Few men are hands-on when it comes to interior design. You can’t blame them. The process has so many moving parts, and there are football games to watch and steaks to be grilled. Sure, weighing in on wall colors and artwork can be intriguing. But pulling together fabrics to dress a room? Adjusting architectural elements to add interest to a room with no windows? As designer Elizabeth Reich of Jenkins Baer Associates explains, “The design process is a puzzle, and most people need help putting the pieces together. What I’ve learned from the men I’ve worked for is they need a little coaxing to take the proverbial man cave to the level of personal style and comfort they want.”
Reich designed a bachelor pad in a new Baltimore County condominium complex for a 40-something professional grant reviewer. He rented a place for years “that had no style at all,” he relates, with the disclaimer, “I had no exposure to interior design and not much interest, either.” He knew he needed to buy and install an investment-worthy home, but aside from “something comfortable with a young, modern feel,” he wasn’t sure of what he truly desired. He had purchased a top-floor condo during construction and, in the drywall stage, found Reich through a friend-in-common. She came to take a look, promptly dubbed the project “the bachelor pad” and assembled a presentation that blew him away.
Reich says. “The softness, warmth and masculine colors of a Manhattan condo featured in Architectural Digest caught his attention. The mood just grabbed him. He called me not even a day later to say I had the job.”
Reich started by learning his habits and interests. “Listening to music and reading were high priorities,” she says. “And he’s tall, so I knew extra-long sofas were important for stretching out.” He told her he wanted a desk in a study and he’d already chosen his kitchen cabinets. The next steps were her own. “I have a process that starts with allotting the space and affixing the architectural details to dress each room up or down,” she says. “Then, I find the appropriate furnishings. I finish by choosing the wall colors.”
Her suggestions brought out a sensibility that surprised even this design naïf. He went for the unusual artwork and chandeliers, furnishings with a rustic-meets industrial look, and even the paint finish for a sexy powder room inspired by a box made of bone that Reich loves. Did our bachelor know all the parts would work? Hardly. But he was game, and in the end, made a happy discovery. The few pieces of his own he brought fit right in.