As soon as we enter a room, any room, we can see and feel the impact of traditionally masculine or feminine interior design. The effect is immediate, but what makes it so? There is currently much debate around concepts of gender identity but for the purposes of this article, let’s focus on conventional interior design principles and understand how they can be used to adapt a room’s look and feel for couples who live together.
How to define ‘male’ and ‘female’ spaces
There are two factors that help determine the traditional gender-specific feel of interior design: the space and what you put in it.
- A masculine space is defined by architectural elements such as simple lines, heavy mouldings, large scale materials and a rectilinear design. Take dark, wide wooden floorboards, square brick fireplaces and plain shutters, for instance.
Materials are non-yielding and finishes non-reflective and include leather, wood, stone, bronze. Dark and muted colours in neutral greys and creams, blues, greens and browns are traditionally associated with a masculine colour palette, while geometric patterns and stripes are interspersed with plain, unadorned spaces.
Source: Pfeiffer Design
- By contrast, overtly feminine spaces are recognisable by their more flowing, organic design, incorporating architectural elements that feature soft curves and other non-rectilinear shapes, and reflective materials. Soft carpets underfoot, carved mouldings on fireplaces or ornate ceilings, crystal chandeliers and mirrors, for instance.
Soft textures and fabrics in lighter colours, flowing curtains, upholstered furniture and soft furnishings complete the ambience, and everything is on a more delicate, feminine scale.
4 tips to combine the best of both worlds
Living together as a couple has its challenges, and bringing together your individual belongings along with your feminine and masculine interior design preferences may well be one of them. The ultimate goal is to find a happy middle ground, marrying together your masculine and feminine style elements to give your home an eclectic appeal that uniquely reflects both your personalities.
Here are 4 tips to help you create a combined living space that works for both of you, while balancing your masculine and feminine energies.
1. Make it a joint project
Whether you’re cohabiting or married, creating a home where you both feel comfortable should be a joint effort. Both partners must feel free to communicate their tastes and preferences and set parameters around what they want and don’t want, and where you are prepared to keep an open mind and experiment.
Why not get inspired together? Visit vintage shops and art museums, peruse interiors blogs and create a Pinterest board to pool your ideas – you’ll be more likely to agree on a style if you’re making the effort to get inspired together. And whatever mix of ‘male’ and ‘female’ energies you end up with, the most important thing is to create a joint home with touches of both of you. It should never be a one-sided story.
A well known rule of thumb in the field of interior design, the 80/20 rule will help you stay clear of design overload: As long as 80% of your interior is unified by the same style, period or philosophy, you can get away with deviating with the other 20%. In other words, choose one main interior style first before adding the other through accent pieces. Take the image below – a perfect blend of airiness with just enough of a dash of colour to brighten the room.
How exactly you decide between the mix of styles in your home will depend on the existing architecture of the room, the pieces you already have and what you are willing to add or get rid of.
3. Simplify your colour scheme
Regardless of your personal colour scheme preference – masculine or feminine – it might be easier to stick to a core neutral palette and add a couple of complementary hues to tie the room together. This will make it easier to balance the designs themes in the room.
However, do avoid compromising to the point where you have created a bland space without any personality at all. If you are veering towards ‘too safe’ territory, pick out some interesting accent items to add interest. From a bookshelf filled with fiction you can both enjoy, to a photo wall with mementoes of meaningful couples’ moments, or a quirky drinks trolley with your favourite tipples, it may be all you need to add character. In the example below, the crisp monochrome palette has been enlivened with a display of curated curios and lush indoor plants.
4. Play with textures
Th visual impact of combining varied design tastes can be made easier by bringing in different textures, finishes and materials. For instance, if your partner prefers sharp geometric lines in the furniture and rugs, these can be connected to a softer vibe by adding a fluffy throw, chunky blanket, soft cushions or even a textured lampshade, as in the image below.