commanding view of the lake and the dock that extends into it from the Robinsons' lot. Currently tied up is a pontoon boat. But in the summer, a 22-foot Eliminator Daytona speedboat takes residence.
On the opposite side of the room from the bar is a full kitchen with granite countertops - and the latest in appliances, of course. "I cook breakfast for myself down here," Robinson says. Debbie gives that comment a skeptical look: "I don't remember the last time you did."
The Robinsons' long marriage seems to have as one of its major tenets the importance of separate space. That, at least, was Robinson's main motivation for building his man cave.
"When you're watching TV and your wife's banging pans, it's time to build a man cave," he says. The banter between the couple is non-stop, affectionate and filled with humor.
A 65-inch TV commands one room of the basement with recliners, a massage chair and pool table taking up center field. A built-in sound system completes the ensemble.
For a space usually filled with men, cars and dog, the space is impeccably clean. "I'm just not a dirty guy," Robinson says. But Debbie's standards are even tighter. "I'm more comfortable here than upstairs where you gotta take your shoes off," he says. Later, during a tour of the upper floors, Robinson looks in to the home's vast living room. "I don't think I've ever been in that room," he says.
At that point a visitor is forced to give up figuring out if Robinson is serious or joking. It's better to just sit back in a recliner, pop open a drink and enjoy the setting.