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Décor For Dudes

Spend the money and time to make your home your own

Ralph Lauren wows with its glamorous window display


Most experts tell us that it’s essential to develop a personal style that reflects who we are. Well, if it’s true of clothing, it’s also true of our homes. But if you’re a guy, decorating might not be (read: probably ain’t) your thing. The fix is easy: Talk to someone in the know.

Rule #1: Don’t be afraid to invest in decent décor.

“Good seating is where you should put your money,” says Olga Adler, creative director of Westport’s Olga Adler Interiors. “A solid frame will withstand years of heavy use, and high-quality leather only improves with age. Rather than going for the obvious huge, black overstuffed leather sofas or recliner chairs…opt for a timeless Chesterfield sofa, if you are into classic design, or a couple of Barcelona chairs, if modern is your thing.”

Where to get these staples? For that Chesterfield, try Restoration Hardware; for your Barcelona chairs and more, visit Design Within Reach (see shopping recommendations, listed below).

Adler’s two other must-haves: a good rug and good art. 

“Regardless of whether you are—or aspire to be—a collector, or are simply looking to warm up your space with something eye-pleasing, art is very personal,” she says. “And it has to be original. Whatever you do, please avoid the ‘art’ section at Home Goods.”

And for that rug, forget overstock.com or the obvious buy-near-the-turnpike- shortcuts.

“No cheap, fake Persians or Aubussons, please!” Adler says. “Instead, pick a contemporary hide or a modern interpretation of classic patterns from the likes of Thomas O’Brien (at Safavieh) or Ben Soleimani (at Restoration Hardware).”

To my mind, truer words have never been spoken, especially with regard to the “personal” aspect of art and décor.

Décor is, should we forget, the root of the word decorum, and that’s important: The interiors we inhabit play a huge part in how we feel, and how we behave.

What got me into decorating was that, during years of student penury, I grew sick of staring at low-ceilinged, eggshell-white walls that seemed to close in upon me. Yes, like many, I lived in a world of unframed movie posters, arrayed DVDs and vinyl, cinder-blocked stacks of books and magazines, and a messy computer station.

Ya know—dude stuff, basically.

I’ve since traded up, following décor ideas culled from books and blogs, for useful bulletin boards; framed maps; sundry mirrors (thus, small spaces become larger); a decent bar—with select potables, and silver galore; a winnowed, but fine, library of titles; busts (yes, busts—of composite and marble); solid bookcases; and displayed ephemera and garniture collected to reflect all that is, well, me.

Some of these objets are, frankly, odd, and yes, perhaps, all this sounds bizarre, no doubt…but again, c’est moi, I guess.

I’m strange—or strangely eclectic, in my personal tastes.

But this also has something to do with the practice of The Find (in Stan Williams’s sense of the word). My style is Sister Parish-meets-Heirloom Modern-meets-Sir John Soane’s Museum.

That may sound meaningless, but it reflects choices that I honestly love living with…

And I hope I’ve chosen wisely.

“If you live with someone, then you are probably making decisions together, which is great,” Adler says. “If you live alone, smart decorating decisions you make now will guarantee that your stuff will actually end up with you when you someday combine your possessions with those of your loved one.”

I don’t know if I’ve been “smart” (as now I live alone), but for my style, hunting down a curio, that piece reflecting my style, is as much fun as actually placing it in my home.

The process of decorating also leads to projects, as Adler notes, such as taking your own photographs, learning about matting and framing, and the history of décor itself (see The World of Ornament).

And hanging your own work can redefine your space—and your life.

Funnily enough, it’s nice to learn that this isn’t so odd, either.

“I would rather see an Ikea poster than a fake, mass produced ‘oil’ painting,” Adler adds. “And, you can find great vintage posters online, too. Generally, you can find great original works on any budget. Black-and-white photography is always great, and, since art should be personal, head out with your iPhone, pick an Instagram mode—click, print, frame. Voilá!”

That said, if you’re not so savvy with your apps, a great local source of original rock poster art is Darien’s Johnny’s Records. Or, for very unique, charming objects, stop by eclectic places: a favorite for me has long been SoNo’s Gregory Cole Antiques, and for fun finds, the just-rediscovered New Canaan Thrift Store

After a while, you can nose out what you want when you’re not even looking. And, over the years, you’ll develop your own style as a dude.

But if you don’t, remember, gents: There are many sources from which to choose, and a lot of help out there. That said, after all, it’s your home, and you want to be comfortable.

So, to paraphrase an oft-quoted maxim, remember that the most important things in a room are the people in it. And if you spend time in your rooms, they should reflect you.

Because if they don’t, no one likely ever will enjoy them.

Olga Adler is an award-winning interior designer and creative director of Westport-based Olga Adler Interiors. For more information, visit olgaadlerinteriors.com.

Olga Recommends

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