With a cool superhero ‘nerd cave,’ a kids bedroom and more, it’s mission accomplished for these handy homeowners
House at a Glance
Location: Villa Nova neighborhood of Spring, Texas
Size: 3,867 square feet (359 square meters); four bedrooms, 3½ baths
Year built: 2013
Much like a superhero who looks ordinary on the outside, a stone-and-brick home in Spring, Texas, conceals homeowner Robin Moore’s industrial bunker-style “nerd cave.” Robin, who works in commercial real estate, took inspiration from an industrial movie set to transform an unused bedroom in his family’s home into a movie-watching, superhero paraphernalia sanctuary with a life-size Han Solo cast, Iron Man and Boba Fett outfits, hand-built replicas of Star Wars models and more. As for the rest of the home, refreshed spaces include a dedicated sanctuary office space for his wife, Stacey, and a play area for their 5-year-old daughter personalized with color and DIY handiwork.
Timeline: “I approached the room as if it was a big model, Googled a ton of best practices for construction and learned on the fly,” Robin says. “The whole process for the initial build-out took from November 1 to New Year’s Day. The next phase a year later was started on December 27 and finished on New Year’s Day.”
Scope of work: Robin closed in a window, demolished a closet, installed soundproofing and faux concrete walls at opposite ends, built display risers and false soffits that were painted to look like steel beams, and built lighted columns with steel grating insets.
One year later, he added a 12-by-6-foot display area with models and display cases and added hidden storage. A remote-controlled motorized movie screen is mounted to the ceiling.
Carpet: Shaw; screen: Spectrum series by Elite Screens
Dimensions: The main portion of the room is 12 by 18 feet, and the bump-out addition, added in 2015, is 12 by 6 feet. Total: 288 square feet.
Windows: The one window of this upstairs room was covered up.
Demolishing the closet gave him enough space to put in a couch on a riser, and shelving for audiovisual equipment and a computer. Tucked into the corner on built-in shelves next to the leather love seat are Robin’s audiovisual devices, including a receiver, an Xbox, a Blu-ray player and a personal computer.
Soundproofing: “Sound was a big concern because at the time, Piper was only 18 months old and her bedroom is across the [hall] from the game room, and it is a very open space, prone to amplifying sound,” Robin says.
His solution was to rip out the drywall and add insulation in the back of the room. He also added insulation with two layers of oriented strand board, with soundproofing glue in between, to the riser where the subwoofer rests. The back wall also got two layers of drywall with soundproofing glue in between. “The end result is that you can watch a loud action movie with the door closed, and virtually no sound escapes. Piper sleeps right through it,” he says.
Items on display: Pictured at left are replicas of a Batman cowl and gauntlets from The Dark Knight. Framed and hanging behind the sofa is a movie poster from Iron Man 2. At right are a resin replica of Paul Rudd’s helmet from Ant-Man, which Robin finished with aluminum paint, and a life-size version of war machine armor from Avengers: Age of Ultron, which he built from foam and finished.
To create the concrete effect, Robin textured the surface using drywall mud over the existing wall texture, being sure to leave gaps. He created variations in color with a mix of Valspar paints (Granite Dust, Gravity, Vessel Gray and Hailstorm Gray).
He sealed the areas made of MDF, pictured with the helmets mounted to them, using a roller and an oil-based primer, and painting on a base coat of Gravity. He gave the surfaces a metallic sheen by buffing them with silver model paint, dried, on a rag. He added streaks using an airbrush and model paint.
Items on display: On top of the glass shelf is a replica of Loki’s spear from The Avengers that Robin built and finished. “The Captain America shield was forged from a 26-inch spun aluminum blank and finished with clear auto paint to allow the aluminum to shine through the paint,” Robin says. The Captain America helmet replica from The Winter Soldier is cast in resin; Robin assembled and finished it with real leather inserts. TheCaptain America suit replica from The Winter Soldier is from Cosplay Sky.
At center, the life-size Iron Man Mark 42 suit from Avengers: Age of Ultron is made of foam and coated in epoxy, resin and metal. Robin finished it with auto paint and weathered it with an airbrush.
To the right of the Iron Man suit, from top to bottom, is a TIE fighter pilot helmet replica from Star Wars, a TIE fighter pilot helmet replica from The Force Awakens and an X-wing pilot helmet replica, all of which Robin assembled and painted. Robin built the life-size Han Solo in carbonite from The Empire Strikes Back. Displayed next to it is a Hasbro Black Series Kylo Ren light saber that he modified.
Details: Robin constructed false soffits by building a 12-foot-high stud wall with 16-inch on-center spacing, secured to the joists. He then faced it out in three-quarter-inch MDF and secured it with lag bolts. “For the risers, I used 2-by-12-inch boards faced out in the same three-quarter-inch MDF. Using the spaces on the lower section, I converted the risers to hidden storage,” he says.
He constructed the columns by hand and lighted them with LED strip lights through a piece of Plexiglas coated with Dullcote lacquer for an opaque appearance. “To add additional depth, I wanted something metal, so I found four after-market truck grilles on eBay for $30 each and installed them between the Plexiglas and column wall,” Robin says. One of them is seen installed on the right side of the picture.
He built the Kylo Ren replica helmet from The Force Awakens, and various studio filming model replicas, model kits and scratch-built models displayed in this part of the room. A custom-built display case houses various 1:1 scale weapons replicas from Star Wars. Vertical slats hide wiring for the models and provide a hard mounting point.
Layout changes: A year after Robin started this project, the bedroom felt crowded. “There was a linen closet in the play room outside of the cave. When I looked at the roof line from outside, I realized that there was clearly a lot of space on either side of the cave,” Robin says.
By going up in the attic, he was able to look down on that area and see there was room to expand. “To my surprise, I had about 23 [square] feet of floor space where I could expand the cave,” Robin says. “I hired a contractor to frame and drywall, and I took over from there, adding display stations, more storage and vertical slats that the models, which are very heavy, could be mounted on…. The wires for them could be hidden down the slats.”
- Measure five times, cut once.
- Listen to your wife when she suggests colors and seating arrangements.
- Be creative and have fun.
What goes on here: Robin does all his prop and model building and woodworking.
Cabinets: Robin mounted 13 feet of wall cabinets from Amazon over a workbench he built from leftover lumber from the nerd cave and topped with self-healing cutting mats.
Tools: Stored in the cabinets are a drill press, airbrushes, scroll saws, chop saws, sanders, a router and a 3D printer.
Storage: The bookshelves were bought online and bolted to the wall. “We can display her favorite toys, but it works great as storage. I use the yellow-and-gray bins to store [or] hide smaller toys and games,” Stacey says. “While we built out the playroom for a small child, we wanted to make sure pieces could easily be updated, painted or changed as she grew older. The space can easily be converted to a study area for a teenager or a hangout for friends and family when she’s older.”
Bunting flag and Texas art: Etsy; wall paint: Summertime, PPG
Decor: Stacey decorated Piper’s bedroom in transitional style. The knit mermaid tail is from Etsy. “It’s also warm and cozy and adds a little extra whimsy to bed. We’re deep into mermaid fascination right now, so it meets her wants but also looks super cute,” Stacey says. The tissue pompoms decorating the upper right corner are leftover birthday party decorations.
What goes on here: Stacey does contract marketing work and needed her own private space. “Once Robin completed his ‘man cave,’ it was my turn, and he started building out my space,” Stacey says. This room is located right off the entry. “With the study, we found ways to infuse our more transitional tastes. It is a great space to work, but it is also a nice sanctuary to just get away and read.”
Scope of work: The house was new construction, and while the couple loved it, it was quite traditional, which doesn’t really fit their style. Since everything was brand new, it was a great blank canvas. “The study was just a beige cavern without any cabinets when we moved in,” Stacey says. They decided to go with glossy navy paint, Admiralty by Olympic, for the walls, with gold accents. “It nicely juxtaposes [with] the otherwise traditional home,” she says. “I used to be afraid of such deep, dark color, but this choice did not disappoint. I feel it’s pretty glam, but it’s also very cozy and functional.”
Robin’s father, Robert Moore, a retired airline pilot, built the open shelves out of plywood and select pine and installed them with Robin. They added a textured wallpaper with ambient LED strip lighting.
Favorite items: Original carvings purchased in Shanghai, including a wood-carved female figurine and jewelry box displayed on the bottom shelf on the left.
“A little tradition has bloomed out of the room too. Every weekend I wake up early, and Piper asks to watch a movie, so we make her bed [and] brush her teeth. I take her breakfast upstairs while mom gets to sleep in — for once.”
Robin will eat breakfast in the cave and watch a movie nearly every Saturday morning with Piper. Stacey usually joins halfway through, and the family enjoys quality time together before kicking off the weekend.
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