When I moved in with my fiancé, I was blissfully unaware of the issues that could crop up in the decorating department.
During my search for a new duvet cover, I realised the feminine patterns and pretty, paisley designs that I would have picked in the past are not my other half’s cup of tea.
So, bypassing the usual suspects, I settled on a dark-blue duvet with vertical stripes and another that was white with horizontal stripes.
For women who have a taste for pretty patterns and girlie colours, going neutral may seem like a recipe for drab and dull décor, but not so, says interior designer Sharon Dann, of Design Council Interiors in Bucklands Beach.
“With the fashion colours at the moment, there tends to be a lot of neutral colours,” says Sharon. “They don’t offend anybody, and they work for guys and girls. You just need to mix things up so it’s not boring.”
Exchanging flowery patterns for stripes and pale pastels for earthy tones is the first step towards creating a gender neutral living space.
While Germaine Greer would surely have a fit at the idea of women suppressing their tastes to mollify their men, decking your home out in neutral hues can save you time and money in the long run.
“Think longevity with all your big purchases,” says Sharon, who advises getting fixtures and fittings in neutral shades, and choosing plain-coloured staples like sofas in the lounge and duvet covers in the bedroom.
“We tend to keep the duvet covers and valances very plain now. They are usually white.”
Although it’s important to balance your tastes with his, fortunately there are plenty of ways to avoid feeling like you’re trapped in a man cave.
“With modern interiors, they are generally neutral,” says Sharon. “It’s just getting the mix right. Black is really popular in a master bedroom.”
Choosing accessories with bold colours or patterns is a good way to liven up a plain room, and it costs less to change an accessory than to replace a bigger purchase like a couch.
“Dolly it up with cushions — that’s where you start building in your textures and patterns,” says Sharon.
“There are checks, spots and lots of other patterns. But we do advise people not to compromise on their tastes. If there’s something that you feel really strongly about, stand up for it. Your home should reflect your personality.”
Decorating a spare bedroom is a great opportunity to get your creative juices flowing and let loose your girly side.
“Guest bedrooms tend to be more feminine. Husbands don’t really care what goes in there.”
And whether they like to admit it or not, Kiwi blokes are becoming more interested and involved in deciding on their home décor. Thanks to the popularity of home renovation shows, the days when women had free reign over their home décor are long gone.
“Subliminally, it has had an effect on guys. There would be few men now who don’t have some input. In the old days the bedroom was very much the woman’s domain. But I think, good on men [for taking an interest].”
“Men definitely get a lot more say in the home, and in consultations the husband has
a lot to say about what he wants,” says Sharon.
This can have its drawbacks, though, for long-suffering wives and interior designers alike.
“We do a lot of marriage counselling,” Sharon laughs. “Men love timber, but we try to steer them away from rimu and kauri. It’s really horrible to work with from an interior designer’s point of view.
“Men are very black and white. They are no-nonsense and have quite strong opinions about the major things.”
But if you’d rather give your partner the flick than sacrifice your style for his, there is another option.
Give him his own room complete with a massive TV, pool table and La-Z-Boy chair and he’ll be as happy as a pig in poo.
“Let him go out and buy his flat-screen TV and a big comfy chair and he’ll be happy — and you can do whatever you want,” says Sharon. “Leather couches are another big thing that men love. Some of them we just cringe at, and some of them are really good.”