Brand building through storytelling

Women, get ready. The modern urban husband is a furniture maven

“I’m so over your desk,” my son Ben said with a faintly dismissive look at the desk where I’m sitting right now. And a fine desk it is: keyboard tray, two drawers, made right here in Canada, not in some Third World sweatshop. A few months back he planned to buy one just like it for the house he and my daughter-in-law have bought. Now it doesn’t make the grade. My son covets a designer desk more than twice the price of mine, with neither keyboard tray nor drawers. Oh, well. These days no self-respecting husband takes decor direction from his mother—or his wife, for that matter. There’s something about owning a marital home that can transform the modern male from a schlepper with a TV and a plywood futon to a maven of design whose domestic visions feature Barcelona chairs and dish racks that double as countertop sculptures. I call him Furniture Guy.

I remember when decor was a woman’s domain. My father’s pleas for a Barcalounger went unheard while my mother stretched the family budget to fill our house with teak that she ordered directly from Denmark. (No tacky naugahyde for her!) When the dining room table arrived with a grain too gaudy for her liking, she sent it back and waited many weeks for an acceptable replacement. Mother thought she had standards but Furniture Guy has raised the bar. He keeps an eye on obscure vintage stores in the scruffier parts of town. He knows where to find the best price on mid-century modern reproductions (or glossy Italian imports or early Canadiana). His iPhone contains an ever-expanding gallery of chairs, carpets, track lighting and sectional sofas that just might be worthy of a place in his ideal family home. Dreamy but purposeful, he contemplates the options along with his spouse. This is where the complications begin.

Women still prize the art of putting rooms together. We want our men to care about the scale of an ottoman or the precise shade of green for the master bathroom, but we’d also kind of like to call the shots. The noisiest fight I ever had with my husband—some 30 years ago, thank goodness—took place in a lighting store where a chandelier exposed the gaping chasm between my stated desire to make decorating choices hand in hand and my horror of the choice he proposed. My face froze in a disdainful, how-could-you grimace that reminded him, he said, of my mother. The decor dictator I had vowed not to become. On our pilgrimage through Toronto’s lighting emporia, we prayed for peace and eventually settled for a faux Victorian fixture that neither of us loathed.

Given our fraught and fractious history with lighting, I am proud to report that my son and his wife have just navigated this marital passage a lot more gracefully than we did. Or so it seemed when they set forth to buy a certain floor lamp after treating us to Mother’s Day lunch. She had championed one. He preferred another. Intense negotiations had ensued. I won’t tell you which spouse won that round because what matters is that they left us in high spirits.

I asked my friend Caitlin, who’s recently married, what’s it like to decorate a condo with Furniture Guy. Turns out she’s an expert on such projects. Caitlin’s husband Peter is a man of firm views on everything from curtains to carpets. Selecting a couch proved particularly vexing. To Caitlin a couch is all about the look—what friends see when they come for dinner. To Peter it’s all about the comfort for watching sports on TV. He nixed every one of Caitlin’s choices, but he had the creativity to turn the standoff into a game. He untied the scarf she was wearing, turned it into a blindfold and led her from couch to couch, saying, “Let your bum decide.”

Recalls Caitlin, “Ultimately my bum chose a creamy beige, leather couch that I initially thought was too clunky for condo living. It fits beautifully into our living room and our lives, and buying it is one of those small seemingly insignificant memories that I will cherish for all of my married life. If someone asked us what our decor style is, we would probably look at each other and smile and say, ‘compromise.'”

So here’s to them, to Ben and Beth and to all the other couples who transcend their separate passions and peeves to create a sanctuary for them both. If they can deal with floor lamps, they’re ready for anything. Yes, even mothers-in-law.

Some furniture guys are also into wedding dresses with trains. Click here for the story. 

Posted by Rona

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