A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO FENG SHUI
Words by David Coggins Photograph by Parker Fitzgerald
There’s no need to live in a black-leather bachelor pad or a frat house. Our gentleman’s guide to setting up a grown-up home will help you leave all that stuff in the past.
Men living on their own are rarely mistaken for interior designers. In fact, the cultural bar has been set relatively low thanks to such widely held associations as “the man cave.” The assumption is that men, when left to their own devices, will revert to a premodern state, stop grooming themselves, have the television locked on the sports channel and subsist entirely on takeout. Here are a few simple things you can do to counter that assumption and prove you are a truly evolved modern man.
Two good chairs Chairs facing each other invite conversation with a guest—it’s the physical metaphor for friendship. They can be club chairs, they can be spare, they can be Danish. They can be new or old but they should be inviting, calling you across the room to come, sit down and share a bottle of wine. If space allows, please don’t set them in front of the television. If your chair is comfortable but unsightly or beginning to come apart, just throw a piece of fabric over part of it—there’s nothing wrong with that. Furniture should look used, like a corduroy coat with elbow patches.
Books You can’t have too many. I’m suspicious of any man who doesn’t have the ambition to build a library. Your life should be full of anthologies of letters, definitive biographies, doomed poets, forgotten painters, Finnish country houses, Japanese textiles, old Sotheby’s catalogs—there’s a lot to page through. If you can afford it, start buying the catalogs of every good museum exhibition you see. After a few years, you’ll be surprised how grateful you are to have a nice personal history of what you’ve seen.
Rugs Your wooden floors are shy. They don’t want to be naked—they want to be covered. Get some nice rugs. It’s not hard: Go to an estate sale or search eBay. There will be plenty to choose from and they won’t be expensive. If you find one you’re set on, get it, otherwise layer a few, layer 10, emulate a souk market. It’s empowering.
Downsize Your TV Your house is a not an entertainment center, so you don’t need a television the size of a large aquarium. Your life is better than TV: You travel, you date, you read novels. Enjoy some quality analog time, or even stare out the window—the original reality television.
Good lights Few things are less flattering than harsh overhead lights. Every restaurant you like has good lighting and your apartment should too. You could also get a few small side lamps and some old candlesticks—don’t underestimate candlelight. It flatters rooms and, more importantly, faces.
The long view An apartment, like a wardrobe, isn’t built in a day. Acquire things over time when you travel or luck into the perfect antique store. Improbable objects are a blessing: pheasant feathers, little plastic farm animals, old corkscrews or maybe an old lobster trap buoy. Don’t worry; it will make sense one day. In the end you’ll have an apartment that suits you, and that’s a space worth aspiring to.
David Coggins lives in a very full apartment in New York. His work has appeared in Esquire, Interview and Art in America, among other places.