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February 8, 2010 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Single guy needs to furnish and decorate an empty apartment. Completely lost -- please help!

Okay, so I moved to a new city and have a good-sized 1-bedrom apartment that I need to decorate. Originally, I planned to decorate it the same way I decorated my old place : lots of sleek, ultra-comfortable black leather furniture, black glass table & tv stand, basically lots of black. Bookshelves prominently displayed (I'm a reader). A good mix of modern art and vintagey, old-timey posters on the walls. However, one of my good friends (an artist) told me that I shouldn't go through with this plan - especially the black leather furniture - which she said was "soooo typical" and "just screamed bachelor pad." I'm not sure why "bachelor pad" is a bad thing, but whatever. To be fair, I was thinking something like this, with nice, clean lines. I despise the "ugly pile of overstuffed pillows" look - I think you know what I'm talking about (if you're curious, search for "black leather" on Craigslist. Most of the stuff on there is stuff that I hate.)

Anyway, I know that the big thing now is "mid-century modern," which means that my apartment is supposed to look like my grandma's living room circa 1959. I think this looks great in other peoples' apartments, but I'm just not a fan of it for my own. Especially the couches/chairs - I hate the fabrics and textures, and the padding just looks so thin and uncomfortable. So basically, I'm completely lost and don't know what to do. I know that the typical answer to these questions is "just get what *YOU* like," but that isn't really going to help me here. Yes, I do plan on bringing women home with me, and yes, I want them to think that I have good taste. Is that so wrong?

I'm not interested in going all generic and Ikea with this, and I'm also not really interested in the generic microfibre/fake suede thing that everybody seems to love so much. I want something unique, modern, and cool, not something boring and forgettable that just takes up space. And screw "chaise" sofas, recliners, and sofabeds. Not down with sectionals, either.

So my question is twofold - is my original decorating idea (black leather, etc.) really so bad? And if so, what are your suggestions? For the suggestions, absolutely ANYTHING is appreciated : stores, styles, blogs, ideas, specific pieces of furniture/decorations, general aesthetics, advice from personal experience, pretty much ANY PIECE OF INFORMATION that you think could help me.

I need to buy furniture for a kitchen, living room, and bedroom. Figure that I have a few grand to spend. I live in the Bay Area, if that helps.

I know that another standard answer to this question is to just wait around forever until I find things that I fall in love with, but I'm really not interested in taking that much time and expending that much effort. I don't even really enjoy decorating that much. I have an empty apartment right now and I hate that. I want a nice apartment that I'll enjoy hanging out in and won't feel embarrassed about inviting people to. I don't mind taking more time to pick up wall hangings and decorations - wall hangings are important and it takes time to find artwork that you like. But I pretty much want furniture RIGHT NOW.
posted by coelacanth! to Shopping (41 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get what you like. It sounds as though your friend has convinced you not to get what you actually like by worrying you that it's not "unique." Guess what? Nothing you do, ever, is going to be unique. But it'll be what you want. Don't let your friend talk you out of what you like because it isn't cool enough for her taste.
posted by decathecting at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and to address this:

Yes, I do plan on bringing women home with me, and yes, I want them to think that I have good taste. Is that so wrong?

Well, yeah, a little. Don't decorate your apartment in a way you like less in an effort to convince other people that you're different from the way you actually are. Women don't care much about the decor of men's apartments unless they're considering moving in (as long as it's clean and shows some effort), and by that point, you want to know that she likes you for you, not because she thinks you're really into furniture you actually hate. Your friend is being a snob in a way that most people definitely are not.
posted by decathecting at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2010


I want something unique, modern, and cool, not something boring and forgettable that just takes up space.

But I pretty much want furniture RIGHT NOW.


These two sentiments are opposing. Buying a bunch of furniture right away is a great way to end up with stuff you grow to hate. Unless you're planning on leaving in a year, i'd avoid getting quick, cheap furnishings. Take a walk though your local thrift stores, yard sales, and goodwill. being in the Bay Area means you already have a leg-up.
posted by The Whelk at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2010




I disagree that leather couches can ever be 'ultra-comfortable', but that's a matter of taste. Honestly, if you stick with any one mostly consistent style, no matter what style that is, your place will look more tasteful than 90% of the apartments out there. If you like sleek and black, you should get sleek and black. It'll be fine.
posted by echo target at 10:46 AM on February 8, 2010


(Also, even though it may have come out that way, I really didn't intend this to be a typical "confirm that it's okay to do what I'm going to do anyway" question. I really do want your decorating ideas. So, even if my original ideas aren't completely misguided, please feel free to share your suggestions for things that you think I would like.)
posted by coelacanth! at 10:52 AM on February 8, 2010


Women don't care much about the decor of men's apartments

Not true. Or, at least, not true in my experience. This may be a function of living in Manhattan.
posted by dfriedman at 10:53 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't worry about what your designer friend thinks - you have to live in your apartment every day, she doesn't. As for girls, I think the impression that such a decorating scheme would give me is "this person is an urban professional male who's interested in design but not obsessed with it." Which is what you are, right? So go get that sleek black leather couch.

My only caveat is that sometimes those couches can be hideously uncomfortable. So make sure you like sitting on it first.
posted by lunasol at 10:53 AM on February 8, 2010


Previously.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:53 AM on February 8, 2010


You can actually have comfort and mid-century style. You are not a set designer, you are doing your apartment. You can get a mid-century coffee table, cabinet and art and a comfy couch.

Personally, I'd stay away from the cliched black leather, but that's just one woman's perspective...
posted by Sophie1 at 10:54 AM on February 8, 2010


I got a black leather sofa and black bookcases and it was never a problem with women... until I moved in with them in which case they replaced them with colorful stuff. A nice rich brown might be a good alternative if you want something a little different. There are some very handsome brown leather couches out there.
posted by callmejay at 10:56 AM on February 8, 2010


I agree with previous comments that you should decorate how you like, and not how you think is going to impress other people; the danger is that you'll give a girl a positive impression of the person you're pretending to be, and she'll later be disappointed, or at least confused.

On the other hand, your friend means well. Despite what she *says*, perhaps what she means is that you should think carefully about what you're buying, and about all the connotations that a style has. Black leather isn't bad, and glass tables aren't bad, but they can fall into a style that is stereotypical of bad single-male design sense, which tends to give single ladies the impression that a guy has always been single and intends to always be single.

The "black leather bachelor pad" in my mental image is much more over-stuffed than your sample photo, so that's a step up already. However, monochrome designs, especially black leather + metallics + glass, are very masculine. Maybe to help other people (esp. women) feel comfortable in your space, you could add some design elements that are a less niche look. Adding color, adding visual warmth (like wood), and adding lighter elements (drawing attention to the windows, accenting with pale colors, etc) - try to avoid stark white and black, it's a very harsh look. Having rugs, curtains, and pillows at all is an excellent first step, and making a color scheme is a follow-up that puts you head and shoulders above "bachelor pad" level.

Your friend is an artist - could part of the problem be that she does not like your framed art?
posted by aimedwander at 10:57 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I personally am not a fan of the black leather scheme, but I'd guess that your average hypothetical woman is going to be more impressed with the cleanliness of your apartment than the decorating style. So, get what you like and keep it tidy. As others have said, you're the one who has to live there.
posted by something something at 11:00 AM on February 8, 2010


I would take a good look at the apartment therapy-filled thread linked to above, see some options, and decide what your tastes are. First and foremost, make an informed decision, and setup your apartment the way you want it. If you still like the sleek look after poking around a little go for it. It's not my style at all, but if it's yours, so be it.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2010


I see nothing wrong with that couch (although I personally don't care for leather because I find it sticky and weird) and if you've got a style of stuff that you like--then go for it.

I get a lot of shit for my place being decorated the way that it is (mostly hand-me-down antique furniture, so it looks like it's owned by someone much older than I am) but I like it and it fits my life (and budget, most importantly)--and that's what really matters in the long run.
posted by sperose at 11:25 AM on February 8, 2010


Adding color, adding visual warmth (like wood), and adding lighter elements (drawing attention to the windows, accenting with pale colors, etc) - try to avoid stark white and black, it's a very harsh look. Having rugs, curtains, and pillows at all is an excellent first step, and making a color scheme is a follow-up that puts you head and shoulders above "bachelor pad" level.

I'm gonna second this, it's hard to go beyond "well here are some good tips about apartment design" when I don't know the particulars. How big? How much light? Wood floors? pre-war? Are you allowed to paint, put up shelves? So you're gonna get a lot of "Go to Apartment therapy and other design blogs".

Putting that aside, based on what you've showed us and said, how about this. If you don't like the look or feel of mid-century but enjoy clean lines, why not take a look at some of the mid-century influences, such as Japanese and Korean design and the Eastern European Cubists? MUJI has some lovely, very clean and warm stuff for the home - good "for filling out" (you don't every single item in a room to scream LOOK AT ME AREN'T I AMAZING? You need background stuff, so to speak. Muji does excellent background stuff). If you do shop online, make sure you've got all your wall measures on hand - a lot of people don't check out deep something is and a single couch can end up crowding a room. Personally, I'm against couches. They take up too much space and hardly get used but I find low-level stuff works better in apartments - so you'll wanna look at more Asian-influenced stuff for that too. Some general advice:

Where does the light come into your apartment? Place a mirror where the light hits the strongest to open the room up. The frame is another chance to add color or an element - Etsy has some nice ones.

Plants. You can have a monochromatic room framed nicely with decorative pots filled with fresh herbs. Mint comes in a variety of flavors and colors and is nearly *impossible* to kill and it'll look all nice and green and living and you can put it in tea.

If you can put up shelves or paint , I'd paint the walls a rich color (White, shows a lot of dirt and makes a room look unfinished, IMHO) like deep green or light red, then install a wall of white shelves about airport-paperback deep. Load them up with your most colorfully-spined books and cool-looking doodads like that awesome old cigar box you found at the flea market for a dollar.

Which brings me to another point : storage. Everything should ideally have two uses. Your coffee table (which sits flat on the floor to save space) also opens up to store blankets- your nightstand has a bunch of drawers, etc. A lot of people get "dining tables" which just end up being mail and computer storage and 90% of the time they don't use it to actually dine on. Think about your actual habits, what do you do and where do you do it, when thinking about what objects you need. People buy a ton of crap thinking it will make them entertain more or eat dinner together or whatever and it just ends up taking space. Your apartment is about you and how you live and what you like and no one elses.
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2010


However, one of my good friends (an artist) told me that I shouldn't go through with this plan - especially the black leather furniture - which she said was "soooo typical" and "just screamed bachelor pad." I'm not sure why "bachelor pad" is a bad thing, but whatever. To be fair, I was thinking something like this, with nice, clean lines.

That couch looks incredibly uncomfortable.

I agree that you should try shifting your color palette to browns and neutrals instead of blacks and steels and glass. Just adjusting the color scheme can take you from something that looks like the Starship Enterprise to an actual home. Stay away from furnishing that give the impression of coldness or clinicalness. The problem with the stereotypical bachelor furnishings is that they're a bit like teenage boys who aren't goth who wear all black--someone told them that black flatters everyone and is always cool, so they act afraid to try any other color variations, even if they suit them much better. And for home furnishings, you really want to suggest comfort and coziness as much as you want to suggest sparse, utilitarian furnishings. And it can still be masculine. Think Hemingway more than James T. Kirk.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:27 AM on February 8, 2010


Also, if we're really talking about avoiding Bachelor Pad Cliches, then we need to mention

this lamp.

Do not buy this lamp.
posted by The Whelk at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


The two best things you can do here:

1. Find places to shop where entire room arrangements are set up, with a willingness to buy all the furniture and such on display for a room, and to repaint your room to suit -- this way, you'll take a lot of the guesswork out, although you'll pay dearly for it. This is the "I'll throw money at it if I can avoid uncertainty" approach. You can do this at a high-end furniture store, or at Ikea, or at a local boutique. If you must have furniture right now, you don't have time to buy piece by piece.

2. Bring a girl with you, preferably a girl whose apartment appeals to you, and listen to her rejections (although you don't have to support her picks too, it wouldn't kill you.) Not a girl you're trying to date, mind you; just a girl with taste. This girl is going to keep you from picking out something that makes you look tacky, which will help. If you can bring two girls, all the better, so long as you're sure you like their tastes and neither is interested in you as a dating partner (it has to be someone who can say no to you.)

"Bachelor pad" is a bad thing, because of what it implies: you're living alone and not enough in touch with the tastes and fashions of the day to properly decorate your home. You want your home to look like a warm, attractive, fashionable and comfortable place for more than one person to live, not a thrown-together jumble of tacky furniture that looks like a great place to drink beer with your buddies.
posted by davejay at 11:40 AM on February 8, 2010


This home tour on Apartment Therapy might be a decent starting place for you. It's done by a bachelor, so it's masculine, but still graphic, calming, unique and well organized. It's a bit too "done" for my taste, but sometimes these home tours are incredibly styled and not exactly everyday-living. It maintains a cohesive theme without being cutesy or frou-frou. And there is some cool graphic art on the wall. Note the dark brown couch and grey walls, graphic clock, and one or two other main colors (red and blue, mostly).
posted by barnone at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2010


I think the problem is that the phrase "bachelor pad" can mean duct-taped couch, neon beer signs and old pizza boxes or it can mean well-appointed apartment with expensive furniture designed to impress the laydiezz. Either is fine, if that's what you're comfortable with, but the leather and glass deal can look sort of cold if it's not paired up with some color on the walls or the floor.
posted by electroboy at 11:54 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The couch you linked to would be really great in a really dark red/oxblood leather
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:33 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you like modern, but not mid-century, there are a lot of eco modern designs out there now. It can bring in some warmth with uses of natural material, but still keep the sleek lines you enjoy.

I also agree with trying out neutrals/browns instead of black.
posted by Vaike at 12:58 PM on February 8, 2010


Don't jump on some current trend in apartment decor if you don't like it. I don't like mid-century modern either, and the term itself is starting to make me dry heave whenever I see it mentioned. Unless you have tons of cash, do not go trendy and don't buy shit you don't like.

The sofa you linked to looks nice, but as a non-artist female, the type of apartment you are describing sounds FINE ... but yeah, a little typically bachelor pad. A lot of the 20-something guys I know tend to love lots of black or gray, and glass and metal. I do like the couch you linked to (as long as it's comfortable -- I hate furniture that looks nice but sucks to use). I think the problem, though, is that the furniture is such a small part of how an apartment looks. It's an important and expensive part, but the same pieces stuck in an otherwise undecorated bachelor pad with just a rack of DVDs and PS3 games would probably look way better in an apartment that is decorated with art, plants, bookshelves, photos, whatever.

I'm going to echo the suggestions to visit Apartment Therapy for ideas. I love browsing the home tours and the Smallest Coolest Apartment contest entries to see how other people decorate. What's great about it is that you can find apartments whose decor you like, and then see how commenters and voters have reacted to it (so you can see what people generally like and if they don't like it specifically what they don't like about it).
posted by tastybrains at 1:00 PM on February 8, 2010


For more specific suggestions, I think you can retain some of your criteria and still have the place look warm and a bit more interesting. The same site that has the sofa you linked to as a similar, much comfier looking, and more interesting sofa in cream. If I were planning a room around a sofa like that, I might pick a warm, dark wall color (rich brown, maybe), assuming you can paint walls, and a red rug with a slight pattern like this one. A key is to not match anything perfectly. Why? Because matchy match furniture looks like you bought it quickly, and makes it look like you just don't want to think too much about furnishings, whereas complimentary, but lightly mismatched pieces suggest that you're picking things up over time. So I might pair it with this side chair, a sidetable/stool like this and a nice solid wood coffee table--maybe even something a little rustic, like this.

Oh, and you talk in your original post about posters. Let us never speak of this again! What you want are framed prints, or paintings. There are some interesting botanical prints on the inside avenue site, like these: 1, 2, 3. TJ Maxx or Homegoods stores are also good places to look for prints. I'd be beyond impressed if I went to a guy's apartment and he had genuinely interesting art on his walls, rather than the standard post-college framed posters from the mall.

All of this should be personalized to your own interests, of course. Generally, the homes and apartments I've been really impressed by seem to be filled with things the inhabitants would have picked up over the course of their lives/travel. They suggest an extension of the interesting things that the person loves or has done. I realize this is a stereotype on my part, but when I see a sparse, glass and black leather kind of bachelor pad, my assumption is that the person in question doesn't love anything enough to let it shine through in their furnishings, and hasn't really done enough to pick stuff up along the way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2010


When I had to decorate my apartment, I went to an independent furniture store in my new town and bought the coolest floor model couch they had - in lime green. It is a really nice couch but it cost very little because it was a floor model that they were trying to get rid of so they could put new stuff out. It is a real "statement" piece, and I never would have sought it out or tried to find a couch like it. It's actually got similar lines to the couch that you posted, but it's not black leather. You might consider getting that couch in either a different color (a dark tan might look nice) or in fabric instead.

I decorated my apartment around it - specifically, I found a few posters by Kandinsky and Rothko that had matching green accents - and had them mounted on Plak-It board so they look more like paintings. They do not look like posters at all; they look like professional expensive prints (even though they did not cost much). Most frame stores or even some big box art supply stores like Michael's will do the plak-it for you.
posted by k8lin at 1:26 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Risky, possibly expensive, but it's very low effort: Give your credit card to a group of 4 or 5 people whose taste you like and whom you trust with your money. Leave for the weekend and let them go all "Trading Spaces" on your place. Worked for me.
posted by LordSludge at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm female and I looooove leather couches! In fact, I have a gorgeous, wonderfully comfy cream one that we bought in perfect condition on Craigslist for incredibly, stupidly, I-can't-believe-this-is-real cheap. It was custom made with recliners on both ends, built in massage units, and a fold down tray in the middle - with a speaker phone in it! The poor guy selling it was almost in tears when we picked it up. And why on earth would give up a beauty like this, and especially almost for free? Because his new fiancee was moving in and redecorating his much-loved bachelor pad in some god-awful Laura Ashley flowers and bows crap. We grabbed that sofa and got out of there fast, before he could come to his senses, call off the wedding and kick her out.

I share this story as a warning. It sounds to me like you have a strong vision of what you like - don't go changing that just because someone else might not agree. If you truly decorate in a way that you love and that expresses who you are, wouldn't you want to find a woman with a similar style and personality, or at least one who appreciates that side of you? Get your black couch, get your bookcases, get your vintage posters. And if some woman comes along and asks you to sell your couch on Craigslist for $72 so she can replace your taste with hers, run away fast and find a woman who will love that couch as much as you do.
posted by platinum at 1:57 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


lots of sleek, ultra-comfortable black leather furniture, black glass table & tv stand, basically lots of black.

My dad's place is decorated like this. I don't like it because it looks like the apartment in American Psycho. Just a thought.
posted by makonan at 2:01 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw this in the Met, and thought that it would be a very simple way to add some colour to an apartment. Probably reasonably cheap to do on your own as well.

I'm definitely devaluing this piece as art, aren't I? If someone can tell me the name and artist, that would be cool by the way.
posted by djgh at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2010


Oh, and my camera was reasonably screwed by that point, so the colours don't really come out, but you get the general idea.
posted by djgh at 2:05 PM on February 8, 2010


There's nothing wrong with a bachelor pad. That leather couch that you want to have time-machined in from the 80s? Very wrong. There is some really terrible modernist furniture out there, which is a shame because there's also a lot of really gorgeous stuff too. Get a copy of Dwell magazine, try looking at Ligne Roset and CB2 for ideas. You could do worse than spend all your money at CB2 and they have a store in San Francisco. BoConcept is OK, some feels a bit dated. Maybe West Elm

Definitely don't sacrifice what you like to make a currently non-existent girl more comfortable. In my experience, most women don't go for minimalism at all, they want every surface covered with pillows and random knickknacks. When you move in with her, then you can talk about compromise.

But until that day, don't give up on the dream of a tomb-like futuristic ice fortress.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:12 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you thought about renting some furniture for a few months? Then you could have some furniture RIGHT NOW. You would also be able to spend some time collecting things that you love & that really work for this space.
posted by easilyamused at 2:46 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Buying a bunch of furniture right away is a great way to end up with stuff you grow to hate. [...] Take a walk though your local thrift stores, yard sales, and goodwill.

Thanks for the advice, but no, this is not what I want. I have an empty apartment. It sucks. I need furniture, and I need it now. I don't want this to turn into a part-time job. I haven't ever bought furniture that I grew to hate, except for stuff that just wasn't built well and ended up falling apart.

Adding color, adding visual warmth (like wood)

Okay, this is something I've wondered -- do woods need to match? Like if I get something that's "birch," does everything need to be "birch?"

could part of the problem be that she does not like your framed art?

Can't be -- I don't have any yet :)

How big? How much light? Wood floors? pre-war? Are you allowed to paint, put up shelves?

Apartment is Victorian, although not as "ornamented" or "detailed" as many Victorian flats in SF. VERY high ceilings, and -- I'm sure there's a name for this, you see it a lot in SF -- that one thing where the wall meets the ceiling in a rounded curve, not a 90-degree angle. Medium-light hardwood floors. ENORMOUS bay windows in the bedroom and living room area that I'd love to do something cool with -- I've even thought about building some kind of semicircular bench or something for the one in the living room. Kitchen is not an eat-in kitchen, so will want a small table (seats two) in the rather large living area. Probably can't paint. Can put up shelves. One thing is that I have a LOT of books (I'm a big reader), and I was considering buying a bookcase instead of putting up shelves, since books are heavy and hanging heavy-duty shelves in plaster is a pain in the ass. I would consider shelves for knick-knacks, though.

That couch looks incredibly uncomfortable.

No, I've sat on it. Incredibly comfortable. Nice grain leather, too.

A key is to not match anything perfectly. Why? Because matchy match furniture looks like you bought it quickly, and makes it look like you just don't want to think too much about furnishings, whereas complimentary, but lightly mismatched pieces suggest that you're picking things up over time.

Yeah, this is exactly the sort of thing I have trouble with. No idea how to match things or pick things out. If I don't keep it simple, I will probably fall flat on my face.

Oh, and you talk in your original post about posters. Let us never speak of this again! What you want are framed prints, or paintings.

Apologies -- I used the wrong terminology. For wall-hangings, I generally favor modern art prints and the sort of "vintage" stuff like this. I've been reconsidering some of the modern art, though -- I find that few people share my appreciation for Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock. Also, at my last place I had a framed antique-style map of the world (complete with sea monsters!), and I've been thinking of getting that again. Anyway, I'm willing to take my time with decorations and stuff -- I understand that these things must accrete over time. However....

Generally, the homes and apartments I've been really impressed by seem to be filled with things the inhabitants would have picked up over the course of their lives/travel.

This is pretty much out-of-the-question in the near term. Did I mention that I have next-to-no belongings? Well, yeah, there's that. I'm starting from scratch. Literally.

I don't like it because it looks like the apartment in American Psycho.

[...]

That leather couch that you want to have time-machined in from the 80s? Very wrong.


Ouch. That hurts. But perhaps you're both right.

In my experience, most women don't go for minimalism at all [...] When you move in with her, then you can talk about compromise.

Yeah, I prefer minimalist and uncluttered. I think I'll have to take your advice on this.

Well, anyway, I do appreciate all the help I'm getting here, even if it is kinda painful.

Still, not looking forward to going back to my empty apartment tonight.
posted by coelacanth! at 3:43 PM on February 8, 2010


Adding color, adding visual warmth (like wood), and adding lighter elements (drawing attention to the windows, accenting with pale colors, etc) - try to avoid stark white and black, it's a very harsh look. Having rugs, curtains, and pillows at all is an excellent first step, and making a color scheme is a follow-up that puts you head and shoulders above "bachelor pad" level.

I'm gonna 3rd this. If you like the black leather/glass table thing go for it. But try to mix it up some. I would especially work some wood furniture in there. Maybe the dining table or bookcases.

As for specific stores, CB2 and Room and Board might have some good stuff to mix in there. Also I'd suggest trying to get some vintage/unique stuff to mix in there. The Alameda Antique Fair, Past Perfect, and The Apartment are all good places to look.

And on preview, no, wood does not need to match.

And if you're worried about picking things out that aren't too matchy matchy but still look good, just keep to neutral colors. You can't really go wrong with black, white, creams, greys, and browns. But you can get some different textures in there to spice things up.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:08 PM on February 8, 2010


You say SFBay area? Have you looked at CB2? I know you said no "generic/Ikea" but I find CB2 is generally a lot nicer looking than Ikea. (Ikea stuff looks lovely in the catalog, then you see it in person and can see all the parts its made of and the screws holding it together and it looks so much less nice, less truly finished.)

I'd say you could probably walk out of a trip to CB2 with at least a solid set of table & chairs, desk, some shelves...all that would look pretty good with that leather sofa you posted. (Which I don't hate - I'm not a leather sofa person myself, but I do love the lines of the one in your picture. Personally I'd just prefer it in a fabric, I find that comfier to nap on!)

I think the trick to a place looking really nice, though, is not to get everything in one store. Because you don't want to look like a catalog in real life - You don't really want to walk in the store with the catalog page and say "I want this room."

Also, I sort of disagree with your assessment of the Mid Century Modern trend as looking like your grandma's living room. Because the pieces I see being touted as newly hip from the Mid Century era are things that, back in the day, were actually a little more on the avant garde side. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that your grandma probably didn't have a Wassily chair in her living room. And things like Saarinen tulip tables & chairs were pretty "space age style" back then, not common everyday things. Anyway, I'm a bid Mid Century Modern fan myself but I think the key is, no you don't want your place to look like a time warp, so it's better to mix things up from whatever "period" you want as long as they're well designed.
posted by dnash at 4:11 PM on February 8, 2010


That couch looks incredibly uncomfortable.

No, I've sat on it. Incredibly comfortable. Nice grain leather, too.

A key is to not match anything perfectly. Why? Because matchy match furniture looks like you bought it quickly, and makes it look like you just don't want to think too much about furnishings, whereas complimentary, but lightly mismatched pieces suggest that you're picking things up over time.

Yeah, this is exactly the sort of thing I have trouble with. No idea how to match things or pick things out. If I don't keep it simple, I will probably fall flat on my face.
[. . .]

Generally, the homes and apartments I've been really impressed by seem to be filled with things the inhabitants would have picked up over the course of their lives/travel.

This is pretty much out-of-the-question in the near term. Did I mention that I have next-to-no belongings? Well, yeah, there's that. I'm starting from scratch. Literally.


See, you're being a tad defensive and not reading closely. I said that the couch looks uncomfortable, and that you want it to seem like you've picked up the stuff via years of travel. You can easily create the impression of welcoming homey-ness by having an apartment filled with warm neutral colors. The couch I linked to is nearly identical to the first, but in warmer colors, with wood accents rather than steel. It looks like it wants to be sat on. Hell, it looks like it wants a slubby afghan thrown over it. Meanwhile, I can't imagine curling up with a coffee on a Sunday morning on the black sofa with steel accents.

And, in the same way, you can use colors and variety to create the illusion that you've gotten pieces from multiple places, at different times, without leaving a single store. Pick one focal piece for each room--like the couch in the examples I gave. Pick secondary pieces and colors based on how each looks with the focal piece of furniture, but again, don't match precisely. It takes practice to get good at this. I'd bring my artist friend, if I were you, so she could help me out. You can start to figure out rules based on things like looking at furniture and interior design sites. There aren't easy rules for this overall because it's about balance. But don't be that kid dressed all in black because he's scared about whether fashion rules dictate if he can wear different shades of blue jeans with his cons, or whatever. Take a few risks. That's much manilier--and, were I a single woman, more attractive.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:39 PM on February 8, 2010


Okay, this is something I've wondered -- do woods need to match? Like if I get something that's "birch," does everything need to be "birch?"

Oh, and I'd agree that, no, you shouldn't match all the woods, unless you've purchased a nice matching set (say, for your bedroom), because that goes into matchy matchy territory. I would suggest that it looks a bit better to keep the big wooden pieces either all light wood or all dark wood, if you want a very general guideline, but I wouldn't worry about smaller pieces being disparate, or the exact types of wood matching precisely.

Apartment is Victorian, although not as "ornamented" or "detailed" as many Victorian flats in SF. VERY high ceilings, and -- I'm sure there's a name for this, you see it a lot in SF -- that one thing where the wall meets the ceiling in a rounded curve, not a 90-degree angle. Medium-light hardwood floors [. . .]

Yeah, I'd say that, if this is the style of apartment you're getting, it might actually look a little odd to fill it with the kind of furniture you prefer. An older apartment is a design boon in a lot of ways: they can support older-looking (more classic!) pieces well, and those pieces will look better with the architecture. Don't miss that chance by filling it with furniture better saved for a prefab townhouse!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:44 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mid-century modern is hella overrated, and I say this as someone who really digs some of it but thinks people get obsessed in an unbecoming way with making their places as sterile looking as possible to convey a sense of socioeconomic worth that makes my eyes roll.

Part of the problem too is that because it's so popular _and_ prefab cheapie furniture makers (cough, Ikea) find its design easy to emulate or nod to, it's hard to avoid anyway and there's kind of an abyss in between that hyper modern feeling stuff and the gaudy super antique-y Vermont old-timey stuff.

I don't have good advice about the how of acquiring the stuff you want, but a suggestion about coping with this disconnect between what you want to actually live in and how you want to be perceived (as popularly classy or whatever). One cheat is put a couple striking but livable pieces in your space--mod shelving that actually works to keep you organized, for example, or a table, which you don't have to sit on--and then balance it with warm, comforting, cuddly stuff you actually like sitting on and using. You'd be surprised how well mixing the two aesthetics can work; it doesn't clash if your placement's thought out right and/or there's a connecting thread in color or something that ties it together.

And frankly, that's the balance I like best--when people have sweet vintage tchotchke touches (nearly-chintzy wallpaper, curlicue-framed mirrors, old-timey curtains, whatever) to soften the hard cold edges of their 90-degee-angle sofas or shelving etc.
posted by ifjuly at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2010


"Women don't care much about the decor of men's apartments"

Whoa. That's crazy talk. Why wouldn't a woman appreciate a man with a sense of style? On the other hand, why wouldn't a woman who walks into a guy's apartment and finds a dump not think "maybe I can do better."

I'm a minimalist. My stuff is modern, though not exactly expensive. Black leather couch, framed black and white photography on the walls, very little clutter. I always get compliments from women on my place, and I don't exactly have an eye for this sort of thing.

I've learned that clean modern lines can't go wrong. That couch you linked to above? It's definitely a step in the right direction! Just make sure it's comfortable too. Clean lines plus comfortable equals home run.
posted by 2oh1 at 6:50 PM on February 9, 2010


Perhaps I should have been more specific, since many posters are taking issue with my assertion that "women don't care much about the decor of men's apartments." What I should have said was that women (at least, the sort of women who are worth dating) don't break up with men they otherwise like if, upon seeing their apartments for the first time, they don't like the color scheme. They may break up with men they otherwise like if their apartments are filthy or decorated with old pizza boxes. They may also break up with men they otherwise like if, somewhere down the line, a couple decides to move in together and the man refuses to compromise on decor in order to make room for the woman's taste. But a woman worth dating will not think you are undateable because you like chrome and she prefers soft wood.
posted by decathecting at 10:13 AM on February 10, 2010


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