Roxanne Jacoby has a guest room in her Pennsylvania home that no guest has ever slept in. It's really her Mom Cave.
Outfitted with mementos and comfort items, it's the only room in the house she really calls her own.
"I've put in an alpaca throw, down pillows, a fan, my favorite scented candle, and a whole bunch of stuff that I want to read," says Jacoby.
It's not like she couldn't set all that up in a corner of the family room. But that "guest room" has an important feature: "I can close the door."
Many women — and not just moms — are taking over some of the fallow ground at home and turning it into a haven to pursue personal pursuits. They stake out an unused closet, basement nook or extra bedroom. Some use the space to work without interruption — they've got it all teched up with Wi-Fi, perhaps a TV. Others say none of that's allowed, just books and maybe a music player.
Lori Remien, a teacher in Evanston, Ill., took over an unused nook off her daughter's room when she needed a place to work on her National Boards exams a few years ago. "I went to Ikea and bought a comfy wicker chair, a plush red rug, some pretty black and white curtains. It's still a great retreat where I can watch the shows the rest of my family doesn't watch," she says.
New York designer Elaine Griffin embraces the Mom Cave concept and recently partnered with Homegoods in Manhattan to show some decor and space suggestions. She says, "A Mom Cave is where the woman who nurtures everyone goes to nurture herself."
It's different from the quintessential "man cave," where men do manly, messy and sporty things, often involving a recliner. Griffin notes, "Mom Caves are fun, frankly feminine spaces, and they're personalized."
Here's what you need for your Mom Cave: a place to sit, storage space, an area to do what you want to do, and room for occasional visitors.
"Organizing your stuff makes your space feel bigger. I love bookcases — you can hide in plain sight," says Griffin. Colorful boxes and file folders work well; group an array of favorite photos in fun frames on the shelves.
Griffin has a penchant for color — the mini-rooms she created for Homegoods were lively and welcoming. A reading corner with chaise and bookcases was painted vibrant fuchsia. A closet had been transformed into a tiny yet functional office, swathed in a warm caramel hue and accented with dramatic touches such as rattan lamps and black furnishings, including a chair with a nice wide seat.
No extra rooms available? Griffin suggests turning a stair landing into a mini-sanctuary using narrow console tables, a luxurious rug, and a couple of armchairs.
These spaces aren't exclusive to women with families underfoot; all ages appreciate what Virginia Woolf termed "a room of one's own." In her social circle of women age 60-plus, Barbara McDonald of Nova Scotia, Canada, says the "getaway room" is no longer needed but such a space still serves many purposes. "It's invaluable as a project room. Close the door and leave the mess for next time," she says.
Since you don't share it, you've got more freedom with the Cave to play with unusual wallpaper and accessories, create a Zen-like refuge or, like Atlanta-based Robyn Freedman, revisit your childhood room. Freedman, who runs a creative think tank, has even got a name for her space: the Hobbit Hole.
"My room's purple with green polka dots. It's got all kinds of silly things from my childhood — my light bulb collection, Dr. Seuss books and college letterman blanket. Lots of goofy stuff and everything makes me smile," she laughs.
And that, of course, is the best reason of all for a Mom Cave.