Guy looking for painting/decorating advice.
February 28, 2011 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Just bought my first home! Looking for resources for masculine painting and decorating examples/tips. I have scanned through the old posts on decorating/painting and have found them either too feminine or with old/broken links.

I am a single guy who just turned 30. I am just about finished with the process of buying my first home, and thought it would be neat to paint some rooms (specifically the master bedroom and living room) something other than the ubiquitous off-white. I have been looking for resources on cool painting ideas (and eventually decorating) but mostly what I see is intended for a more female audience.

Google images has actually been more helpful for me than the websites and books I have seen. I liked a medium gray for the bedroom and a chocolate brown for the living room but was told darker colors drain light from a room, however the lighter, pastel versions are NOT what I am going for. I am a typical guy and have no design sensibilities whatsoever except for what I think is "cool", but because I'm an adult and don't intend to be single forever I recognize having something that's generally considered attractive by the rest of society would be best, without veering into the Martha Stewart and questioning my orientation looks so popular on HGTV and such.

So, now after the long exposition, anyone have suggestions for a painting/design/decorating book/website geared toward someone like me? Or even feedback from your own lives on using darker more masculine colors in a room and how it worked for you?

posted by Stryke11 to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the library and check out some architecture books. Do not necessarily think in terms of masculine versus feminine; what you are looking for is modern/powerful/assertive colors and designs.
posted by polymodus at 6:53 PM on February 28, 2011

well, darker colors might drain light, but you can always add more light with actual lights; you can also keep other parts of the room (like the furniture and window treatments and flooring lighter). Also consider using the dark colors on only part of the room (a single wall, or above/below a chair rail, or paint the ceiling). Also, keep in mind that "paler" doesn't mean pastel - you can get muted browns or navys or reds that aren't pastel.

Have you checked out It has some great stuff, you'll just have to dig for the "masculine" stuff.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:56 PM on February 28, 2011

Apartment Therapy has some features on "masculine" decor, as well as featuring a lot of design by men that isn't necessarily touted as masculine - what "masculine" means can be pretty subjective, but I feel like AT has a little bit of something for everyone.
posted by illenion at 7:00 PM on February 28, 2011

Donald Kaufman has several books on painting principles that not only have excellent color examples in them, but also are very good primers on color/painting theory. There is a lot of misconception out there. For example, dark colors do not always drain light from a room. Off-white is actually a more common culprit - reducing the reflectivity and shadow contrast that makes something look clean and bright. This book provides some solid footing for you to start thinking about how to use color in your new place. I'm an architect, and I have used his books as discussion starters many times with clients. People really get it quickly, and are excited to see how much power they have over the feel of a space just by knowing where to start with color.

It gives nice examples of how colors work together, and how to organize colors from room to room. Getting paint right is a tricky business. It's hard to overstate the fact that you just can never tell what a color looks like until you get it on the wall...and then see what it looks like in the context of your particular room and it's light conditions. But his books really do a good job of helping to show you where to start, and what to look for as you plan. Knowing how color "works" in a room can really be helpful. Whether you go light or dark; bold or neutral, you can make some choices that really work in a way you would never had guessed if you know the basics of where to start.
posted by nickjadlowe at 7:14 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Given that Sir John Soane's Museum is in the process of renovating Soane's private apartments, including his bedroom, you could always work from that exquisite template. There's also the US National Trust's guide to classic colour palettes. (Point being that historic interiors are often reflective of male tastes, with the "ladies'" input relegated to smaller areas -- though that gendering can sometimes be problematic.)

The key is knowing how to work with the light and space at hand.
posted by holgate at 7:16 PM on February 28, 2011

It's pretty expensive as a place to buy things, but Restoration Hardware can be cool to look at for inspiration. Most of their styles are gender neutral or masculine-looking.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:19 PM on February 28, 2011

There's no such thing as "cool painting ideas" (I mean, unless you're designing a nursery or a theme restaurant). You just paint.

As for choosing colors, this is how I do it.

First, I spend some time just being in the room and thinking about what kind of room I want it to be. Assuming you already own furniture and other stuff that occupies the room, that will probably be a starting point. As will things like the size of the room, how high the ceilings are, what kind of light the room gets, etc. Another thing to take into account here is the sort of building it is, how old it is, etc. A Victorian cottage would look sort of stupid with lime green walls, for example, while an ultramodern loft done up in sage and taupe would seem equally strange. So I think about all this stuff, preferably while living/hanging out in the room.

Then I go to a store that sells paint. Home Depot or your local hardware store is fine. You want to get something that is good quality and has nice pigments, but the basic stuff is probably fine. I typically buy Behr, Benjamin Moore, or Ralph Lauren (slightly more expensive but with gorgeous complexity to the colors). Remembering your basic ideas for how you want the room to be and maybe what color families match your stuff and will make the space look nice, check out the paint section. The chips are free, so grab anything that strikes your fancy. DO NOT BUY PAINT AT THIS TIME.

Take your stack of chips home and go sit in the room. I have a little ritual I do where I cut each separate chip off the strip and then immediately start culling stuff. I cut apart the different colors so that I'm not looking at a color in relation to the other colors on the strip but in relation to the room itself and any important features. A lot of the colors will be obvious misses - you can just throw them away. I then like to tape up the colors I like, all over the room, in different spots (preferably spread out from each other). Just to see how the light hits the chip, how it looks with the trim, the ceiling, any important furniture, etc. I then live with things this way, gradually eliminating colors until I have one I'm really happy with. That's the new color for the room! The process of elimination can take a really long time - right now I have three chips on my bedroom wall, and I just can't fucking decide which is best. It'll come to me eventually. Maybe I'll just rochambeau for it.

A word on "feminine" vs. "masculine" - as long as you don't paint the room ballerina pink or baby nursery blue, it's unlikely that a paint color is going to make your space "feminine". To me, gender is all in the other stuff in the room. pastel colors, fussy prints, ruffles and bows, and traditionally feminine elements of decor like stuffed animals or Lisa Frank esque rainbows and unicorns - yeah, that's going to make your space feminine. And likewise cammo, leather, oxblood, navy, tweed, and DudeBro McManCave elements like sports memorabilia or motorbikes are going to make a space "masculine". But most people who aren't totally deluding themselves prefer to live somewhere in the middle. Chances are you already have the "stuff" that's going to go in the room, anyway.

For ideas of how different occupants (whether male, female, straight, gay, married, be-childed) decorate their various homes, check out the Design Sponge "sneak peek" series. Many if not most of the participants are artists and designers, but it should still give you a good sense of what masculine and feminine look like in a well-designed home.
posted by Sara C. at 7:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seven years ago I was able to buy a CD/ROM of the Lowes house brand, which let me fiddle with various color combos. Home Depot and other paint companies should have something similar.
posted by brujita at 11:13 PM on February 28, 2011

I suggest a quick trawl through Desire to Inspire. Without getting hung up on what constitutes masculine V's feminine, there are so many good looks showcased there by so many different designers that you'll surely find something that you fancy. A quick search on "masculine" brings up all sorts of wonderful things that I - a chick - fancy like mad, so your mileage may vary. But do have a look.
posted by ninazer0 at 11:52 PM on February 28, 2011

Considering that your furniture is more expensive than the color of your walls, you should paint your room to complement your furniture. You may also consider choosing a paint color after choosing a carpet if you are replacing that. If you have a hard floor then pick something that will complement it.

I painted my den a nice off white but did all the trim in olive which looks good with my dark wood doors and the speckled chocolate colored carpet.
posted by JJ86 at 7:14 AM on March 1, 2011

We have some pretty dark colors in our house that you'd probably describe as "masculine." We make them work by having lots of bright white trim. Just a thought.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2011

Take a look at the interior design of Ron Marvin. When you asked for masculine, his work immediately came to mind. I think he manages a clean lined and classic look. He also has pulled off some darker room colors very nicely. In particular, the Meatpacking District apartment, with way more pictures here.

I think the more classic feel of someone like Marvin fits well with 'what the rest of society finds attractive,' even though it might still feel a bit frilly to someone not used to interior design. My personal taste runs more modern, but it takes a while to balance out modern with livability. I second the advice to look at sites like Desire to Inspire in order to help develop your eye beyond the classic bachelor pad look of modern leather sofa + big TV.
posted by pekala at 7:00 PM on March 1, 2011

Oh, and dark painted rooms or walls have been a huge trend in the last year or so. Usually a dark gray/black/blue/chalkboard paint, though. Chocolate brown was paired with blue or pink a lot about 5 years or so ago, so you don't see it much lately. Rooms like this bedroom and this living room have been widely admired. The easy way to combat a closed-in feeling is to combine dark and light.
posted by pekala at 8:28 PM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: I was away from the comp for a couple days. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions! I especially liked the US National Trust pamphlet, though all links were helpful.
posted by Stryke11 at 8:35 PM on March 3, 2011

Hope you have a beautiful home by now...if not. I'd like to suggest.... for your living room, painting the walls a mid-tone "fawn/suede" brown and perhaps go for a dark brown leather couch. Punch in color with pillows, a rug and art on the wall. Keep your furniture neutral and in a style you love that way you can change out the accessories as your taste changes. I've been painting and decorating for years and have seen colors combos come and go.
Ask yourself this question:
Would I wear that color? Do I look good in that color?
Never paint your walls a color you don't look good in. I always told my clients that their rooms should be spectacular but when they enter the room, they should be the star.
Make your rooms the backdrop for you!
Best of luck and congrats on you first house!
(I'm decorating my first house at this time too!)
posted by walkingcontradiction at 1:57 PM on April 18, 2011

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