A Guide to Decorating for Bachelors

Bachelor penthouse designed by the author.  Photo: Linda MerrillSingle heterosexual men, a.k.a. bachelors, have long been left out of the design world. The stereotype is that they don’t care where or how they live. Is that really true? Historically, people got married shortly after high school or college, and most went from their parents’ house or fraternity house to their own home, where their new wife was charged with setting up the house. Today, adults are waiting longer to get married or cohabitate, and single men are more and more in charge of their own design planning. Divorced and separated men who are transitioning back into single life are also creating their own homes where children might be part of the mix.  So, do men really not care, or do they simply need help navigating the minefields of furniture stores and decorators? I submit that most simply need a little support, encouragement and guidance. Here are a few tips for the single guy set:

Search for your style.

Not sure what you like? Flip through shelter magazines and blogs, pay attention to movies and television shows and the houses the characters live in, look at the style of ads in GQ or Maxim. If you pay attention, you’ll soon discover what appeals to you.

Budget is important, but be sure that you’re not making decisions simply based on a sale price.

If you prefer modern minimalism, don’t shop in a more traditional furniture store just because there is a sale.  If you prefer a more traditional ornate style, Ikea may not be the right choice. Never buy on sale what you wouldn’t be tempted to pay full price for. Likewise, freebies and hand-me-downs may save on the budget, but if they don’t fit in with your vision or taste, then don’t accept them. Style is about edited choices, and can only be achieved with careful consideration.

A Masculine Aesthetic


California designer Scot Meacham Wood of SMW Design is a single gentleman who lives what he preaches when it comes to design. His aesthetic is strongly masculine, traditional yet comfortable. Wood notes that men are generally very budget and value focused when it comes to design, but that, “Everyone’s private space is so unique to them, it should feel like a natural extension of themselves.” 

Scot Meacham Wood’s tips for Bachelor Décor:

  •  “Go Big.  Now, I said ‘big’ and not ‘huge.‘  There is an important difference.  Really look at the space you’re working with and find the largest sofa/chair/table that fits into the space.  So many people, and not just you single guys, try to cut corners-and cut prices-by shopping at a particular price point and not for the size that’s correct.  Invest the money and get something that has some ‘presence’ in the room.  There is little sadder than a tiny area rug in a large room.  So, buy what fits -- not just what’s on sale.”
  • Stick with neutrals.  Remember, however, that ‘neutral’ is not just ‘beige.’  When choosing those first few pieces, keep a simple color palette in mind, perhaps charcoal or chocolate brown. Large furnishings are a long-term investment. You can always keep things interesting with great lighting and accessories, but neutral furnishings will be less likely to bore you down the road and are therefore a good investment.”
  • Art.  As with furnishings, I would recommend going ‘big.’  There are tons of online resources for artwork -- maybe even try allposters.com. Spend some time searching for things that you love: travel, black and white photography, whatever appeals.  Get some artwork on those walls; it will make all the difference.”

Generally speaking, it’s not that hard to put together an attractive space that speaks to who you are, is comfortable and stylish. Focus on:

  • Furnishings, including rugs and tables, that fill the space, are comfortable for you and guests, are neutral enough to be flexible, and create conversation spaces .
  • Artwork and accessories bring life and personality to a home.
  • Budget is important, but should not be the sole determining factor when making purchasing decisions.
  • Love what you buy. Don’t buy what you don’t love.
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