Balancing the Feminine and Masculine Design of a Space

Balancing Feminine & Masculine Design

Darren Palmer has a broad portfolio, having studied fine art & graphic design, originally working in advertising and owning his own graphic design company. After succumbing to his true passion, Darren now operates his own interior design studio and has been a judge on numerous seasons of The Block.

Many moons ago I had the pleasure of working on the home of a well-known Australian couple. She, being a model was very well versed in style and fashion and knew exactly what she wanted and how to translate that into her home. Her husband was the builder and had done his part by creating the beautiful home in the first place, so the decorator brief focused purely on her desires.

After styling their entire home, the point of reveal came and while most of the rooms represented both occupants due to the fusion of her style and his building, the master bedroom was a stumbling block. I recall the conversation being something like, "mate do you think I could have a few things in here that make me feel a bit less emasculated?" With a request like that, how do you deny that the result has becomed skewed too far in favour of the feminine?

The master bedroom was grasscloth papered with an old temple door as a bedhead but also a lot of pink and flowing sheers. To represent both users of the room I had to inject some archetypal masculine elements and colours, which was far less disruptive to the result than I envisaged. In fact, by bringing in a balance of masculine and feminine, the room became all the better for it.

So how exactly do you balance a space so that the scales don't tip too far into the feminine or masculine? And why is it important to do so?

Firstly imagine the home of a bachelor who only has his own needs in mind when he furnishes his place. It's an easy brief; a comfortable sofa, a TV and a coffee table to eat off or use as a footrest, then you're done right? Well sure, if all that room ever has to do is satisfy him or his mates. But what happens when he needs to entertain a prospective beau? They will be looking for cues that they are empathetic to their needs so will be trying to find inclusions and elements that they can relate to. Simply by decorating with a few books, some soft furnishings and some living elements like succulents or flowers you can send a message to your guests that you are able to consider more than your own needs and desires. This one act may be the difference between making someone feel welcome in your home or not and surely if you're trying to woo someone you want them to feel as welcome as possible?

The same can be said for ladies who decorate purely for themselves. Imagine how a man would feel walking into a blush and grey room with floral wallpaper and flowing white sheers for example. If a guy has to compete with rows of decorative cushions on a bed it may send a not-so subliminal message that there is no room for them in the lady's life. By considering that he would need to have things to relate to by simply adding in some more masculine feeling elements like stone, leather and timber and including on trend colours like sage, olive or emerald green and navy or sapphire blue, you can give your fella some familiarity which might help him feel more at home.

Balance in interiors, as in all things, is the most important thing to focus on.

You will get a more relatable and most importantly, more contrasting result by bringing in some yin to the yang. Ideally look at balancing the hard with the soft, the light with the dark, smooth with textured, colour against neutral and find the sweet spot somewhere in the middle with your spaces. It's the rooms that represent a blend of not just the archetypes of feminine or masculine but the energies of those two opposites that feel the most resolved, layered and nuanced. Often that balance of energy and decor style is just what is needed if you're feeling like your spaces could be better so try looking at adding in the compliment to your natural design style by bringing in a masculine or feminine language to your home.