4 designers on creating a stylish ‘man space’ – minus the ‘man cave’ clichés

Lads’ pads are well and truly out of fashion. Gabielle Fagan sources interiors tips for dapper rooms – and avoiding ‘decor divorce’.

Gone are the days when all men are decor dinosaurs, whose idea of furnishing a room is one large sofa, a giant flat screen and a coffee table (for resting feet and cans).

They’re fast becoming an endangered species, as a new style-savvy species emerges – and he’s just as likely to follow his favourite designers on Instagram as his favourite football team, and has a crystal clear idea of what his home should look like.

Whatever his style – funky, streamlined, classic or vintage – it’s likely a world away from the stereotypical ‘man cave’, says David Harris, design director of uber-trendy interiors destination, Andrew Martin.


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Set the tone of your rooms with colorful statement pieces from our new artwork collection (link in bio).

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“Men have never been so savvy about design and interiors as they are today. The huge growth of Pinterest and Instagram has opened up interior design to everyone, and interiors inspiration is everywhere,” Harris points out.

“Design ideas, such as funky neon artworks, modern art wallpapers, architectural lighting ranges, and great furniture covered in rich velvets and leathers, is helping to attract a more masculine following. Men now feel more confident than ever about their interior ideas, and they want to show off their tastes.”


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Achieve gorgeous harmony with neutral shades and simple design inspired by Bauhaus (link in bio).

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But what if you’re not quite there with your decor, or – even more challenging – have to share your taste and space with a partner? Around 60% of couples argue about decor, and 40% say they wouldn’t even move in with someone if they hated their interiors, according to recent research by Mattress Online.

Fear not – as four design experts have come to the rescue. Here, they reveal their tips on creating a super-smart ‘man space’ and how to avoid a decor divorce…

Size matters

“In general, masculine-style interiors embrace large-scale designs – such as furniture or focal-point walls – rather than layers of cosy accessories,” says Claire Hornby, head of creative at Barker & Stonehouse.

“We’ve seen a surge over the years for oversized pieces of furniture, which command attention within a room, thanks to their bold and contemporary aesthetic,” she adds.

“The sturdy straight lines of larger statement pieces give an illusion of strength, and oversized leather sofas or armchairs are a great way to soften the atmosphere of a space, without changing the overall aesthetic.”

L-R) Conical Table Lamp, Brass, £140; Asquith Leather Chair, £1,859; Riva 1920 Elle Ecrit Walnut Desk, £4,265, Barker & Stonehouse (Barker & Stonehouse/PA)
(L-R) Conical Table Lamp – Brass, £140; Monaco Grand Prix Framed Print, £190; Asquith Leather Chair, £1,859; Shiny Gold Resin Horse Head, £30; Riva 1920 Elle Ecrit Walnut Desk, £4,265, Barker & Stonehouse (Barker & Stonehouse/PA)

Reassuringly, she believes there’s no need for conflict if you’re sharing a space. “Creating a masculine room doesn’t have to mean it won’t appeal to all,” she says – if you opt for an elegant setting with masculine undertones (possibly in natural materials and darker shades), which convey warmth, strength and a sense of personality, without being overbearing.

For a final flourish, Hornby suggests: “Convey personality without clutter with different finishes, from metallic to varnished wood, and add artwork together with a few well-chosen accessories.”

Seek out Scandi-style

Classic Round Mirror - Silver, from £399; Matera 3-Seater Sofa, from £2599; Mini Lounge Floor Lamp - Grey, from £349; Amazing Rug Combi by Linie Design, £489, Noguchi Coffee Table by Vitra - Black Ash, £1550, Heal's (Heal's/PA)
Classic Round Mirror – Silver, from £399; Matera 3-Seater Sofa, from £2599; Mini Lounge Floor Lamp – Grey, from £349; Amazing Rug Combi by Linie Design, £489, Noguchi Coffee Table by Vitra – Black Ash, £1550, Heal’s (Heal’s/PA)

“We’ve definitely noticed a shift away from the perception of the characteristically male ‘bachelor pad’ decor, as the lines between masculine and feminine aesthetics start to blur,” acknowledges Emily Dunstan, home buyer at Heal’s.

“With more awareness of the variety of looks on offer, people are exploring them rather than creating a defined look to suit a typically masculine or feminine vision.”

If men fly solo, she’s observed that they often opt for deep, warm neutrals, which conjure a snug, comfortable space. “They favour a darker canvas, with accessories introducing pops of colour which breathe life and personality into a room, rather than bold, bright colour blocks,” she says.


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The Matera corner chaise – proving that sleek, Italian design can slot into any style of home. #WhereDesignLives

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For a harmonious decor marriage, her tip is: “Take time before you begin creating a home together, to identify common aspects among your individual design preferences.

“It’s important to explore each other’s styles, to ensure you both create a space you can truly enjoy and relax in – by experimenting with different looks. You may even conjure one which you wouldn’t have previously thought you loved.

“A Scandinavian-style aesthetic could be a good choice,” she adds. “Its elegant appeal incorporates a neutral palette, and bold designs with natural wooden pieces can be updated with fabrics and lighting, to subtly tweak the overall feel to suit you.”

Reflect each other’s taste, for instance through pattern or colour, via accessories, Dunstan also suggests – a compromise solution that will enhance the whole scheme and help ensure harmony both emotionally and stylishly.

Keep it simple

John Lewis (John Lewis/PA)
Design Project by John Lewis No.168 Arched Floor Lamp – Black, £295, and Design Project by John Lewis No.169 8-Seater Dining Table – Oak, £999, John Lewis (John Lewis/PA)

“Our male customers are making bolder choices and expressing their desire to show their personality in their decor choices,” says Tony Berardis, home design stylist at John Lewis.

“The key to creating a stylish man’s room is to keep it simple. Opt for multi-functional, sleek pieces in industrial or mid-century styles, that can be softened with a few choice accessories,” he adds. “As with any room, comfort is king – so don’t shy away from a few cushions and throws, which will encourage you to relax and entertain. Make the space your own by including your favourite pieces of art and photographs of your friends and family.”

If the industrial/reclaimed look is on your radar, another destination to consider is Smithers of Stamford, which has a wealth of choice for stylish men. One star is a made-to-order Massey Ferguson Tractor Reclaimed Desk (£2,260, smithersofstamford.com).

Sleek and subtle


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Sleek, modern shape. Muted black nickel. Designed in collab with @uvatelier. Mayer has it all. ⁣

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“Men’s interior design styles have evolved, just as women’s have over the years. We like to think we’re ‘gender agnostic’ in our approach to design,” declares Ruth Wassermann, design director at Made.com. “We design more for specific spaces and lifestyles, and with different looks in mind.

“There are simple ways to add masculine touches to a home without going full-on bachelor pad,” she adds. “Some statement artwork can add personality, while conforming to a bold aesthetic. Or look to the floor and use a rug as ‘art’, which can be striking.”

(L-R) Supermundane Large Wool Rug, Multi. £299; Cecil Armchair, Oxford Grey Premium Leather, £599;Opaca 2 Set Concrete Geo Planters, Grey, £25, Made.com (Made.com/PA)
(L-R) Supermundane Large Wool Rug – Multi, £299; Cecil Armchair – Oxford Grey Premium Leather, £599; Opaca 2 Set Concrete Geo Planters – Grey, £25, Made.com (Made.com/PA)

Wassermann’s tip is to avoid a predictable ‘man pad’ recliner, and instead opt for a comfortable chair which suits a room’s style, whether that’s pared-back Nordic or more of a retro vibe.

“Invest in a well-designed quality piece and consider materials like leather or mango wood, which will add a more industrialised feel, bringing warmth without being exclusively masculine,” she adds.

Brisa 100% Linen Bed Set – Slate, £109 for king size, Made.com (Made.com/PA)

For a finishing touch, she suggests dressing the bed with on-trend linen, rather than cotton – ideal for a simple, masculine setting. “It’s muted, more natural tones,” she says, “like greys and stone wash, allow for different textures and colours to be integrated with throws and cushions.”