I recently received an email from a reader who wanted to issue me a challenge: find some images and ideas to inspire the decoration of a house for three 21-year-old guys. Always up for a challenge, I decided to give it a try. As soon as I started hunting, I could see the quandry for men interested in design, especially younger guys and those renting or sharing a place. Most spaces that have been designed specifically for men seem to follow one of a very limited number of formulas.
There’s the industrial loft space:
The sleek, gadget-centric seduction zone:
Or the gentleman’s club, like this modern interpretation of a wood-panelled library:
Now, while all these styles can be great for inspiration, the reality is that it’s going to be very hard to recreate any of these looks faithfully in most homes. If you live in a three-bedroom house with two other guys, there’s little to be gained from studying pictures of an open-plan studio loft. If your place is a rental, you can’t exactly put up floor-to-ceiling wood panelling or scrape off the plaster to reveal raw brick walls.
So, let’s see what elements can be used – and what alternative styles are possible.
Strong wall colors are the easiest way to create a unified, impactful look that is still masculine. Whether furnishings are spartan or mismatched, the look will still be pulled-together. Grays and browns are ideal options and there’s so much inspiration at the moment for these two hues.
Many of these rooms also have strong, sculptural elements. The easiest (and cheapest) way to achieve this is with sculptural lighting pieces, like the Nelson Saucer bubble lamp in the bedroom image, or the large pendant shade over the dining table.
If you really want to go with lighter colors (tough in a house-share) then these sculptural elements will be even more important. Keep the space simple, colors uniform and the focus on a few pieces with interesting shapes.
Texture is an often over-looked element in decorating. Stereotypical bachelor pads feature a lot of smooth chrome and black leather. But this approach means you miss out on the benefit that a combination of rich textures can provide. Grainy woods, scuffed leather and thick wool can create a masculine and stylish look without too much effort. And you can do it without spending a fortune by buying second-hand furniture. Check out the impact of these wood pieces:
And the use of leather, wool and stone in these shots:
The other challenge facing house-sharers is where to store all your ‘stuff’. Fortunately, books, art, photos and other artifacts (maybe not snowboards or boat oars – I’m not kidding, our first tenants in our house in London were three male rowers!) can be a real design asset. It’s also a great look for the thinking bachelor’s pad. Industrial-looking shelves are a good option, like these:
Or wood shelves (to borrow from the gentleman’s club look):
I also really like the use of bookshelves surrounding a wall-mounted TV. So much nicer than just having the TV lurk there all alone.
Similarly, group several photos or pictures together to create a more cohesive, strong display. Making these personal items a deliberate part of the scheme will definitely help the overall effect be more streamlined, even when you need to combine three people’s bits and pieces.
When it comes to finishing touches, there several trends right now that have a masculine vibe without being cliched. Skulls, flags, maps, globes and vintage lightbulbs are all making appearances in homes. I’m personally a big fan of the Brit-chic look (no surprise there, as I’m British!)
So it seems that there are lots of ways to go when decorating for an all-male household after all. As long as you remember the four ‘S’s – Strong colors, Sensory elements like texture, Storage for books etc, and Sculptural pieces.
Anyone designed a house for guys and got any other tips?
1 – Apartment of designer Christina Rodriguez via Design for Life; 2 – Freshome; 3 – Living Etc; 4 – Office of designer Monique Lhuillier’s husband, and CEO of her firm, as seen in Elle Decor, photos by Roger Davies, via ChicFreak; 5 – Living Etc; 6 – Artist Lincoln Shatz’s apartment via Apartment Therapy; 7 – via Vintage + Chic; 8 – Apartment of fashion designer Franciso Costa and De John Stefano via DigsDigs; 9 – photo by Patric Johansson via slipcoveryourlife; 10 – photo by Per Magnus Persson; 11 – Loft of designer Frederic Mechiche, via Door Sixteen; 12 – Room designed by Steven Gambrel on 1st Dibs, via Anh Minh; 13 – Living Etc; 14 – via CasaSugar; 15 – Home for hire by photographer Graham Atkins Hughes as reported on Por Homme (more photos featuring this home at Graham’s web site); 16 – via From the Right Bank; 17 - via DigsDigs; 18 – Living Etc; 19 – Thomas O’Brien’s studio apartment as seen in Australian Vogue Living, via Design Files; 20 – via Vintage + Chic; 21 – via Apartment Therapy; 22 and 23 – via Living Etc.