INTERIORS: Men v women

Image of coloured couch

Embrace Venus, snuggle up to Mars

Interior design
Niamh Tuohy

He wants minimalist, she likes homely. Her ideas of complementary shades are so different from his, you’d swear one or the other was in fact from Mars, or was it Venus?
Planning the design of any space can be an unmitigated disaster, and the chances of any renovation project being the cause of a relationship meltdown are pretty high.
Colour co-ordination, choice of materials, layout and finance are all areas (to mention just a few) that need a lot of consideration before the house of your dreams can come to life.
Throw into this mix your tastes versus your partner's and the trouble starts.
While writing this article alone, myself and he-who-should-be-outdoors were going for the jugular (but that, dear reader, is the extent to which I will go in order to bring you the facts). And here they are...

This can be one of the trickiest areas as your sofa suite can often be the centrepiece of a room. Choose right and it will introduce the theme you’re looking for and bring the whole room together; choose wrong and you’ll secretly wish you’d employed that interior designer after all. Try to create something where both partners feel like they’re getting what they want. Choose a manly design such as herringbone or tweed and find it in a softer pastel shade to give it a more feminine slant.

Unless you’re living in a castle, going for a period-style interior is a mistake. It’s very difficult to do this look right, as it’s a fairly dominant theme and will undoubtedly not be to everyone’s taste. Try to keep the furniture more traditional but with a modern contemporary kick to it so that you’re offending no one and you don’t feel like you’re settling down into the year 1983.


Without completely generalising, I think it’s safe to say that men tend to go for a clutter-free look while we ladies like our accessories in order to tie the whole room together. There is a middle ground here. Incorporate storage so that ‘things’ have a place and there’s a place for everything. But don’t go too minimalist. It’s a home not a gallery, so don’t be afraid to throw in the odd useless-sized cushion that no one will ever use but still looks good.

Window dressing
A clever option here is the good old roman blind. It’s neat, functional and rarely causes dispute of any kind. If you are designing a room where curtains are the obvious choice – if the windows are particularly large and blinds just won’t cut it – then you could choose a darker, more masculine shade and introduce extras to uni-sex it up. Adding in a border with tassels or using tie backs with a softer shade that link in with other colours and tones in the room will help to neutralise the over-all design. Alternatively, if you go for a more feminine curtain fabric, balance it up by using leather in your sofa suite or something similar. It should be emphasised here that when I say ‘feminine’, I don’t meet ‘floral’. There’s just no need for floral curtains no matter what the situation.

Separate spaces
If there’s just no meeting of minds on the decor of your home, then leave him. Ahem. Perhaps not. However, if you have enough space, you could think about the option of open plan. Initially it might seem like madness to try and bring cohesion to two startlingly different styles, but if all of the above is taken into consideration, then blending his space into hers shouldn’t be too difficult. Remember that with open plan you need the theme to flow. That doesn’t mean that the entire space has to be finished as if it were just one large room. Subtle changes in shade and tone can be used to signify the end of one area and the beginning of another. Introducing a slightly different wall colour can act as an invisible border. A small study can easily be incorporated by the use of cleverly designed furniture for tight spaces and using a similar style (but not matching) chair in a different but complimentary fabric to what’s in the main living-room.Just remember, the whole experience should be fun for you both. And anything worthwhile never comes easily. The bigger the challenge, the greater the gain. But if it all DOES go horribly wrong, then gentlemen, know when to call a spade a spade and leave it to your better half!

Naoimh Tuohy is an interior designer based in Westport and working countrywide. Originally coming from a property background, she made the jump from valuing buildings to redesigning their interiors. She has worked freelance for the last six years and specialises in show houses, home-owner renovations and investment-property fit-outs. She can be contacted at 087 7625539.