The lad pad – enter at your own risk
As students we could all be messy but these days the women I know have cleaned up their homes. Not so the men
Houseproud or hovel? Many men take a relaxed approach to their home environment
Rewind via time’s giant wheel and think back to the grotty ephemera of our student accommodation. Scratchy linens pilfered from mammy’s hotpress, chipped crockery, Trainspotting or Che Guevara posters, a carpet that had seen better decades, ashtrays full to overflowing. And when it came to emptying those ashtrays and changing those linens, we were all as bad as each other.
But time wore on and, for me at least, the novelty of simply living out from under my parents faded. Kicked out of the nest, I loved how different (read: slovenly) from the orderly family home my dire, chaotic little digs were.
But the time came when I didn’t want to live in a hovel anymore. I started to become a bit house-proud and started to nest. I bought cushions, duvet sets, tea towels. I began to care about what my house said about me; what accents would make things cosy and nice and just so.
And after a while, I started to notice something. The men’s spaces I went to? Friends, lovers, colleagues, even housemates – the Trainspotting poster and mammy’s linens were all still very much present and correct. A valance? A dinner set? A scented candle? Forget it.
Men not changing their sheets and/or failing to address that weird smell from under the bed is a careworn cliché, but I’ve often marvelled that when it comes to the way men and women approach decorating their homes, it’s pretty much a case of never the twain shall meet.
Eye for style
Of course, there are many magnificent male interior designers out there; several men whose eye for style is unparalleled. One of my favourite houses in the entire city belongs to my friend Conleth and his husband; both of whom have turned attention to detail into a noble and impressive art form. But the truth is this. Many of the women I know, single or otherwise, have procured keepsakes, trinkets, mirrors, plants, artwork, and created a pleasing haven. There is often a lot of stuff.
Now we’re in our 30s, men may have figured out that the overflowing ashtray won’t empty itself, but their living spaces still often lean towards the perfunctory.
Before I go on, a caveat: this observation is not so much #notallmen as #mostoftheguysI’vedated. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve stayed in a boyfriend’s house, wishing for my own non-bobbly duvet and wondering what kind of person doesn’t own a single decent towel or frame photos of their family or friends. One ex-lover decided on bed sheets (no duvet) that were various hues of unsettling brown colours.
Any accenting going on in these homes had come thanks to a wall of vinyl, a lumpen beanbag for the Xbox, or something stark and hard-edged by Bang & Olufsen. Even those men who had given some thought to their living space decided on nondescript, American Psycho-style minimalism. These are men that see soft furnishings as just that: soft.
I’ve often wondered why this might be: that so many women take great care to make their homes engaging and welcoming, an extension of their personalities, while men … well, don’t seem to worry too much about this stuff.
Does it hark back to the idea that a home, and domestic preoccupations, are primarily the woman’s preserve, and buying valances falls under the category of women’s stuff? Is it because some women, in a world where they sometimes might not feel all that safe, place a higher premium on having a sanctuary, a safe space? It because throw pillows and valances are pretty, and therefore inherently feminine?
It is because they’ve more to do with their time than trawl Meadows & Byrne on the weekends for home accessories? Have the women in their lives – friends, flatmates, mothers, girlfriends – always made their living spaces nicer for them?
Is it because delineated gender roles mean that the male contribution to setting up home is deciphering the Ikea instructions and getting to work with the power drill?
Is it because the single women I know suspect that there’s a very good possibility that they might not meet a romantic partner, and their current home will be their forever home? And by that logic, that so many single straight men of a certain age don’t feel as though they’re yet in their forever home? Is it that the domestic ideal for many heterosexual men is a man cave?
I put it to a male friend of mine, whose only concession to interior design is currently a Spiderman duvet. “Yeah, I assume I’ll settle down someday,” he said. “No point in doing too much with the gaff until then. I’m assuming she’ll want to put her own stamp on the place.” And there it was again – the idea that women are compelled to put their stamp somewhere.
Perhaps it’s a lot more simple than all of that. Perhaps the men I’ve dated and befriended simply find minimalism, functionality and muted neutrals more aesthetically pleasing than I do. Perhaps my tumble of rainbow-coloured sofa pillows, my kitsch paraphernalia and my sofa throws are fussy and frivolous to them. Maybe they just don’t like the way Jo Malone candles smell.
Recently, I came across an article in a glossy interiors magazine: 16 Things A Man Should Never Have In His Home. I’d begun to suspect I was being a little unfair on the men I know for not being part-time Kelly Hoppens, but one read of this and I knew some bachelor pads need more help than others.
“Just because you live by yourself doesn’t mean your home has to look like a frat house,” it read. Among the items mentioned: a fish tank, drinking paraphernalia, cheap bedding/mismatched sheets and – a new one on me – reproduction Roman columns. It goes without saying that if you come across a Trainspotting poster that has remained resolutely unbothered since 1995 … well, enter at your own risk.