When we bought our home this summer, I was really excited to
get to clean two bathrooms instead of just one decorate and buy some new furniture. I had the same IKEA couch for 11 years, and while it was fine and will continue to labour under our asses for years to come in the basement, I really, really wanted something new for our furniture-less front room. And so, like everyone in North America who has a vagina and way too much time on her hands, I got all obsessed with Pinterest and pawing the Internet for ideas.
But the things that really got me thinking were my 1950s materials. It wasn't the specific design suggestions that got my old noggin thumping, but the way everything in the magazines seemed to point out whether something was masculine or feminine. Boy things and girl things were clearly defined - even when it came to food (remember the post from the 50s Housewife Experiment that talked about making meals for husbands with "masculine tastes"?). As you can imagine, home décor choices were discussed in a similar way. In fact, one article I read in The Bride's Reference Book titled "The Masculine Bill of Rights" specifically lays out what men like in home furnishings and advises women not to get too carried away with "feminine" details. Like so:
A man needs furniture large enough to accommodate his binge drinking.
Clearly, this advice to respect the Masculine Bill of Rights fell onto deaf ears for some. Here's a 1955 ad from Armstrong that features pink linoleum floors, a pink rug, pink walls, pink curtains, pink canopy beds (two of 'em!), and pink furniture that might have you wonder if a giant Barbie was about to walk through the door:
The picture above is why articles like "The Masculine Bill of Rights" were written. And maybe those articles worked because we don't see ads or rooms that are that unabashedly girly anymore. That is, unless it belongs to a little girl with a princess-obsession. But an adult woman? Or a married couple? As if.
While we still identify some décor items as feminine or masculine, I think a lot of everyday people (or maybe just me?) try to appease everyone in their home by turning to items that feel gender neutral. We don't go for those "feminine" prints or pieces because we worry they'll look childish or silly - as if we haven't outgrown our little princess ways. Or we worry that by having something "girly", even something small, we will somehow upset our male partners - as if a simple floral bedspread could make a man uncomfortable.
But the problem with gender neutral décor is that it's often really, really boring. Unless it's a super fun and eccentric piece that defies gender, it can come across rather personality-less. This doesn't mean that it's not nice looking, it's just ... rather forgettable. You can see what I mean when you look at the pictures of our condo:
And so when we were creating the room in our new home, I specifically went for things that struck me as masculine or feminine. It needed a him or a her-ness to it. Eventually, we pulled the place together. Our couch reminded me of a nicely tailored men's suit. The curtains are bold yet undeniably feminine. The teak coffee table is simple, but definitely on the butch side. And our area rug is like a woman's colourful makeup palette. (I had a naughty 'rug' joke lined up there but decided to take that high road I keep hearing about. I just want you to know that.) I should probably change the lampshades to something with more colour and I realize I need to fill our bookcases in a more appealing way (it feels rather lacking) - but I love the direction it's going! It all looks way nicer when the sun is shining in, but here are some pics:
And you know who pointed out the rug to me in the store? Patrick. Because it turns out that if you have a nice balance of things (respecting that whole Masculine and Feminine Bill of Rights), dudes balls don't actually shrivel up around pretty stuff. In fact, they really quite admire it.
If I get my act in gear, next post will have some pics with our Christmas stuff up. You just know that aluminium tree is making a return appearance.
In the meantime, tell me about your home décor theories and practices!