Personal Style

    Style Girlfriend at Home: 4 Steps to Achieving a Grown Man’s Living Room

    20th August 2013

    Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

    Please welcome Shelly Lynch-Sparks to Style Girlfriend!

    A graduate of Parsons, Shelly has worked in interior design at Anthropologie, HGTV, and Sosh Architects. Currently, she can be found realizing design dreams on the daily for clients at Homepolish, right here in NYC. Find out if the service is available in your city; SG readers get 25% off an initial visit with code: stylegirlfriend


    If you’ve been reading Style Girlfriend for awhile now, I feel like I can safely assume you’re a well-dressed, stylish guy, boasting a wardrobe full of clothes that let the world know, “I’m a grown man, man.”

    So first of all, congrats, that’s awesome. I bet you’re definitely the best-dressed guy at your office.

    Now, I want to challenge you to do the same…at home.


    {Does your place look like this? Not yet, maybe…}

    Yep, it’s time to get rid of your old banged up IKEA furniture and find something a bit swankier to fill its place. Those framed posters of Al Pacino and John Belushi have lost their charm. It’s time to put your man pants on and graduate to a sleek sanctuary fit for Don Draper (before he got all sad and boozy).

    To make a big job feel less scary, here are the four phases of manning up your living space:


    Are you a Mid Century modern man with an eye for vintage pieces?

    Do you prefer white leather couches and have an itch for anything Italian with a clean modern line?

    Perhaps you’d like to spend your future weekends in antique shops searching for the perfect cherry coffee table with traditional spindle legs.

    No idea what any of the above even means? That’s cool too. Start browsing interior design sites, like Dwell and Design Sponge and make a mental note of what you like. Heck, go check out the new Threshold collection at Target. You’ll start noticing patterns in the styles and trends that catch your eye.

    Step 2: PURGE. IT’S A VERB.

    I know. This part’s not fun. But it’s necessary. So necessary.

    Keeping in mind the style you want, play the old Sesame Street stand-by One of These Things is Not Like the Other. Take a hard look at the furniture and accent pieces in your home and begin to decide which pieces fit the look you are going for and which ones definitely don’t. The focus is on minimizing the clutter to maximize the space you have to work with.

    Functionality plays a big role, too. Do you really need all the stuff that’s taking up real estate in your house or apartment? Like the dvd step #2DVDs you bought when Blockbuster was going out of business? Probably not. Take that hideous plastic tower to the curb.

    Or what about that end table you bought from IKEA for $7.99 five years ago? You know the one. It came in multiple colors, was stackable, can barely hold a coaster or even a cup of coffee. I bought it. Everyone bought it. Get rid of it.

    Thank the internet gods for Craigslist. People will gladly take your old things away from your home for free! Some will even offer you money for the things you think are now junk. What a world, huh?

    There are also plenty of second-hand establishments that will pick up your donated items without a hitch.

    Step 3:  DO A TEST RUN, ON PAPER

    Once you’ve gotten rid of all the unnecessary pieces from the room, you’ll start feeling lighter, excited even about the abundance of possibilities in your newfound space. If you’re feeling the opposite, well…they have hotlines for hoarders. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

    Grab a measuring tape, pencil and paper. Draw an outline of your living room on a piece of paper and measure each wall. That way, you’ll be able to visually arrange the furniture according to how much space you have. You’ll also have the freedom to purchase new items without doubting whether each piece will fit or not.

    BedroomHandDrawnPlan step # 3

    For instance, you may have fallen in love with a new piece of art or a comfy leather couch.  Be sure that the frame fits perfectly on the wall and the couch can squeeze through the front door.

    Step 4: MAKE IT YOUR OWN

    This is where the magic happens.


    {accent walls draw attention…the good kind}

    Choose an accent color for your living room that coincides with your style inspiration.  Paint one wall, or paint all four. Buy a new floor lamp to replace that dingy end table you just threw away. Pick out two side tables that add a funky pop of color.  This is your home and an opportunity to express who you are in any way you would like. Mix elements to give your space a unique feel.

    For example, try a glass coffee table alongside a sleek mid century wooden arm side chair. Then try marble-topped end tables with ceramic lamps as a bright accent.  Much like getting yourself dressed in the morning, your style options are endless.

    If you find yourself feeling stuck or uninspired; Pinterest has more than enough ideas to keep you busy.  This is about creating a space you look forward coming home to – a living room that’s welcoming and feels like you.  Not to mention securing bragging rights with your friends, and a little help in the lady department.  Own it, and just like with your wardrobe, don’t forget to have fun!

    **Remember, SG readers get 25% off their first Homepolish visit with code “stylegirlfriend.” If you’re ready to have your home reflect your grown man status, find out if the service is available in your city.

    Tell me:
    Does your home reflect the grown man style you’ve developed in your wardrobe? If not, what’s holding you back?
    • fattsmann

      From my own experience: For Step 2, if purge is too harsh, put things away and then come back to it (via a reminder on a calendar). This is for both the men and the women that find it hard to get rid of stuff.

      Pack up the Blockbuster DVDs, put them in a plastic box, stash them away in your basement or closet. Come back in 1-3 months (put a reminder on your calendar). Open up the box, take a look, and ask yourself, “How did it feel to put these things out of sight?”

      If the answer is a shrug, curb it goes — this will be the majority of the time. If the answer is a tear in your eye as you see your original TMNT and Mortal Kombat DVDs in their still-plastic-wrapped cases, then keep those. Maybe arrange them nicely on the shelf with your Optimus Prime, Gundam, and (new) Gypsy Danger models… but TMNT 2, Mortal Kombat 2, and Batman & Robin can go… because those were horrible movies and no one should hold on to the terrible memories that those DVDs will inflict upon viewing.

      • Style Girlfriend

        Great tip! I do this with my clothes too. Like you said, usually it’s out of sight, out of mind, and I get rid of it six months later.

      • jbird669

        This goes for a lot of stuff. I personally can’t part with the DVDs because as a filmmaker and movie buff among my circle of friends, they can turn to me for movies for every occasion. But if you find shelving that matches the rest of your decor, then it’s not a problem. :)

        • Style Girlfriend


    • gte619n

      That picture masculine, but certainly not a man’s living room… a single man, anyways. The dead give away is that little TV. “No no, that TV is just too big ” – No guy ever

      Assuming you have a sweet tv, step one is do something about the A/V equipment. Nothing ruins design like wires and such. If you’re renting, check out the channel runners to hide wires ( Put the cable box and amp in a cabinet or closet and hook up a IR repeater (

      Flush mounting the TV ( and hiding all wires either in the wall or in a painted channel will make everything look super put together.

      • average joe

        My first thought was, “Why are we decorating around a computer monitor?” Yeah that TV is out of character for 2013, actually anything post 2009. I’m not saying a TV even has to be in the living room, certain design aesthetics would support this notion, I’m sure. But no guy is going to own something like that. Even the anti-TV guy (similar to anti-sports guy) would rather have no TV at all than that 27″ TV.

        • kellen owenby

          Totally agree. If your tv is smaller than the lamp beside it, you have a problem.

        • Style Girlfriend

          haha, you guys are such…guys sometimes :)

    • average joe

      George Costanza always wanted steps in the living room, albeit a sunken living room; but I’ve always wanted a floating staircase.

      • AJ

        that was Kramer

        • Dave

          Joe is right–George wanted steps. Kramer wanted levels.

          • Kelso

            Wow, Im a huge Seinfeld fan and I cant remember where George is talking about steps. Best show ever.
            One thing i packed away years ago was the huge Newscastle Brown Ale banner i had stole from a bar one drunken night. And the various pint glasses with beer brand logos from same bar(Carhartts have such big pockets:)

            • Style Girlfriend

              Let’s be honest..who *hasn’t*, ermm, found new decorating options after a late night at the bars?

            • average joe

              It was the episode where George goes to Russell Dalrymple’s condo (The NBC exec) who’s offer for a sitcom George had originally turned down (because Ted Danson made more money) and interrupts Russell’s dinner with his girlfriend. George forces his way inside and once he sees that Russell has a sunken living room he exclaims “Steps in a the living, I’ve always wanted steps in the living room. You step up, you step down” It’s also the episode where Jerry says to George (after George backwardsly negotiates their asking price down to regain the Russell’s sitcom offer) “You held out for less money! Who holds out for less money?”.

    • Drew J

      My solution looks to be: Step 1) Move in with girlfriend with fabulously decorated house. Step 2) Get rid of everything you own.

      The girlfriend and I have basically decided to move in together. Over the last couple of days I’ve been doing a sort of mental catalog of what will make the move. So far I’ve come up with my clothes, my TV (she has rinky dink girl tv), and a couple of paintings.

      Everything else is going to get garage saled, or into storage for when we get a bigger house and have room for stuff like my grandfather’s antique law desk or the BRAND NEW bed frame I just bought last year.

    • TJ

      Ikea isn’t always so bad. Ive got a couch that has a nice modern look to it and doesn’t look too cheap, because it wasn’t.. The nice thing is that it has covers that you can swap out for different colors. I’ve also got a bed frame from them that I think looks great and the color goes with the dresser and nightstand I found at garage sales.
      I’d say that my style is eclectic. I like to mix modern and vintage together. Like right now I’ve got that modern looking couch from Ikea and Im trying to find a nice vintage coffee table to offset it.

      • Style Girlfriend

        True, it’s definitely got some gems, but I think we can all agree those expedit cube shelves are a major lifesaver for storage and stylish to boot, but Shelly’s right that there are some generic-type pieces that can be replaced with pieces with more style and personality

        • ilyac

          I’ve seem some really great things built around Ikea stuff. Check out Ikea Hackers, some massively creative people out there.

    • Junior

      My mom is gonna be pissed when I throw out all her stuff…

      • Style Girlfriend


    • ilyac

      For the last few years I have lived in a shared house in which I have not wanted to sink any ‘redecoration costs’ as it’s never been a long term living situation. It was not my house, so spending a lot of money on decorating a living room I was only going to be in for another year or 2 was not practical. As I’ll likely be moving withing the next 6-9 months I’ve started thinking about where I’ll be next and what I’ll need for that space.

      Long story short, I’ll need everything. Which is nice, since I can basically start with a fresh palette and not have to feel bad about throwing too much furniture/decoration away, since I don’t have much. I’v started designing some furniture I intend on building (though I may have to buy some things to hold me over as these projects can take time). I’m hesitant to start any project before knowing where I’ll be first, but I am finishing up my desk now, which is pretty basic and can fit just about anywhere.

      Purging is that easy part for me, I don’t accumulate too much I don’t want. Designing the space, that’s the hard part. Building is the fun part. Thanks for that article, it’s a good reminder for me to actually figure this stuff out!

      • Style Girlfriend

        Will be interested to hear about your home’s style evolution!

    • kellen owenby

      Can I just get on a soapbox for a second? Actually, you can’t stop me.

      I love this post (particularly step 4). However, I think that most men don’t ever get to this step, specifically when living with a lovely lady. I hate that. When I got married, I moved from a really well decorated apartment in Chicago to a house in Georgia. My wife and I did something crazy and we both agreed that the idea of a man cave is ludicrous and we both got equal say in how our home is decorated. The result is awesome. We always get compliments when people come over because our house is a great blend of both of our personalities. So, men, don’t get exiled to 1 room while your wife/girlfriend puts flowers and doilies all over the house. [rant over]

      Your home should be an extension of your personality just as your clothes should…

      • Junior

        When you moved to Georgia was it to her house, or did you find a new place together? I don’t have any personal experience with living with a significant other, but I’ve been told it really helps to find a new place for both of you so that you can decorate together and not have one party feel like he is losing all of his personality or being forced to take on her decorative style

        • kellen owenby

          We moved into a new place together, and I’m so glad that we did. I can definitely see how if one person lives there first that the decorating would be a little more difficult!

      • average joe

        Man Caves are so 2006.

      • Style Girlfriend

        Well said, Kellen!! That’s exactly right. Personal style extends so far beyond just what you wear.

    • Dave

      Haha, I just reconfigured the wire mesh cubes in my family room, which used to be in my college apartment, then my post-college apartment, then my first house, and still with me today. My wife and I concluded that they are hideous, and then proceeded to assemble them and fill them with our kids’ junk! We SWEAR that when the kids are older we’ll redecorate!!

    • Rozay Love

      You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa you’ll
      ever need in your life; no matter what else goes wrong, you’ve got the
      sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the right bed.
      The drapes. The rug. This is how you’re good to yourself. This is
      how you fill up your life.

      I … guess so.

      And now your condo blows up and you have nothing.

      I … guess so.

      And now you find yourself, sitting here, feeling like it’s the best
      thing that ever happened to you.

      … yeah.

    • Jaime Olivo Jr

      “I bought it. Everyone bought it. Get rid of it.” So sad, yet so true! This is great timing, I was just looking at sofas and coffee tables! The money is for sure making it a difficult decision. Great read!

      • Style Girlfriend

        Glad you liked it!

    • Adam Wyatt

      I’ve been trying to do Step 4 slowly over time, but I’ve always had a problem find a place for ideas. I feel most decorating and furnishing magazines or websites seem more female oriented, but maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place.

      • Bob

        Hmm, interior design girlfriend spinoff?!

      • wmilesn

        Check out Hompolish’s Tumblr – over 300 ideas, lots of stuff for dudes**

        You could also just hire a Homepolish designer…that’s what they do. Here’s how my place turned out:

        ** In full disclosure, I felt the same way, which is one of the reasons why I co-founded Homepolish

    • The Future

      Thanks Shelly and Megan for this article. I’d like more articles like this, with some finds you guys think gals think would be good for a guy. I definitely need work on my domicile (thanks, College!). My interior design skills are seriously slacking. Most of it is because I only spend on the things I use most (bed, couch, tv) and everything else is gotten or used as needed, with no cohesive style. My girlfriend isn’t at all pleased with the high price bed and the rubbermaid box I use as a nightstand beside it. Telling her I’m just following the military concept of innovate, adapt, overcome doesn’t really work, especially since I’ve never served.

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