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Handsome Rooms with a Masculine Vibe

Think beyond the stereotypical man cave and create dashing interiors that appeal to men and women alike

Written and produced by Debra Steilen
  • Werner Straube

    We appreciate dark, cozy man caves as much as anyone, but this slide show is not about creating rooms just for dudes. It’s about designing elegant interiors with masculine undertones: rooms that convey warmth, strength, and a sense of the people who live in them.

    What’s the formula? The short answer is masculine room design embraces dark, saturated colors; clean lines; a rugged mix of materials; and an absence of clutter. Keep clicking to get lots of ideas for making a room with both strength and style.

    Shown: Substantial pieces of furniture—an oval desk, a large-scale ottoman covered in a houndstooth check hair-on-hide, and leather club chairs—command attention in this office. Ivory-colored carpet balances walls painted an arresting shade of black.

    Design: Suzanne Kipp

    Tour other rooms in this revived Georgian-style home.

  • Werner Straube

    Use Strong Colors

    Light, shimmery pastels don’t work here; they remind us of ballerinas and animated princesses, not manly men. So ditch the pinks and periwinkles and envelop your space with dark, saturated, or neutral paint colors—such as charcoal gray, chocolate brown, coal black, rich eggplant, deep burgundy, navy blue, and forest green. Accent with contrasting shades of white, camel, crimson, and/or sapphire blue to keep the room from feeling overwhelmingly dark.

    Shown: Crimson accents enliven a room shaded with deep gray walls. The headboard and base of the bed are upholstered in a rugged hair-on-hide “Brindle” material.

    Design: Erik Kolacz

    Check out this handsome rural retreat.

  • Werner Straube

    Choose Substantial Furniture 

    Chances are you already realize these truths. Delicate furniture—especially when it boasts a curvy silhouette—looks feminine. Sturdy furniture with straight lines looks masculine. Imagine a Louis XV chair sitting next to a comfortably modern sofa from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and you’ll get the picture.

    How to proceed? Mix an oversize leather sofa (perfect for relaxing) with clubby leather armchairs and a padded ottoman or two. Or pair a sleek well-padded sectional with a hefty coffee table made of chunky chrome and glass. Love wood? Choose beefy pieces—in dark or natural stain colors—to introduce natural appeal. 

    Shown: A large, comfy sofa upholstered in steel-blue mohair provides a moody contrast to the den’s traditional mahogany paneling. A deep blue-gray ceiling enhances the room’s drama.

    Design: Summer Thornton

    Tour the rest of this updated 1920s Tudor home.

  • Emily Minton-Redfield

    Cut the Clutter

    Masculine spaces get their appeal from large elements—such as furniture or focal-point walls—rather than layers of accessories. So keep it simple, stylist. Furnish your room(s) with a few well-chosen pieces of substantial furniture. Keep horizontal surfaces as free from decorative items as you can bear. And cut back on the use of throw pillows; florals, fringe, and fussiness will ruin the mood.

    Shown: Homeowners Michael Hughes and Karen Brody decorated their ranch home’s open floor plan with mid-century modern furnishings in neutral colors. Noticeable texture (wood grain, woven chair seats, a hooked rug) adds interest.

    Original architect: Richard Crowther
    Renovation architect: Jeff Sheppard

    Take advantage of our best de-cluttering tips.

  • Eric Roth

    Make It Personal

    Yes, we recommend that you avoid clutter when living within a masculine space. But we also know you long to put your personal stamp inside every room. Just promise us you’ll do it in moderation—too many sports collectibles or vintage signs take the room from a dashing space to a decorating nightmare.

    Shown: Animal skulls are hung from the bookcase to give this library the masculine feel of a hunting lodge.

    Design: Joseph Abboud in partnership with the design team at RH

    Check out handsome showhouse rooms that are nothing short of heart-throbbing.

  • Eric Roth

    Create a Sophisticated Sanctuary

    Menswear designer Joseph Abboud claimed the tower in his family’s pied-à-terre as a sanctuary. He furnished it—as with the rest of the home—with a sepia-tone mixture of antiques and new pieces from RH (formerly Restoration Hardware). This library sitting room includes a late-1800s weathered English chest, a new leather chaise, and an industrial-style tripod lamp. The pillow is upholstered in fabric from the designer’s menswear collections.

    Design: Joseph Abboud in partnership with the design team at RH

    Tour Joseph Abboud’s Boston home.

  • Werner Straube

    Go Big

    Sizable furnishings and strong design statements build a masculine vibe into a room. 

    Shown: Designer Kerry Delrose’s self-proclaimed “sophisticated man cave” features a long linen sofa, leather-and-wood bench, and sturdy armchairs facing a wood coffee table with bronzed-iron legs. The bar area flaunts dramatic Macassar ebony-wood cabinets with silver-leaf doors. The ceiling sports Farrow & Ball’s “Black Blue” paint. And the wall-hung television, naturally, is enormous.

    Design: Kerry Delrose

  • Werner Straube

    Outfit with Dark Wood 

    Dark, richly stained woods add strength, character, and a masculine ambience to an interior, especially when the wood is used for traditional paneling and built-in cabinetry. Adding architectural features such as exposed ceiling beams, a coffered ceiling, and/or hardwood flooring makes the room feel rugged.

    Shown: A pair of chaise lounges and an extra-long sofa—all upholstered in gray wool—provide comfy seating in this elegant media room. Frosted glass panels, rather than fussy window treatments, keep the room secluded. A subtle detail: Some throw pillows are covered in a paisley pattern reminiscent of men’s ties.

    Design: Lonni Paul

    See the rest of Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s Chicago home.

  • Ed Gohlich

    Add Dashing Accents

    Dark walls not your thing? Punch up nuanced neutrals with accents in deep, sultry shades that add waves of masculine energy.

    Shown: Deep-chocolate-brown drapes and faux-fur pillows invigorate a neutral den. The streamlined sectional is upholstered in warm beige microfiber fabric; the ottoman is covered in a matching shade of leather. A brown-leather armchair punctuates the seating arrangement.

    Design: Dana Lyon

    Take a look at dramatic, overscale lighting fixtures.

  • Richard Leo Johnson

    Show Off Rugged Materials

    The look of painted drywall or plaster-and-lathe walls just can’t equal the drama delivered by handsome materials such as fieldstone, exposed brick, concrete, steel, or hand-hewn wood. Combine features crafted of these materials with large-scale furniture and you’ve got a room that exudes strength and masculinity.

    Shown: A bluestone mantel and hearth enhance the entry porch’s fieldstone fireplace. Large-scale furniture is positioned around a coffee table made of birch logs.

    Design: Tracy Hickman

  • Michael Garland

    Build in Industrial Influences

    Straight lines and square corners may get a little repetitive. Add interest with industrial chic design details: from timeworn wood furniture to machinery parts and tools made from forged or welded metal. In other words: anything that simultaneously celebrates practical function and patina. A rusty patina is a bonus. Such pieces, with their striking silhouettes and intriguing surfaces, warm up monochromatic interiors with hardworking character.

    Shown: Rustic knotty-alder cabinetry warms the feel of a marble-topped island built around a vintage French factory cart. Vintage-inspired draftsman’s stools pair industrial steel with rugged wood seats. A double-pendant light from The Urban Electric Co. lends a splash of red.

    Design: Trip Haenisch

    Tour another kitchen filled with rustic finishes.

  • Werner Segarra

    Connect with the Outdoors

    You don’t need multihue throws or pillows to jazz up a monochromatic room. Inject visual interest—and a sense of adventure—by connecting such a room to the outdoors. Oversize picture windows, sliding glass doors, or glass panels that slide into the exterior wall pocket and disappear from view: All these options let you gaze at the landscape from your living room or see a sparkling cityscape from your high-rise. An added plus: The natural “artwork” changes every day.

    Shown: This living room boasts a travertine-tile floor, a hide rug, exposed beams, an oversize white sectional, and even an organic chair carved from a single tree trunk. But the most masculine detail is the eye-catching view of Arizona’s rugged Sonoran Desert.

    Design: Suzanne Biers Harrington

    Visit a mountain home with great views.

  • Werner Straube

    Go Rustic, Yet Refined

    Masculine design features rule in this Midwestern summer cottage.  Rough-hewn beams frame the kitchen, where hide-covered saddle stools with hickory legs sidle up to a zinc-topped peninsula. (Perimeter countertops are crafted of Bronzo Quartzite.) The base cabinets are made of hand-scraped, distressed Norwegian butternut with an antique glaze. Uppers feature angel-hair brushed-stainless-steel-and-glass doors.

    Kitchen Design: Mick De Giulio
    Interior Design: Veronica McGraw

    See the rest of this lakeside vacation home

  • Colleen Duffley

    Relax the Look with Fabric

    Maybe all those angular shapes need a little softening. Just stay away from ruffles, pom-poms, and lace; we beg you. Instead, hang simple window treatments made of natural textiles such as linen, raw silk, burlap, or cotton. (For a more straightforward look, install wood blinds.) Warm hard-surface floors with natural-fiber rugs—such as jute or sisal—that deliver intriguing textures. Outfit beds with monochromatic linens in colors that coordinate with the walls, or bedding ensembles that display minimalist patterns. 

    Design:  Susan Bohlert Smith

    Check out this easygoing beach house.

  • Richard Leo Johnson

    Show Your Rugged Side

    This gathering space follows all the masculine-design rules: neutral colors, intriguing textures (even nailheads on the upholstered side table!), substantial pieces of furniture, and rugged building materials. But it’s the recycled sculling oars that make the room stand apart; they create a whimsical rafter effect that draws attention to the wet bar made of pecky cypress.

    Design: Tracy Hickman

  • Werner Straube

    Think Clean and Simple

    This master bath went from highly decorative to stripped-down simplicity, says interior designer Summer Thornton. What’s left is masculine design at its cleanest: a collection of straight lines and right angles built from warm oak planks (the ceiling), bright white subway tiles (the walls and shower surround), honed marble floor tiles, and a straight-edged vanity that combines wood, metal, and marble. Even the Circa Lighting sconces sport 90° angles.

    Design: Summer Thornton

    Tour this updated Tudor home.

  • Werner Straube

    Show Some Animal Magnetism

    The designers’ intention was to create a room for intimate conversation, says Dana Goodman, one of the professionals who worked on this space. But putting a zebra-print hide over the sisal rug and adding a display of animal horns to the coffee table shows this room is poised for adventure. Other masculine undertones? The paneling and built-in bookshelves are painted a deep, saturated navy. And the large scale of the linen-covered wingback chairs from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams complements the room’s high ceilings.

    Design: Dana Goodman and Crysta A. Parish

    See the rest of this innovative showhouse.

  • John Merkl

    Be Naturally Beautiful

    Simple but strong, this master bath makes the most of its neutral color scheme: beige walls, a cream-color Roman shade, and floor tiles with a natural, sliced-lumber look. A freestanding soaking tub, tucked into a niche for a spa-like setting, boasts an aged-look metal patina. And a burly chunk of wood stands ready to hold towels and sundries. 

    Design: Cecily Mendell

    Check out another earthy escape.

  • Michal Venera

    Nod to Southwestern Style

    Designer Patty Burdick helped homeowners Mary Beth and Gates Hawn develop an authentic Southwestern look free of kitschy décor. For example, their great-room’s soaring 20-foot-high ceilings are constructed with latillas—peeled pine tree limbs supported by massive vigas (shown). A tufted leather chaise offers a comfy space to lounge in front of the fire. A braided sisal rug, an iron chandelier, and mounted horns above the mantel add an organic touch to the space.

    Design: Patti Burdick

    See more of this handsome Arizona home

  • Jonny Valiant

    Explore Shades of Gray

    Inspired by a certain erotic novel, designer Diane Guariglia created a "playroom" with a masculine palette of rich grays, blacks, and browns. “I wanted the room to be edgy and sexy, dark and complicated,” she says. The designer created textural contrast by pairing rough-hewn barn-wood wainscoting with a sleek wall covering. The leather sofa and welded-metal coffee table expand upon the masculine design scheme.

    Design: Diane Guariglia

    Look at lots of elegant rooms dressed in gray.

    Wander through showhouse rooms in neutral palettes.

  • Michael Partenio

    Know Your Geometry

    Designer Kristine Irving created a master bath both masculine and chic by loading it with luxe appointments and geometric shapes. The floor is clad with French beige limestone tiles from Ann Sacks, while the sink wall features 3-inch lagos azul tile squares. All the grout lines are perfectly parallel. Every axis is square and sharp. Wooden accessories—a barn beam table, a teak ladder, and a teak mat—add contrasting textures.

    Design: Kristine Irving

  • Eric Piasecki