By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
When Tara and Brian Manley moved into their home on Sycamore Avenue in Tinton Falls nearly two years ago, there were plenty of projects to keep them busy.
In that time, Tara Manley said, the couple has done a pretty good job getting all but one space into the shape they’d like: the basement. Or, more appropriately, the bomb shelter.
“It actually has a bomb shelter,” Brian Manley said. “It was built during the Cold War time.”
He plays it down a little, calling it an empty concrete slab for storage. His wife describes it as a sad, frat-party room.
“You have to think college frat basement, like mostly cinderblocks, real dark and dingy,” Tara Manley, 24, said. “It kind of smelled weird.”
Regardless, it was the one space of the house that the Manleys admit they were hesitant to touch.
So they called in a contractor/TV host and former football defensive tackle to do it for them.
The two hosts of DIY Network’s “Man Caves,” Jason Cameron and Tony Siragusa, along with a team of contractors, dropped in on the Manley’s one-story ranch Sunday and got to work on a complete overhaul of the bomb shelter. They turned it into a basement-dweller’s dream: a spy-themed space full of wartime memorabilia, tricked-out bookshelves that open up to a recessed wall, a slick, 10-foot bar and, of course, a trap door in case disaster does, in fact, strike Tinton Falls. (Note: the production crew don’t allow pictures of the finished basement to be published until after the show airs.)
They wrapped up work Tuesday afternoon as about two dozen friends and family members waited upstairs for the made-for-TV moment where they got to see the finished product.
“He’s chomping his fingernails,” Cameron said of Brian Manley. “I think he’s down to the stubs. We’re all excited for this.”
“It really is a secret,” Manley said. “We’re all going to be surprised here soon.”
This is the second trip to the area for the “Man Caves” crew. About two weeks ago they visited a home near the Manleys and created a steakhouse-themed basement.
It was a long three days of anticipation on Sycamore Avenue, Manley said. Workers, including Cameron, took over half the house for a better part of the 72 hours leading up to Tuesday’s unveiling, he said.
“It’s been kind of hectic, kind of nerve-wracking,” Manley, 29, said. “You’re physically watching live TV every day. When you watch the show, you’re watching 23 minutes. But for three days, (we were) living those 23 minutes.”
Tara Manley, in anticipation of the show visiting her home, had a small wooden American flag made that read, “Man-ley Cave.”
Although it is by definition a “man cave,” she’s sure that Brian won’t be hiding away in the basement for days at a time in his new playspace.
“I told him that the space is all his if he keeps it clean,” she said, “which I know he won’t do. So he’s going to have to share it.”
Producers from the show did not have an air date set for the episode the Manleys will be featured, but said it won’t run for at least another couple months.