LA Confidential: LA Man Caves Go Upscale

Article originally appeared in Los Angeles Confidential.

The fabled man cave is dark and a little dank, hidden away in a basement. Perhaps it reeks of fermented running shoes and spilled beer. In LA, where those underground spaces aren’t possible, there’s the man-shack option (Jason Segel’s outré clubhouse in I Love You, Man had all the requisite toys: guitars, amps, and a special TV-watching chair). Despite guys’ predilection for smoking, partying, and porn-watching, there’s a more health-obsessed bent to today’s masculine real estate add-on. The rage for dudes is somewhat surprising: in-home professional-level gyms, meditation rooms, hyperbaric chambers, and outdoor showers (a surfer’s wet dream) are what’s hot now.


Real estate agents are finding that male clients’ requests for in-home workout areas have moved beyond being mere afterthoughts: Today’s wish lists include everything from an elliptical trainer in the spare bedroom to an elaborate movement studio with ballet barre to a rooftop deck for morning yoga practice.


Inspiration for these fitness-friendly spaces comes, no doubt, from pro athletes, whose cribs are known for their high-end sporty attributes. To wit: There’s the indoor basketball court in Michael Jordan’s recently built Jupiter Island, Florida, manse; the pitch-perfect putting green on golfer Phil Mickelson’s $6.95 million Rancho Santa Fe estate; and the bedroom-turned-hyperbaric chamber once used by Green Bay Packer A.J. Hawk. (Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has also been known to sleep in one: The reduced oxygen supply in the chamber aids in training. The cost? A heady $15,000.)


Sought-after, high-end, healthy amenities provide physical, even metaphysical, well-being. How LA! Just above Sunset Plaza, designed by architect Hagy Belzberg (Patina at the Walt Disney Concert Hall), a freshly built nearly 10,500-square-foot, eight-bedroom, nine-bath manse, listed at $28.8 million by The Agency, has its own stand-alone, 725-square-foot “wellness center” built in. The mirrored back wall is handy for focused training sessions and serves as backdrop for the retreat-like space, which is outfitted with Precor equipment and rivals a boutique hotel’s gym. “Home gyms are definitely coming out of the basement and the spare bedroom and have become an experience,” says interior designer Erinn Valencich of Erinn V Design Group, who designed and furnished the compound’s interiors.


She points out that the master bath at the Sunset Plaza house is a study in wellness and high-tech, too. Sliding glass panels open to the outside (to better observe the city lights while soaking in the deep Kohler tub), and the glass-walled shower is equipped with steam, body-massaging sprays, and rainfall showerhead, and is completely programmable down to the music. There is even chromatherapy offered via Kohler’s DTV II digital interface. The rationale behind these souped-up elements is not just having a gym at home, but also the pre- and post-workout spaces for stretching and massage. “Ten years ago, even five years ago, guys were not asking for anything specific,” says Venice-based real estate broker Tami Pardee, owner of Pardee Properties. Today’s male buyer, however, demands a dedicated space, whether it’s a converted garage or private rooftop deck. And every guy wants an outdoor shower for rinsing off after the beach or surf session. (The cost can range from $500 to $5,000, explains Pardee, depending on how elaborate the setup.)


His and her gyms are in for married A-listers (his has weights, hers has Pilates machines) and none is more elaborate than actor/producer Mark Wahlberg’s in-home, multimillion-dollar Beverly Park gym with its own boxing ring and outdoor basketball court within gated grounds, now listed for $12.995 million. A mediation room is increasingly a must-have as well. Photographer Steven Meisel’s midcentury stunner in Trousdale Estates, listed for $13 million by Ann Eysenring of the Partners Trust, has a glass-box pavilion overlooking the pool in addition to stunning city views.

In Rolling Hills, a custom-built $53 million estate has just about everything: two pools (one indoors), two tennis courts (one indoors that doubles as a ballroom), and a 10,000-square-foot hammam (Turkish bath) within an underground level. Marcie Hartley of Hilton & Hyland is representing the property, the ultimate retreat for the… hmm… truly health-obsessed.