For most men, looking at or even thinking about home furnishings ranks somewhere between a visit to the dentist and getting a letter from the IRS. We’d rather do anything else but be dragged to a furniture store and asked such questions as “What do you think of this one, honey?” As a designer working with couples, I have seen that deer in the headlights look on men’s faces too many times.

Guys may think they don’t know much about interior design and wouldn’t know their settee from their settle, but we sell ourselves short. With just a few simple lessons, any man can become not only good but downright talented when it comes to decorating.

Surprised young man, against grey

Men have a real knack for space and proportion and understand spatial relations and how balance makes for a good room layout. Many of the great architects down the centuries have been men. Men excel at cooking and at designing automobiles. How is designing your living room any differentLesson One – Color is not out to get you. Believe it or not, there is something beyond Navajo white and blue. While your wife may bring home swatches of pinks and lavenders, you can one up her big time by impressing her with your knowledge of such manly colors as Sedona Rock or Wilderness Cabin. I’ve found most men are open to color more so than their mates. In the animal kingdom, males flash bright colors and strut their stuff to get attention. Somehow, human males have become drab and this just goes against nature. Whenever I show clients color options, it’s always the man who goes for the saturated reds and greens. But then he somehow retreats to his comfort zone and ends up with beige.  Don’t be afraid to take the plunge. You can do it.Lesson Two – Get out of that Dad Chair. Face it, our fathers and probably their fathers had the one chair in the house that was just theirs. Usually a recliner or at least something in brown leather, it became a man’s one and only refuge in a room he probably had no input in designing. Men aren’t like dogs who need just a bed and a bone to be happy. We need to escape the Dad Chair and join the rest of the family. Leather is great; it’s comfortable and forms to your body like an old pair of jeans. But look at lighter colors, neutral and vanilla shades that are more modern, hipper and look like part of the room plan, not an afterthought. Next time you are in a furniture store, tell your wife you want to look at tufted chairs and textural fabrics. By the time she comes to, you’ll be far away from the recliner section.

Lesson Three – It’s not like matching your shoes to your belt. Don’t let our good looks fool you, we have an imagination. If you can figure out how to sneak in that weekend in Vegas, you can select furniture without breaking into a sweat. One thing that really makes me crazy is when people say they want a bedroom “set”. We are not in the days of Ozzie and Harriet anymore. You don’t need to match the bed with the night stands and the dresser. Open up your parameters and see that mix and match makes a room more user friendly and not so staid. Recently I told a young father to go home and throw around words like “coordinate” and “complimentary” in describing his vision of the bedroom. I think I may have personally saved their marriage!

Puzzled Man 2

Lesson Four –  Up your game. I don’t know what it is about men holding on to everything.  Don’t let your house become full of unnecessary items. We all like our “stuff”, but there is a limit. Go back to the basics. Keep accessories to a minimum. The idea of the man cave probably started when someone’s girlfriend got sick and tired of looking at the trophies, framed team jerseys and collection of beer glasses that were filling up her dream house. The poor guy was banished to the den, the basement or even worse, a corner of the garage. Keep the peace in your home and be a part of the family room by learning that you can live with a lot less than you think. Not to say that your needs should be disregarded. But that poster of the cat clinging to the branch that says “Hang in there, Baby’ was probably better left at your college dorm room. You’re a grown man now. The time has come for adult art. Finally, think about how easy it will be to straighten up when you want to make a good impression on that first date.

 Lesson Five – Sofa and the Single Man. We need to stand proud and shout “I’m not going to take it any longer”. Men have needs, too, and one of these is comfort. Work with your designer to find sofas and chairs that fit you. Today one size does not fit all. You can buy furniture that’s scaled to your frame. Sofas come in different depths. Cushions can be anything from pure down to solid core foam. We don’t have to sit on tiny dining room chairs and feel that we are attending a tea party. It’s up to you, gentleman, to make your voice heard. The biggest lesson you need to learn here is not to be a passive participant in your own home and its design. Have a say in what’s comfortable for you. Sit in many options; don’t be talked into something just because it’s pretty or on sale. In this business, you get what you pay for and it’s not the time to be frugal. A recent study showed that men spend more time using their home furnishings than women do. Flex your designer muscle. Your house can look good and be a restful respite from the world.

I’ll keep this short, as most of us suffer from ADHD and have the attention span of a tsetse fly. If you think you have successfully completed this course, then it’s time to consider Interior Design for Men Graduate School. Classes start soon. If decorating your home still scares you, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hire an interior designer to lead you in the right direction. It’s bad enough someone has to pick out your clothes. Don’t let your wife or mother make the decisions you will have to live with for years.

Now, let’s talk the biggest screen TV we can find….