Illustration: Michael Hoeweler

All Back To Mine. Or Is It?

By Rue Kothari
09 March 2019
In the most social of seasons, does your interior design leave a lot to be desired? Rue Kothari explains how to create a bachelor pad for the grown man

You are what you wear – or so they tell me. This brings to mind the story of a very dapper gentleman I once met on Dubai’s glittery party circuit. Head-to-toe clean-cut, he was perfectly groomed. Suit from Brioni, handmade brogues – faultless to a T. Now, as partial as I am to a sartorially elegant man, it means nothing if it’s not wrapped around a cerebral being. So I was equally impressed when it turned out he had a PhD and was a self-made entrepreneur with a strong understanding of world affairs and popular culture.

He lived in a rather salubrious nook of Downtown Dubai, so when he suggested that our entire party shift from a well-known French eatery in the Gate Village and head back to his pied-à-terre for a little add-on soirée, my interest was duly piqued. Surely this man of taste’s habitat would be equally seamless and sophisticated.

What greeted me when he opened the door was truly shocking. The taupe box of his one-bedroom apartment was literally just that. Bare, with a sad little black leather sofa that reeked of Sofa Land, a giant flat screen TV and an IKEA coffee table covered with various remote controls. Lurking in the corner was a makeshift bar, the whole picture terrifyingly lit like a scene from a Kubrick film. Stranger still was the complete lack of detail, those little objects in a home that belie the homeowner’s personality. It was blank.

“Have you just moved in?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, looking surprised. “I’ve lived here for four years.”

“Well, are you planning to decorate? I ventured.

Needless to say, I wasn’t invited back. Now, take this story as a word of warning. Your home says just as much about you as what you wear. And if you’re intending to spin the social wheel this season, post-brunch, post-race, or post whatever you’re planning, then you may want to reconsider the state of your man cave. For whether you realise it or not, people are judging. In any case, you should want your home to reflect the smart, savvy,
stylish man that you are.

First stop, if your income allows, is to contact an interior designer. Time poor, cash-rich folk understand that DIY if you DI-don’t-need-to is a false economy. A good designer will spend time getting to know you, your likes and dislikes, your hobbies and pursuits, and build
a scheme for your home that reflects your aesthetic and your needs. Once finished, all you need to do is personalise it – pictures, books, and pieces of art are the finishing touches that create depth and interest, giving you something to talk about when you make the ‘all back to mine’ call.
If you’re short on cash, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and get busy. Start with a mood board on Pinterest. Reallocate a few of those Netflix hours to perusing and pinning the things that you like, and you’ll start to see similarities from which you can cull a theme. Keep it simple and sober with a palette of earthy, tonal colours that will naturally work together in a room. Mix warm woods with darker metals like copper or brass, distressed leathers with marble or stone.

For newbies, the best canvas is always white, so banish your rental’s magnolia with a fresh coat before you get to work on the rest. It’s important that you invest in key pieces – so don’t skimp on your sofa. Buy something beautifully crafted, preferably Italian (try Cassina, Cappellini, Moroso or Pedrali) – they’re sleek and masculine – and avoid black unless you actually want a retro ’80s
living room.

A good console will anchor the space and give you a focal point for interesting objects (Meridiani do some great contemporary ones). You’ll need a coffee table, so opt for something in glass, or Carrara marble, that sits lightly in the room rather than dominating it, with some hidden storage so you can hide those ugly controls.

If you’ve a tiled or wooden floor, then a beautiful hand-tufted rug from FBMI will not only add warmth to the whole space, but a local Bedouin flavour, for context. Textiles are important. It may feel like  ‘girl’s world’ (reference my column from last month), but layering-in textiles and patterns will bring a sense of cosiness to your space. Keep to the muted colour scheme and don’t be tempted with anything flamboyant. A few cushions won’t hurt.

The most important thing in any room is light. Nobody wants to be strip-lit like they’re ordering a portion of McFries at 1am. We want to be seduced by a warm, flattering glow. Suspend one statement pendant light from your ceiling (I’d recommend a stunner from Artemide, Brokis or Bomma), controlled with a dimmer switch. Balance this out with a couple of quirky table lights or a floor lamp from Marset, so you can change the mood whenever you choose.

Finally, remember the personal touches, the little additional pieces that show your guests who you really are. This month, take advantage of Art Dubai (20–23 March, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai). Even if you’re a complete novice, follow your instinct for pieces that you’re drawn to.  Ask the gallerist about the artist, how the piece was made, the number of editions. And, if you’re really keen, ask whether the gallery offers any payment options. There isn’t a right or wrong here. Just buy what you love.

When you’re done, you’ll find your fear or avoidance of decorating is a thing of the past, fully subverted by your new status as a stylish man with an equally stylish pad. And rather than offering guests an apologetic welcome, you’ll be turning them away at the door.