Saturday, November 10, 2018

Home Arrangement and Decor--Masculine, or Feminine?

This is a painting by an artist named Fred Swan. You can purchase the prints  by clicking this link on his art site.

Today I am answering an email question that I am sorry to say I have delayed far too long. I was busy in  my mind thinking of all the angles of the answer, but today, here is the question and the answer. By no means is "my" answer the only good one!  I realize everything is a controversy these days. Everything from meal time to cleaning house has been turned into a controversy of sorts, including the interior arrangement and decor of the home.

Note: Because I pasted my email answer, things did not line up very well on the blog page. Please use a regular laptop or computer to see all the pictures, which don't seem to be coming up on the phones.

Here is the letter from a young lady in one of the Baltic States in Eastern Europe. I have, since her letter, looked up the state, and furthered my search into their ancient architecture, including the fascinating Baroque architecture of  Belarus. If you live in that area, maybe you can tell me more about it.   The picture I have here looks like a fairy-tale castle. 

Hello, Lydia! 

First of all I would like to say thank you for your blog. It has been really helpful and inspiring for me on my journey of becoming a good homemaker as I am a young woman. I must say that I prefer to listen to videos on Youtube a little bit more than reading a blog, because audio visual materials makes teaching a bit more special and personal, so I really hope to see more of those in the future from you. You are really ladylike, feminine and sweet person and I am very pleased to see you in your videos to get inspired and learn and really appreciate your blog. 

I have one question to you about home interior design and look. What do you think is better: to style home in to more feminine style or I don't want to say androgenious look, but to make it more neutral, so that it wouldn't look just feminine, but equally nice for a man too? I am looking at things that have a feminine look and feel, but at the same time I don't know if a home should be inclined just to women's eyes and what she likes most. There are plenty of things that could be for both gender likes. For example, there is a painting with fluffy cats and something with cute flowers. And also there is painting with horses, which I think would go both ways. But the cute one wouldn't be that which man preferred. I like both. I'm just thinking should I always need to consider it to be neutral atmosphere in the home or go feminine way if I like? Hope to hear your thoughts about this. 

Have a nice day, Sanita

Here are some of  my thoughts on this subject of exterior and interior decor:

Above: Victorian Interior

As I study interior and exterior decor from History, I notice several things that were quite acceptable for both men and women in the last two centuries, but today is being divided into feminine and masculine. If you have historic houses you may tour, you will see the same thing. The architecture, though made and designed by men, even in Roman times, was full of pastry-like scrolls and flourishes, embellishments, fancy columns, floral cement and stone work, and yet no one called it feminine.

What I mean is, I don't recall decor being an issue. Naturally there was a difference between a girls room and a boys room, but for the remainder of the house, the style of of era was not feminine or masculine: it was appealing to everyone. Attempts to define a difference seems to have begun in our era. It is unfortunate that many people think Victorian design and decor is feminine, because it was not intended to be that way.

The Victorian (homes built in what is historically referred to as the Victorian era) houses had wood corners on the porches that were carved like lace trim. We call it "Gingerbread trim" but it would today be called feminine. However, back in that day, it was not. Men created it and built it. The more embellishments like that on a house, the more it was thought to be "fine" or upstanding.  Only crude people lived in hovels with no decor.

The beautiful houses of the Victorian times were made by men, and the women decorated them with soft, filmy, lace curtains. The frames on paintings that hang on the walls were ornate, usually carved by men.

Kitchen: some people think that masculine is "plain" and feminine is "ornate" but this is not necessarily so. From Baroque to Victorian, the embellishments were created by men, and were admired by women.

No piece of furniture in previous eras was without curved Queen Anne wood legs, and no table was without a lace tablecloth; no bed without a crocheted bedspread.  Lamps, and all accessories from lighting to plants, to florals, were all what today would be called "feminine," due to the carvings on them (many wood or plaster roses, ribbons and scenes) and yet this was considered by men as good taste. So I will proceed from here to answer this common question about how to furnish a home today without it being too feminine.
Rainy Day by Frank Benson. It looks like this painting of the 1800's had all the feminine comforts: rugs, vases, wall hangings, cushions, etc. 
Victorian-era homes of the 1800's contained the parlour for the women and the library for the men.
In the 1950's the houses were smaller, but the man had his reading chair by the fire, and the woman had her little rocking chair with her sewing basket beside it.

In modern times there are now dens and offices for the men, and the sewing and craft room for the women.

However I think we can blend these things nicely.
My general reply will be that the basics of the house--the floors, walls, lamps,  some furniture and windows; the bigger things, will be more "masculine" , since that is what is being built today, and the finishing touches, such flowers, candles and holders, --the smaller things--dishes, some curtains or window treatments, cushions for the chairs and lounge, bedding, towels, bathroom things, wreaths, arrangements on the mantel, etc. would provide more of the feminine touches.  A mix of furniture is acceptable if you can get colors and textiles to look good together.

 In the 1960's until the 1980's there were some excellent decor ideas that suited both male and female and everyone was happy with it, but recently this male and female decor has become prominent.  My goal is to show how to use things to give a nice blend.

To qualify myself: I don't believe any previous historical decor was considered to be male or female in style, because before our present time, even lace was considered acceptable and even promoted by men who designed homes.

Mr. S. does not care what I do with the house but I leave his office alone and his lounge chair will only occasionally be draped over with his mother's white chenille cotton bedspread when I have a ladies tea.

 The dishes are all "feminine" but you have to understand the era he grew up in was still the woman's realm inside the house, and he loved his mother's decor, her dishes, her priscilla curtains (ruffled), her lace covers on the arm chairs, her floral arrangements and the little porcelain soap dish in the bathroom.  He doesn't mind at all if it is not completely "masculine." The only thing that I make sure of is that the furniture is comfortable for men, and that the coffee and tea are hot and the food is good. The bathroom must have things easily accessible, such as towels and soap, and nothing to stumble over that is 'decor'. His bedroom side table must not have "decor" on it besides his lamp, because he would knock it over.  We try to keep most of the tables empty of any kind of decor except for lamps, however, when I'm having a tea, I'm a little more liberal with the decor. It is not a matter of feminine or masculine with us, but of practical usefulness.

cottage style

Some interior decorators have suggested if you have things from your mother or grandmother, keep them and make yourself a room with all that coziness and old fashioned-ness, and then leave the main rooms to be rather plain and masculine. However, if you are a homemaker and you want to be happy at home, you will have to feel you have free reign in the home.

On my sidebar is a lady in Prince Edward Island in Canada, called Aiken House and Gardens, and she has a farmhouse and she and her husband are always remodeling and decorating, and her husband builds shelves and special things to accommodate all her collections of dishes and teacups, and decor items. Browse through her pictures and see how they both live in a house with her taste, which I think is also his taste, since he is always helping her look for a new chair or couch for a certain purpose in the house.

 As a couple grows older together, their tastes mesh a lot. Mr. S. likes to go help me find a comfortable chair, and he also enjoys looking at decor with me.  He bases his tastes on the farm in Kansas where he grew up, so he doesn't mind if I have an old milk bottle in the house filled with flowers or a copper cow bell sitting on a shelf. He fondly remembers his grandmothers and their crochet items all over the house, with ceramic plant holders and ornate candle holders, even though you would have thought they were "poor."  These things lighten up the home and make the family feel a type of luxury.

Variety of styles: Victorian, Cottage, Old World, Country, Farm

Choosing a "style" could be the answer to determining what would suit both men and women. Try typing in and and browsing cottage style, farmhouse style, Victorian style, European style, homestead, rustic, prairie, country style, salvage, hotel lobby, Colonial, craftsman, saltbox, Southern, Georgian ( style similar to colonial), French, modern, utilitarian, ship, etc. and see if there are elements both male and female could live with.

I repeat, that from the beginning I don't think there was a feminine or masculine style. I know back in the 1950's there was Pa's chair and Ma's chair, and they both had a little table and lamp beside it that suited their likes.  However, Pa never objected to the lace curtains or the painting of the kitty-cat on the wall.

My father in law, a great big blustery German man who 'ruled the roost" bragged that the pillowcases  they used were given to them on their wedding by his mother. Those pillowcases are now in my home, have crocheted edges of roses and vines, and are in pink. My FIL also liked the flower arrangements and curtains, the cushions, the fancy china, and silverware that was embellished with delicate florals, and never complained, but insisted on using them. Not for a moment was his masculinity or authority ever threatened by such "feminine" decor. A man of reason knows that these things make a house into a home.

In the house, above, some people may erroneously judge the hanging flowers, the picket fence, the flower boxes and other embellishments as "feminine" but those things, maybe added by a lady to give life and comfort to a house, are appealing to everyone.

If you are staying  home as a homemaker, you need to consider what you would like to see all day and what you are going to have to wash, clean, rearrange, etc.  
The woman is the keeper of the home, and a man who is reasonable, will want her her choose the things that make her feel happy and content at home.
Also, if you can judge your style by what really touches your heart, what makes you smile, what makes you feel grounded and happy, there is a good guide in my opinion
Also, observe those homes you visit and see what you like and don't like about them.

Before I knew a thing about interior decor, I lived on a homestead with my parents and siblings. My taste developed from there. I loved the crochet and quilt and glassware that gave that rough place some refinement. My father and other men of the era did not object to feminine things in the home. They were once bachelors and they married, expecting their wives to make the homes finer and more cozy and comfortable, and pretty.
You will observe the interior seems rough and rather masculine but the embellishments of flowers and chandeliers and color appeal to everyone too.

Fox and Jacobs interior 
Many years ago I toured homes in Texas being built out on the plains by a company called Fox and Jacobs. I wish I had taken pictures, as I have no record of how delightfully the interior decor appealed to both men and women!  There were window seats and bays that had such beautiful decor on them.  The house hunters, especially the men, enjoyed touring these homes, and the interior decor was appealing to the men as well as the women. 
French Interior.

Some basics of decor, which most of us are helpless to change, are:

These elements are usually already in the house, which also are not easily changed:
sinks, tubs
shelves on the walls

Kitchen sink,cabinets,etc.

Then, there are these, which we have more freedom to choose and are easily changed to suit us:


Finally, there are these smaller items which most of us feel we can afford to change or add, because they are not expensive, and can also be used according to seasons:
lighting (lamps)
coverings (table cloths, bedding)

The basics (floors, windows, walls) could be masculine, and the other things more feminine.
However, in my own preference and opinion, I think the woman should make the home, guide it and guard it. The man builds the house, the woman fills it.  But today men have more interest in what goes in a house, yet, many of them want whatever makes the woman content and happy.

It seems like men suddenly became very opinionated about home decor, but it may also be a manufactured opinion in order to sell people on the idea of masculine verses feminine. The two should blend together.  If a man doesn't like the woman's decor, it could be that they have chosen a modern style in house and furniture, and don't realize how to use it to suit both.

A woman should have in her home, her childhood collections in a trunk or shelf, her homemade things that please her, her dishes and china. Those were basics of decor from time immemorial.  She had a hope chest in which she collected hand made kitchen towels, fancy crystal and silver things, candle holders, picture frames, and quilts. All these were considered the feminine things she would bring to the house her husband had built for her.

My own belief is that decor the woman's realm, but I don't want to give people ideas that they run wild with, when they lack knowledge.

A man provides a  house. A woman makes a home.
A man builds the house. The woman fills it with  precious things.  In my house I  have included the precious things from my husband's mother, because he likes seeing them, and they would be considered "feminine" to many moderns. However, in the past, this was not a negative thing. Men got married so they could have a woman in the house to make it a home with the table cloths, candles and other embellishments.

"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.
By knowledge the rooms are filled with all pleasant and precious riches."
Proverbs 24:3-4

To deride the things a woman loves and brings into her home for beauty, is to lack knowledge of what is pleasant and precious, not just aesthetically, but to a woman's heart. If men want to encourage their wives to be more feminine, they need to be understanding of their love of beauty.

I want to add one last observation: When you see the old Victorian style homes from the 1800's, each one was different than the other; no two alike unless reversed floor plans, but they were built by men for their wives or future wives.  These houses had feminine sweetness along with masculine strength.  Today many designers and builders are going back to those "folk-Victorian" styles because of their beauty and their appeal.  Just because something is attractive and beautiful does not mean it is exclusively female!

In today's world of design, we have other things to consider, such as children's bedrooms, which or more defined as masculinen and feminine.  Since we have those rooms in which to express more feminine and masculine aspects of decor, then hopefully, no sensible woman will decorate the family room like a little girl's bedroom, or the man's den like a boys room.  Keeping those things in the realm of the bedrooms, means you can choose different styles mentioned earlier in the post, for the more public, shared rooms, being the kitchen, living room, family room, den, bathrooms, porches, etc. The list of decor styles earlier in the post (farmhouse, rustic, modern, homestead, country, French, Victorian, Mediterranean, etc) will not be too feminine.


polka-dot peony said...

Wonderful attractive post!

I find articles like these appeal not only to women, but also men. Today our oldest child had some input as well. ;-)

When we decided to redecorated our bathroom it was my husband that wanted *frilly* curtains, and encouraged me to pick out a feminine color palette. He shared later it is about his favorite place to be which shocked me. The color on the wall is a peachy-pink, with accents of large pictures of turquoise flowers on the walls, bright turquoise towels, and a bit of lavender in the form of a crocheted, ruffled doily and a lavender smell good candle.

I looked up Fox and Jacob and located an interesting article about how they either ease-drop on customers or find what the mid-class trend is leaning to when people are looking for a home. A tag line of the article read, Fox & Jacobs sells houses the way Procter and Gamble sells detergent. And as a result, it sells more of them than anybody else.

While reading your post it reminded me of a show called Designing for the Sexes in which this elderly gentleman named Micheal Payne would take on difficult clients in which he melded each of what they loved into a design together. An example would be the husband would be against putting any color on the walls, or the wife would not want dead animals in the house. There is a nice, but dated feature about him on YouTube talking about making a room romantic. He is charming and funny in the interview. By mentioning men and women, it now brings me to our oldest daughter's comments on relationships of husbands and wives. She says, "I remember visiting many a friend's house in which was decorated, but it lacked harmony and character." She noted in the end that it was the relationship between the husband and wife that made it into a home and how they got along in which it was decorated. If it was cohesive, there was harmony and love in the home, if not she noted friction and anger. She also shared it showed the inside of homeowners mind and how she viewed them from that time on. (This was from an 8 year old's mind at the time)

Recently, a young gentleman passing through shared with me he admired our yard. Over many years I have added flowers, seeds, bulbs, trees and molded it into a attractive place. My husband has helped in this area as well blaming the 'plant fairy' came to visit and left more dag-um flowers on the porch when he ran an errand. Men can and will admire a nice yard as I believe they see it as a haven of "freedom" and "rest" to go to. The saying the man's home is his castle seems to bring this to mind.

And finally, a hymn came to mind. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus name. Where many mansions are being built, I dare say starting with Jesus's frame would keep one from sinking sand. A firm foundation formed by adding love, charity, and truth as its building component would indeed make any house, built by you or not, into a loving and complete home others find not only enjoyable to visit, but find complete rest within it.

Lydia said...

Fox and Jacobs is now under a different name, but I couldn't find it. The company still builds houses. I sure wish I had taken pictures when they first came on the scene. The houses were so nice and they hired interior decorators , who made the inside very appealing.

Outdoors said...

That whas really interesting question and article.

Our home is really rustic; I have inherited lots of furniture from my grandparents and me and my hubby both like that style. Our kitchen is modern-ish, though. My husband likes restaurant kitchens, you know, steel everywhere. I kind of like it, too, because it looks so hygienic.

My advice to young ladies would actually be: choose a man who likes same things you do! ;)

Lydia said...

Outdoors: Excellent advice. And I would add, someone who isn't constantly contradicting you or your efforts to improve the home; someone who is happy to mind his business and let you mind the house.