TO SOME it's known simply as the study, the den or games room. Some are used for work, others are shrines to sport, while others are elaborate workshops dripping with power tools.

While they come in many forms, these rooms - collectively known as man caves - are a common feature in many family homes. But you won't find them taking pride of place as you walk in the front door, or on display next to the central family area.

Sometimes the source of ridicule by female members of the family, these greatly misunderstood spaces are often tucked away behind screens, stuffed into unwanted extra bedrooms at the far end of the house or exiled to a tin shed in the backyard - tolerated, rather than celebrated. Yet there is growing evidence to suggest these areas are much more than a male frivolity - they are an important escape from the stresses of busy lives, essential to helping improve the mental health of 50 per cent of the population.

Men who share a passion for brewing, Lego, stamps or bicycles have for too long hidden away their passions behind closed doors, sharing it only with other men in hushed tones, while many of the women in their lives exercise control over much of the collective space in the home. Aside from giving men a place to hang their yellowing Pink Floyd posters and racks of Star Trek DVDs, allowing a man to indulge in a little manscaping is not only a good way to get him out of the kitchen - sometimes, amazing things come back out of the cave - broken cups come back with handles repaired, toys for children appear and some even produce delicacies such as hand-crafted chocolate or exotic beer varieties. The isolation also often leads to greater social interaction as men join social clubs, build toys for charities and schools and exchange ideas with each other.

Having a television large enough to be viewed from the next suburb, a colour-sorted wall of plastic boxes containing fly fishing lures or 13 different types of bike pump might not make sense to everyone - but it doesn't have to. It's about giving a man what he really wants, an opportunity to express himself, indulge a little and to have control over his own domain. If a man's house is his castle, then the man cave must be his throne room.

As we approach Father's Day this week, let's do away with the jibes and start celebrating those nooks and crannies of our homes given over to the eccentricities of our men folk. Give your father a few hours of solitude in his mantuary this Father's Day and you might be surprised to see what he comes back out with.