A stylish man home that’s more than a cave


Click any photo for a slideshow tour of Peter Medine's hip San Francisco house. (Photos: Greg Keraghosian)

Whoever gave birth to the term "man cave," she's got one famous child. The concept is everywhere in popular culture, with entire websites devoted to building them or showing them off.

But something about the man cave strikes me as, well, caveman-ish. It's too often stuck in arrested development with quirky knickknacks or frat-boy clichés -- combination easy chairs/beer coolers or the leg lamp from "A Christmas Story."

A sanctuary for the married man is all well and good. But what about the single, grown-up dude who has more than one room to furnish and wants to do it with style that goes beyond flat-screen TVs? What about the man home? Peter Medine of San Francisco has figured it out better than anyone I know — on a teacher's budget, no less.

"I have a man cave," Medine said. "It's my garage."

Medine, 39, doesn't eliminate his nerdy side. If you know where to look in his modest-sized, two-story house, you'll find memorabilia from "Star Wars" or his beloved Detroit Lions. Not to mention the cabinet-turned-video-arcade machine he keeps in said garage (it's mostly for guests, and I can't visit without playing a round of NBA Jams or Ms. Pac-Man).

But the larger impression is one of elegance created by the contemporary, clean design that maximizes a limited floor plan and tells a personal story. And despite all the fog in the Outer Sunset district, it still manages to feel un-cavelike, especially with the killer back yard he built.

Medine benefited from some good luck: He bought the house from the original owner for $350,000 in 1999, when it resembled, in his words, "a dump." As home values shot up during the dot-com boom, he used equity to make overhauls, including removing a circa-1945 kitchen. Our accompanying slideshow includes some impressive before-after photos.

"My house is smaller than it looks," said Medine of the 1,250-square-foot residence. "I wanted to have this minimal look, and I like all this stuff. So I wanted to have it all but try not to make it look cluttered. It's a balance."

Here's how he does it:

The furniture

Medine isn't ashamed to call some of his centerpieces "knockoffs." When you're an 11th-grade U.S. history teacher, you seek magazine-cover style for back-page prices, and he's found some real winners.

His bedroom alone is an ode to bargain hunting. He managed to snag a matching queen-size bed and drawers, which are inspired by Italy Design, for $800 from a shop in Los Angeles.

That's the same price he paid for his black Barcelona-style chair, which was so like the trademarked original — which retails for thousands -- that the L.A. store got sued for selling it and asked for the chair back. Medine kindly said buyers keepers.

Other bargains include the $400 replica Arco lamp from over his dining table (the real thing retails for $3,000), and his two wood-and-chrome bar chairs, which he found online for $100.

Medine bought his entertainment wall from Scandinavian Designs, which holds the requisite flat-screen TV and PlayStation, mixed with art pieces from Africa and Asia, and books from the likes of Hemingway, Tolstoy and Cornell West.

Finally, his living room includes two Danish modern chairs from 1954 that he had reupholstered, and a couch bought from Urban Home.

The conversation pieces

What Medine is proudest of are the items that can't be bought in stores. He comes from a family of travelers, and he has sprinkled the house with a museum-worthy collection.

There are the "teacher/student" wood carvings and bronze Buddha statue he keeps in his dining area — both inherited from his grandfather, who picked them up in Thailand and Japan after World War II. They're thought to be hundreds of years old.

Medine is an avid traveler himself. His finds include sculptures from his Peace Corps days and an oil painting he bought in Cuba two summers ago and shipped home on his plane ride because, after all, Havana doesn't exactly offer next-day mail service to the U.S.

My favorite is the huge mural created by Medine's cousin that hangs over the stairway. It includes wood panels and a sketch of a famous photograph taken of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

The kitchen

Medine splurged on his $3,000 Silestone quartz countertops a decade ago. He says they've been indestructible.

He gets a bit embarrassed when he says he bought the cabinets from IKEA for $1,200 in 2006, but they certainly look like they've held up well.

The appliances are mostly stainless steel and almost all bought from Williams-Sonoma. There are some sharp-looking pendant lights, and what completes the look are the earth-toned tiles he uses for the bar and backsplash.

The bathroom

There's some stellar design here, including blue-green tiles around the tub and shower, with a small window between them. And of course, some framed Donkey Kong digital art.

The back yard and roof deck

The Eastern feel of the yard reflects some of Medine's art pieces. Medine hired Andrew Spiering of Land8 over the summer to build an eco-friendly, grass-free, gopher-proof garden; all that's left now is for the foliage to grow over the walls. The garden's path is made of decomposed granite, and he'll be growing veggies out of three industrial aluminum farm feeders — no gopher can burrow under those.

The back portion also has a wide, built-in ladder that leads to the roof, on which Medine has put down some fake grass and folding chairs that somehow look more romantic when rusted by the sea air. On a rare sunny day like this one, the view of the nearby ocean is spectacular.

Speaking of romance, Medine sought to make his man home inviting to women, for the first dinner and for a future relationship. His office is the one room that looks unfinished, and as he notes, it could easily be converted into a baby room.

"I tried to keep the house female-friendly, where it doesn't look like I'm still in college," Medine said. "There are no beer posters up — well, there's one Anchor Steam poster, but it's framed and it looks nice. The arcade's in the garage … this is not a dorm room."

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