The ascent of the ‘men-terior designer’
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A few months ago, it was revealed that a ‘new’ trend in ‘men-terior designers’ had been recognised by researchers of the interior décor market. This trend, in fact, is nothing new...
Since when have men been despondent about home improvement or renovation? Isn’t it a well-known cliché that all men love a bit of DIY of a Saturday afternoon? Personally, the thought of spending my weekend squeezing something between a vice in a darkened garage puts me into a cold sweat. The thought of popping into an interiors store and picking out a new set of crockery and silverware, however, does actually thrill me a little.
I know that sounds rather flamboyant - choosing an afternoon in Zara Home over a session with a hammer and some bits of wood - but this all falls under the umbrella of interior design. All of it. As much as I enjoy nipping on to Pottery Barn’s website (America’s best homeware store in my opinion) and fantasising over the sofas that I’d love to buy if it weren’t for the terrifying shipping costs, I am just as exhilarated by the idea of poring over architectural plans that I might have commissioned be drawn up for my own future property. Stuff like under-floor heating, up-lighting, stained oak kitchen islands and brass door knockers interest me as much as the fluffy, flowery side of home decoration.
One of my little dreams is to buy a plot of land and build a home that I have designed myself on it – deciding on everything from the pattern of the brickwork to the flying buttresses. So I think the idea of it being a shocking revelation that men show an interest in interior design is pretty lame.
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My father is a chartered surveyor; so I guess I was raised by a man who has always taken a vested interest in this sort of thing. When he and my mother decided to renovate our family home when I was about 11, I distinctly remember them both being as obsessed with the blueprints as they were with the colour palette of the new bathroom.
Yet, the research broadly suggests that “men want to focus on the technological aspects whereas women prefer concentrating on the pattern of the décor”.
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This is wrong.
Again – I am a man; and while it’s crucial that my flat screen looks shiny and syncs in with my tablet, phone and laptop to some capacity, I am equally concerned with how the damask wallpaper behind it allows the screen to pop.
This survey tells us that 19 per cent of interior designers say men are more concerned about current design trends than ever before, and have now started to do more research into home interior fashions. While the former is true, the latter isn’t. This idea of there suddenly being a male interest in style and image is not a product of simply the last 12 months, as the findings claim. Men have gradually cared more about materialism and taste as the decades have passed, and started doing so years and years ago. Fashion has played a part in it; but fashion goes hand-in-hand with the likes of living space, accessories and gadgets. Even the types of sport one takes up have become more (or less) fashionable (weights are in, fishing’s out).
This all falls under the umbrella of ‘lifestyle’, and it would seem that the remaining 81 per cent of designers who didn’t declare that men are more tuned in to trends and styles are rather behind-the-times.
Art imitating life
The report reckons “gender boundaries have become less defined, so men are free to be more design aware without the stigma traditionally associated with it”. Since when have we men been ‘trapped’ by design ignorance? One either takes an interest or one doesn’t. Perhaps it’s my carefree ability, as a young man, to smirk in the face of old-school thinking that allows me to wonder why this research has been revealed in 2016, when it would be more suited to perhaps 1986.
Today, the media throws ripped fitness models’ bodies into the sight-line of the passing-by man, just as women of the catwalk are shoved down the throats of impressionable women. Most men now want to keep their image at the best feasible level it can be – and while the typical metrosexual male wants to look good physically, he wants the suit from Tom Ford and the smooth-looking home to match.
This is a massive generalisation. Plenty of guys aren’t fussed about any of this; but if we’re talking about the type of man who at least has an Instagram account and is toying with the idea of hiring an interior designer to “do” his flat, then it’s likely that their overall lifestyle choices are going to be synonymous. And this reaches beyond just the home.
Trouble in paradise
These findings (which were conducted by a home insurance company) have admittedly unearthed some intriguing stats, nonetheless.
For example, 70 per cent of interior specialists have seen couples clash over the design of their homes, with 34 per cent finding the need to actually step in and mediate between warring partners. One designer said they have witnessed “marriages broken over storage space” and another admitted to dealing with arguments by suggesting the man “goes to the pub”. This designer, really, needs to skip on back to Rotherham, 1966, where he/she belongs. And the aforementioned couple have evidently got bigger problems than where to store the guest towels.
Despite their certainly being less of a segregation between the sexes when it comes to keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s on trend these days, it’s accurate to state that tastes vary significantly between men and women – with some interior designers even allocating rooms to each partner to avoid tiffs.
Not a bad idea – but who’s to say that will be as simple as it sounds. Part of what concerns men about their overall lifestyle could be the surroundings they do day-to-day activities in. However blokey you might be, it’s not surprising if you care about the tone of the bed sheets you sleep beneath; or the stainless steeliness of the utensils you use when chopping up celeriac for your protein shake.
Apparently, words said to be used by interior designers when describing the taste of men in this study included “stark, Germanic, dark, neutral and plain”. ‘Germanic’ slightly baffles me; but then again, I enjoy the Danish joys of Ikea. ‘Plain’ offends me. Yet ‘dark’, ‘stark’ and ‘neutral’ may very well be fair observations. Just because a man of 2016 has a vested interest in how their habitat is bedecked, doesn’t mean they want their kitchen to look as if Kath Kidston has thrown up over it. It’s perfectly possible to continue to remain manly whilst mulling over the colour of your spatulas (cobalt or bruise?)
Then again, the words that came back from the study with reference to ladies were “warm, soft, blossomy and flamboyant”. And I’ve now used that F word twice over the course of this article.