Blending masculine and feminine styles
From raw industrial design to feminine floral chic, everyone has different tastes. Some of us crave minimalist simplicity while others prefer an eclectic mix. But while balance is the key to any design, just how do you appeal to two different taste aesthetics?
Men and women are typically attracted to different colours, which can prove difficult when choosing colour schemes for interiors. One way to balance an interior for couples is to choose a two-colour scheme.
Masculine colours tend to lean towards dark, heavy hues such as greys, charcoals, blacks and browns. When you mix in elements such as steel, leather, dark wood, wool, stripes and plaids, you begin to create a space that would typically be thought of as masculine.
Feminine colours are usually softer and lighter: pastels and pale colours, muted dove blues and greens, and soft metallics and pearlescents. Match those with florals, lace, damask and chinoiserie, and you have what society would call a feminine room.
But a darker, ‘masculine’ colour such as charcoal or navy can be combined with feminine blush accents to balance the design.
“You could take dark inky charcoals, warm chocolates, battleship greys and army greens for wall colourings to create a masculine base and add feminine touches to it with duck egg blues, warm caramels, soft creams or dusky pink accents,” says Resene colour consultant Nikki Morris.
Think a deep blackened brown such as Resene Kilamanjaro (a deep blackened brown), accented with Resene Contessa (a soft red terracotta), Resene Cougar (a feline taupe) and Resene Eighth Thorndon Cream (neutral white with a hint of green). Or try Resene Baltic Sea (dark charcoal) with accents of Resene Hermitage (a stony blue green), Resene Gunsmoke (warm grey) and Resene Alabaster (near white).
“I find the best way to create a scheme that merges the two looks together is to use a masculine colour for the walls, such as Resene Kilimanjaro, a neutral colour for trims and ceilings, like Resene Eighth Thorndon Cream, bed linen or furniture in Resene Cougar, with cushions and accents in Resene Contessa,” says Nikki.
Adding texture to a scheme is another way to balance masculine and feminine styles, says interior designer Robyn Mickleson of The Design Depot.
“Men may not like a floral pattern, for example, but a stitched bedspread with a hint of texture in it will help to break up a masculine feel, and therefore it feels a lot softer.”
Robyn also suggests adding in colours and accents that are crisp and somewhat elegant but not so polished or frilly that they would make a room uncomfortable for the man. A palette of charcoal – typically a masculine hue – and crisp whites – which appeal to both tastes – can look quite edgy. Metallic furniture can add a touch of elegance as well as a slight industrial feel.
“A client I am working with has Resene Oilskin (a complex brown with a green edge) running through their living areas, so the colours in the master room tie in with that. We did a feature wall with a dark charcoal wallpaper which has a metallic pattern through it, so it has a little elegance to it as well as masculinity. The rest of the walls are reasonably light neutral white, and a nice embossed white linen adds a crisp look and slight feminine touch with the dark charcoal.”
Popular charcoals include Resene Double Mondo, Resene Double Masala and Resene Tuna. Which one you choose depends on the job and what else is happening in the room.
“You tend to see a lot of people go for the warm brown bases because they prefer a warmer feel,” says Robyn, “though grey-blue bases can look effective too. Resene Double Masala, for example, has a nice warm undertone to it, like an olive-brown undertone, whereas the likes of Resene Double Tuna is very blue. It has quite a cool feel.”
Nikki suggests you consider the space and how it feels. “If it's a dark southern room that feels cold, then why not be bold and go with a dark rich warm colour on the walls and create a moody snug room. Lighten with soft bedding and cushion accents in warm shades of colour.”
More softer ‘masculine’ greys include Resene Eighth Masala, Resene Delta and Resene Quarter Tapa.
Says Robyn: “All these colours and more along those charcoal grey lines work well in masculine type settings and sit nicely with the industrial finishes of concrete, steel and recycled timbers. But a lot of females tend to be open to this look, which also pleases the males. Use of colour in features can look stunning in these types of settings and can be a real showstopper.”
A warmer grey can be used with more feminine colours to create a modern, slightly feminine environment, though this can also work with inky blues, such as Resene Paua.
“Resene Paua is more of a masculine look, though it depends how you use it,” says Robyn. “If you combine it with a lot of white and steel – your industrial look – it could look quite contemporary. But you could get away with that in a master bedroom with white lace too. You can twist it both ways. You can do that masculine sort of look or you can do that feminine look and it would be quite edgy either way.”
A male’s decorating style may include rich wood tones, and many of the newer wallpapers include a wood grain pattern. But to bring it in line with the feminine eye, softer tones rather than heavy wood grains may be a better choice, one that still appeals to the masculine eye but is softer to the female eye. An overabundance of wood tones will simply create a masculine, outdoorsy atmosphere.
Masculine earthy browns and khaki greens can be balanced with light accents and furniture. Soft greens and blues, such as Resene Beryl Green and Resene Coastal Blue can add feminine appeal, as can splashes of other light or pale colours.
Strong primaries, geometric patterns and the use of vertical and horizontal lines instantly impart a masculine feel, but the occasional curvy piece added in will soften the look. Furniture with rounded edges (thought of as feminine) will help break up the hard lines. For example, a rounded coffee table or ottoman can be brought into a living room; in a bedroom round mirrors may do the trick.
Conversely, the more curves in a room the more feminine it will feel. Make it more masculine by replacing some of your pieces with straight, hard-edged ones.
Regular, symmetrical lines make a room look more masculine, whereas asymmetrical designs lean towards femininity. Display collections and pictures in asymmetrical or random groupings to break up an otherwise orderly, masculine looking room.
Subtle accents can work either way: a throw rug, accessories or paintings (large-scale ones for a masculine feel and small ones for a feminine touch) can help balance rooms that lean towards a particular gender.
If you’re working with a room decorated in floral wallpaper, there are tricks for creating a more masculine look.
“If the floral has some deeper colours in it, for example greys and deep charcoals, says Nikki, “then you have the potential to ‘man’ this space up for him. You can do this by removing the carpet and staining the floorboards a rich chocolate colour. You can then add in either wooden or metal bed frames, an earthy colour or greyed linen bedspread topped with green and grey cushions.”
So when blending masculine and feminine styles, interesting colour palettes and textures, including painted anaglypta wallpapers, can help to marry the two different taste aesthetics. Often the more masculine colours are ideal for walls whereas the softer tones are good for accents. Bold versus soft can work together very well in a colour scheme and can help to balance a room in general.
“We are seeing a lot of people open to quite bold colours now,” says Robyn. “A lot of people who come to us doing renovations really just want to give their home a new lease of life. That real contrast can look quite smart and quite balanced.”
Nikki’s palette of masculine colours to get you started on your colour scheme…
Resene Stonewall, Resene Hot Toddy, Resene Space Shuttle, Resene Copyrite, Resene Whizz Bang, Resene Cello, Resene Black White, Resene Grass Hopper, Resene Jaguar, Resene Dynamite, Resene Chino and Resene Stack.
Nikki's palette of feminine colours to get you started on your colour scheme…
Resene Hippie Pink, Resene Perfect Taupe, Resene Innuendo, Resene Baltic Sea, Resene Kabul, Resene Opal, Resene Orchid White, Resene Mint Julep, Resene Rakaia, Resene Escape, Resene Sandcastle and Resene Raspberry.