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The Gentleman’s Room: Creating a Masculine Aesthetic

A man’s room, like one that is the preserve of a woman, should aim at being restful, cozy, quiet, and a place where a gentleman can feel totally at home. Whether it’s the study, the den, or simply a special corner of the family room, this area forbids the intrusion of overtly feminine touches, such as brittle furniture, cachepots abounding in exotic plants, and swirly valences over the windows. Those with a fondness for those things can have their way in other rooms, but here, in the place where a gentleman wants to read, play cards or entertain, or relax at the end of a long day, paying attention to certain design elements can help create a place that better suits his sense of style.

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Choose a rug that’s geometric rather than replete with swirls and other nervous configurations. Rugs, like ceilings, are background and shouldn’t exercise too much claim for attention. Beginners will do well to start with kilims (old ones are best, but there are good-looking new ones, too) and then later, if there’s money in the bank, aspire to a serape.

Upholstered seating has to be big and deep enough for a man’s size, and it ought to be covered in fabric that avoids any hint of flowers and vines or colors that seem too feminine. Yellow and blue are out, and polished chintz should be barred. Tartan and houndstooth designs are too predictable for a man’s room; I’d opt for a herringbone pattern in a color that avoids beige through brown unless you pine to look like every other house on the street. Pillows can be your wild card, but be sure not to let them get so big that they interfere with comfort. And lay off the fringe; a knife edge is more manly and better looking.

Instead of a coffee table, consider an upholstered bench—a good place for books, which can also be used as extra seating when needed. Be sure that there is adequate lighting for reading. Television is a lot more tolerable if you can read when your interest in what’s on the tube begins to wane or when commercials overwhelm the channel. I prefer to have light come from an overhead source, augmented by a table lamp near at hand with an off-white shade.

For pictures on the wall, search for black (or dark wood) frames. Ten-to-one every other frame in the house will be a metal color, so these dark frames will proclaim this the man’s room in the house. A number of framed pictures and custom imprinted wall calendars, hung geometrically close together, creates the sort of architectural interest that a single large picture does not. Your pictures will look even better if the walls are covered in grasscloth with a nubby finish that will give an interesting texture to a wall’s expanse. And the great advantage of grasscloth is that you can paint it any color you like. Try a shade that’s a restful but interesting color. Greens are generally too dark, or if a lighter green, too insipid—so I’m partial to reds and taupes. One attractive thing about grasscloth is that when you tire of its color, you can simply paint some other hue over it.

A man’s room should have a desk, and a leather top will provide another opportunity for introducing color. Here’s the place to have a hit of green. Among the objects you will distribute about the room, be sure to include a clock. And don’t have book shelves unless you’re a reader. Nothing is more pretentious than rows of volumes that clearly have never been touched. If you do have lots of shelves, break up the books occasionally with various objects such as small framed pictures or pieces of porcelain.

Finally, if you’re a card player, consider a permanent bridge table with four matching chairs. You’ll always have a table ready, and it can provide additional seating for a large dinner party or be a perfect location for dinner for two couples. But pick chairs for this table with caution. You may need the chairs in a man’s room to add to the seating in the dining room for those occasional parties that grow too big. Choose chairs that have straight rather than cabriole (or “Queen Ann”) legs that bulge and have curves, which add a couple of inches to the width of each chair. Go for chairs with legs that are straight, trim and attractive in appearance; an added benefit of this style is that you can crowd more of them at a table when that’s a priority.

No matter where it is located in the home, a gentleman’s space should include calming colors, generous upholstered pieces, interesting textures and multitasking furniture. Incorporating these design elements can help create a restful, functional space where the men in the house will feel at home.

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