Decorating for Both Sexes

When it comes to decorating, some decisions result in the war between the sexes. All of us have seen rooms that are fabulously feminine, or marvelously masculine. This works fine as long as you’re single, but how do you integrate both styles in a household with both a man and a woman?

As I thumb through various decorating magazines, I repeatedly see rooms that just do not look like they would be inviting for a male, done up in a multitude of floral prints and pastel pinks. I also see plenty of the reverse, with rooms done in dark colors, heavy furniture, and decorative accents that are quite manly. How do you reach a happy medium, and come up with a room in which both sexes can feel equally at home?

The answer is actually quite simple…moderation. As you’ve seen in other articles on this site, I’m a big believer in neutrals. Not only in color, but also in style. A room, especially a common room like a dining room or living room, should be mostly neutral, with accents reflecting the tastes of both homeowners. Fifty percent of the room should be neither masculine nor feminine, while the remaining fifty percent is divided equally between them.

For example, avoid a wall color that is strongly considered either “girly” or “boyish”. Leave the pink for the lady’s sewing room or bathroom, and the tobacco brown for the study or office. Choose a more gender neutral shade like blue, green, beige or gray. Avoid a frilly, feminine furniture style, or a heavy wood manly look for the whole room. If you simply must have that pretty floral sofa, then balance it with a couple of non-floral chairs. A pair of elegant wingback chairs will match in style, but if they’re upholstered in a hunter green, they’ll balance the floral and lend a masculine air.

Most of us have our own “spot” in a room. You and your spouse probably each have a favorite chair or end of the sofa that you claim each time. Turn your spot into a little island of femiine or masculine comfort. An end table with a lace cloth, a filigree picture frame, a bud vase of flowers and a pretty lamp will make your area quite pretty, while a solid wood end table (perhaps with a solid color cloth on it), a heavier lamp, a wooden or brass picture frame, and a pewter Porsche will make the man’s section suitably masculine.

Accent pieces for the rest of the room are easily available in styles that are gender neutral. I have a number of gorgeous vases and pitchers in shades ranging from emerald, to cobalt blue, to ruby, and my husband loves them. The glassware is very sleek, with no patterns or designs. The colors and the lines of the glass make a statement all on their own, with no need for added ornamentation. Artwork is another way to bridge the gender gap. Put a more masculine print in a slightly feminine frame, or the floral still life in a simple wooden frame. Let the masculine and feminine elements compliment each other, and provide a contrast to each other.

In rooms that you share with each other (or with company), the objective is to make it welcoming for both sexes. Each of you should have a room of your own to decorate in whatever style you love, with no interference from the other party. Get together and decide which room each of you gets to claim, and get to work making it into the retreat of your dreams. If space requires that you share a getaway room, divide it in half, and each of you decorate an end in your favorite look. Pull it together by becoming more neutral (there’s that word again!), as you work toward the center

With a little give and take, you can make the rooms in your home welcoming and inviting to members of both sexes, which is the object of any decorating endeavor. Neutral doesn’t mean boring and impersonal. Neutral means having a complimentary backdrop to showcase what makes you unique!