It can be done. A stylish, masculine apartment space with nary a large flatscreen TV or sports memorabilia in sight.
Several additional points have come to mind during the last couple of days, which might also useful for average guys as they kick up their everyday style in the home several notches. Here they are:
1) Consider Colors, Patterns, and Textures.
In much the same way as developing a wardrobe, you need to think about this and develop a plan or scheme. Don't be afraid to consult a few books on the subject of interior design for help. It's not that difficult if you keep things subtle, and it's also kind of interesting at the same time. Keep in mind, however, that like wardrobe development, getting your place just like you want it will take some time and effort. Unless you are independently wealthy, it won't happen overnight, but think of the satisfaction you'll feel as each little bit is completed and put into place. That runs completely counter to our current culture of instant gratification, I freely admit, but instant gratification (like fashion) is fleeting, disposable, and usually lacks any personality whatsoever. That's not really you, is it?
2) Give Thought to the Color of Your Walls.
You certainly don't all four walls and the ceiling of a room in a really dark color unless the space is larger than normal. And the concept of an accent wall is not everyone's cup of tea. But let's steer clear of browns and tans too, which are overdone. If you want to change the color of a room, or you need to repaint, don't feel bound to bone white everywhere. Consider, for example, a very pale muted green or a light eggshell, both of which provide visual interest without straying too far from classic style.
3) Fix Cracks and Holes with Spackle/Filler Compound.
Occasionally, you'll need to cover cracks and fix holes in your walls to keep things looking nice. If you lack a handyman to do this kind of thing for you, buy a book on simple home repairs and maintenance and read through it. Then, get yourself a small container of spackle/filler paste and a flexible putty knife. It usually takes two or three applications to fix deeper cracks and holes. Once the compound is dry though, touch up the paintwork as soon as possible and keep in mind that the paint counters in many big box stores can match paint colors quite well now if you take a flake of the old plaster in with you. I've been surprised by how well this has worked in our own home.
4) Use Screws and Mollies to Hang Pictures. . . NOT a Hammer and Nails.
It seems so easy to fetch your hammer, pound a nail into to wall, and hang your picture, right? Wrong. For one, if your walls are actually old plaster walls, and you misjudge, you've got cracks and/or holes that will be hard to fix correctly. Just try to find a living plasterer most places. And let me know when you do. It's not easy in 2014. Plastering walls and ceilings is a dying (or already dead) art. And if you walls are wallboard, it's still all too easy to pound an ugly dent or hole into your wall, which will need to be patched, if you misjudge with the hammer. It's far better to drill a hole with a masonry bit, tap in the correct size of plastic molly, and then drive in a small screw, taking care to leave just enough of the head exposed on which to hand you curtain rod brackets or your pictures and prints. Any good do-it-yourself book will have a section on how to do all of this in more detail. Do yourself a favor and read it closely before plunging in up to your chest. You'll thank yourself later.
5) Buy a Small Power Drill and Set of Screw Drivers
Instead of relying on the dreaded hammer and nails to hang your pictures, curtains, and other wall or window treatments, visit the hardware of big box store, and purchase a small electric drill with assorted bits and a set of screwdrivers. A battery powered stud finder might be useful too.
6) Consider Area Rugs.
Even when you've got wall-to-wall carpeting, a few carefully chosen area rugs can help add personality to the various rooms or areas of your dwelling. That's also true if you have wooden floors, which can look great, but totally bare floors risk looking cold and sterile, and they do nothing to curb noise. So, define the various rooms or areas of your dwelling with area rugs of various sizes. A place like the ubiquitous IKEA is an ideal place to find these at reasonable prices and with various designs or patterns. You might also have luck at a furniture consignment shop or a thrift/charity establishment.
7) Add a Few Throw Pillows Here and There.
Likewise, a few carefully chosen and colorful throw pillows in various shapes in the corners of a chair or two, or perhaps on your sofa, are another way to add visual interest and personality to a room.
8) Line Your Bookshelves with (Surprise!) Books.
Whether you are lucky enough to have a room with built-in bookshelves, or you need to purchase and assemble some of your own, another way to impart personality and identity to a living area or bedroom is to display those books. Hopefully, you've got a few titles about things other than Bruce Lee or the heyday of Welsh Rugby in the 1970s to display.
9) Acquire a Few Interesting Display Pieces.
A few carefully chosen display pieces give your home an interesting appearance and might be a fantastic way for you to leave your own imprint on the various rooms or areas within your dwelling. I'm not thinking about pictures so much here as about things like interesting items from your travels, brass, pewter, or ceramic pieces, or perhaps one or two African, Asian, Indonesian, or Latin American handicrafts. But not those gaudy, over-sized sombreros sold in airports and along the Mexican-U.S. border however! So, keep the following in mind. . .
10) Exercise Restraint.
It's all too easy to go overboard with souvenir knick-knacks and display pieces, so resist the temptation to acquire and display too much of this stuff. Tasteful elegance rather than tacky clutter is the look your are aiming for when giving your residence a stylish, adult makeover.
11) Fix Your Lampshades and Blinds.
Once in a while the shades on your table and floor lamps need to be straightened. Take a quick glance around your living space a couple of times a month or so and do this as and when needed. Oh. And lampshade seams should not be visible. Turn that side of your shades to the wall if at all possible. By the way. If you are one to actually raise your miniblinds, rather than adjust the louvers to allow in light, then make sure not to do it crookedly. Nothing looks worse from the outside or inside than blinds or shades with one side higher than the other. . . Unless you are actually after The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari look.
12) Once You Hang those Pictures. . .
Likewise, these might need to be straightened once in a while. Buildings and houses vibrate and settle according to age and environment. That means that pictures occasionally and inexplicably will end up slightly out of kilter on your walls. Like straight lampshades, straightened picture frames are one of those little details that many people fail to notice, but fixing things when they need it will make a room or area in your home look a lot better with almost no time or effort expended.
13) Use Dark Extension Cords.
Another tiny detail that lots of people forget about concerns the color of any necessary extension cords. If you must run extension cords between lamps and appliances to wall outlets, use dark extension cords and run them along the baseboards of a room where they are less noticeable. It might be tempting to disguise cords beneath a rug or carpet, but foot traffic risks eventually wearing away the insulation on the cords, which will pose a very real fire hazard sooner or later. Be careful!
15) Arrange Furniture to Form Conversation Areas.
Rather than lining up your furniture around the perimeter of your living room or great room, arrange it in smaller, more intimate conversation areas. These might include a sofa or love seat and an armchair or two grouped around a coffee table, or a couple of armchairs in a corner adjacent to an end table with a handy table or floor lamp for instance. And of course, area rugs enhance the idea of conversation areas and help better define them. See Point #6 above.
16) Replace Mismatched Silverware and Broken or Chipped Dishes and Glasses.
Sure. I understand if you are a young man on your own for the first time. Your tableware might consist of various old odds and ends from your parents' home that they no longer need and have given to you until you can get on your feet. I faced a similar situation in my first apartment at 21. There comes a time though, hopefully not too many months later, when you should have a matching set of silverware and serving utensils as well as plates, glasses, cups, and saucers. For yourself even if you rarely have guests. It's time to get used to eating and drinking from stuff without any chips and cracks. Know what I mean?
17) Filter out Mismatched Bedsheets and Towels.
By the same token, get yourself a few matching sets of sheets and pillowcases (and bath towels) as soon as possible. Threadbare stuff isn't particularly nice to sleep on of dab water from your body after a bath or shower. And you haven't been five for years, so it's high time to replace those Thomas the Tank Engine and Power Ranger bed and bath items. Why? Well, you're an adult male now, and hopefully you've started to acquire at least a little adult taste and style by this point. Besides, if and when you ever bring that special someone home to spend the night, what might go through his or her mind if you've still got those thin, dingy, visibly worn Transformers sheets from childhood still on your bed? You get my drift?
18) Keep the Bathroom Countertop and Corners of the Tub Clear.
Keep these free of clutter by putting things away, depending on their size, in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror, the cabinets below the sink, or the bottom shelves inside the linen closet. Easy, right? And you don't really need those half-a-dozen bottles or so of Axe shampoo and body wash, with only a centimeter or so left in the bottoms, taking up space, do you? So, either consolidate what's leftover into a single container, or throw that crap away. Your bathroom will look better instantly.
19) Take Control of Your Old Magazines and Newspapers.
Of course, more and more of this stuff is becoming digital, which does not necessarily present the same kind of storage and clutter problems. At least not in the physical world. But if you one of the many guys who still read and accumulate actual magazines and newspapers, you'll need to sort through these occasionally, maybe once a week, and get rid of what you don't want to keep forever . That means either putting in your own recycling bin, or bundling up the stuff with wine and taking it to a recycling center. You don't want to be the kind of person who has to create paths in his place to move around piles of years old magazines and newspapers, right? Yes, I actually know someone like this, and besides being an uninviting place to visit in the extreme, it's a firetrap. You don't want to go there, so stay on top of this semi-regular task.
20) What about Those Vacation Souvenirs Family and Friends Keep Bringing to You?
That tacky stuff from your Aunt Gerda's latest trip to Las Vegas, Honolulu, or Cozumel? Sometimes it's better to say "Thank you" and the put these away at the first available opportunity, or otherwise divest yourself of them. Let's be honest about a couple of things here. First of all, people have different tastes. . . and lots of people have bad taste. There. I've said it. And good taste is not as subjective as many want to believe either. Hopefully your taste has gone beyond things like miniature diecast metal NASCAR toys, commemorative shot glasses, and Madame Alexander dolls by now. Second, many people give no thought to how something they spot in an airport giftshop at the last minute might or might not go with someone else's decor. Be gracious when you receive such items, of course, but in no way feel pressured into displaying them prominently in your own home if you would rather not. Garage sales and Ebay are very handy in such situations. Don't, whatever you do, cart things you don't like around with you for 30 years as you go through life. Periodically, superfluous and/or unwanted items should be culled from your home and life.
There. That really should do it for now. Follow these 20 tips, along with the previous 20, and you should be able to assemble and maintain a neat, very stylish living space that's worthy of an adult male with some grooming and sophistication.