The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to embrace classic style in the broadest sense. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. Enough is enough. Here is where you can learn how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Stylish Residence. . . .

A great shot of the entry hall of James Bond's flat in Dr. No (1962), or perhaps from Russia with Love (1963).  Tasteful, elegant, and masculine. . .  mercifully without items like sports team posters and shot glasses cluttering every wall or table surface.

Average guys who realize the need for kicking up their everyday style several notches would do well to consider all areas of their lives and work.  Ultimately, we are striving for greater polish and sophistication in how we come across to others than seems to be the rule in most settings and situations in 2014.  You don't have to look far to notice grown men -- still boys, really -- looking and acting like inconsiderate cretins without a care in world about how they appear to the rest of the world.  

The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style set out in June of 2012 to draw people's attention to the fact that life in the 21st century does not have to be this way.  In the last couple of years, I've discussed at great length clothing, accessories, shoes, and/or how the man with classic style conducts himself. . .  privately and in the company of others.   There is another area, however, that has escaped my attention thus far.  It's high time to rectify that oversight.  

So today, our discussion will focus on how the stylish man lives.  We'll look, therefore, at his abode.  His living space in other words.  For average guys working to kick up their everyday style several notches, there are a number of things to consider (and habits to form) when it comes to your apartment, flat, or house.  In no particular order, these points include the following:


1) Reduce Clutter and Keep Things Straight.
This is usually the hallmark problem of most guys who live on their own or in groups, although there seem to be plenty of women and also couples who exist in clutter and disarray from what I've witnessed in many homes.  Stupid jokes about obsessive-compulsive disorder aside, keeping things picked up and put away, accomplishes several things.  One, you'll simply feel better and enjoy being in your home more.  Imagine how your mood differs when you enter a reasonably neat, clutter-free living room versus opening the front door to be met with a veritable rat's nest of mail, magazines, old newspapers, discarded clothes, and shoes everywhere along with a few pizza boxes and empty beer bottles for good measure.  Anyone who says they don't notice, and it does not matter is lying to save face.  Two, you'll never feel embarrassed by the sad state of your living space.  Finally, when you cultivate the habit of putting things away, it takes no time at all to pick up your place simply because there will be much less tidying to do.


2) Hide Power Cords, Stereo Speaker Wires, and Computer Cables.
This is a biggy even if you are a fairly neat person to begin with.  And the digital age has not helped matters the last 20+ years or so.  Suffice to say, you can have the coolest place in the world, but a tangled morass of cords, cables, and wires  in full view beneath a desk or table, or peeking our from a corner somewhere, will spoil the overall effect but fast.  Newsflash!  You are not living in a college dorm room anymore, so make some effort to coil, consolidate, and hide all of those cords, wires, and cables.  It will look a lot better instantly and be much safer too.


3) Get a Few Pairs of Matching Table Lamps with Decent Looking Shades.
Ditch the cheap torchiere lamp stuck in a corner somewhere.  Place several different light sources, at various levels, around each room on end tables or side tables instead.  Nothing works better for providing warm, inviting illumination than table lamps of one kind or another.  It's time to stop living your entire life under a single, glaring light source in the center of the ceiling.  You're not living in a spartan Moscow factory worker's apartment in 1925, ok?  Lighting also affects one's mood, so it makes good sense to ensure that the illumination in your living space is not only functional but pleasant.  Artificial light that emanates from a single source high overhead is anything but.


4) Hang Pictures in Actual Frames.
Another marker of an adult living space involves pictures and prints presented well, that is matted and in frames with some thought given to how they will look up on the wall.  If it has never occurred to you, it's high time to stop taping posters and photos torn from magazines haphazardly to your walls.  Learn a little something about framing picture and prints and learn how to hang them properly.  Notice that I'm not saying anything about art, although that's fine if you've got the money and taste for it.  I'm simply pointing out that old, dog-eared Judas Priest posters, Penthouse centerfolds, or Friday the 13th posters have no place taped to the wall if you are a post-college aged adult.  It's time to become a bit more, um, sophisticated in your wall treatments and how best to present and display them.


5) Keep the Kitchen Spotless.
Too often, this is another place where average guys drop the ball.  And maybe that's because too many parents have done too much for their children in recent decades without instilling self-discipline?  In any case, your life will become a lot more pleasant, and -- Dare I say? -- stylish if you do your utmost to keep the kitchen straight and clean.  That means wash your dishes by hand, or rinse and load 'em into the dishwasher without fail as soon after a meal as possible.  It's also a good idea to keep the stovetop clear and avoid leaving filthy pots and pans on it, or using it as an extension of your counter space, which potentially could be dangerous.  Keep the the counters wiped off and clear of spills, drips, crumbs, and other debris.  Finally, keep the refrigerator and microwave oven clean and wiped down inside.  Throw away old, smelly stuff and be sure to wipe up any drips or spills before they congeal and dry, which makes it much harder to clean later.  If you simply do these things as you move about the kitchen, things come under control very quickly, and it takes no time at all.  Cleaning up after yourself, and making that a habit, is the key.


6) Hide the TV.
Lots of average guys seem to arrange the living room around the television or -- shudder -- the entertainment center.  This always looks, like, well, someone has given an 18-year-old the money and turned him loose to fix up the basement rec room in a way that most teenage boys think is cool.  But, that's not really what you -- a guy working hard to kick up his everyday style several notches -- want as an adult after high school or college.  So, what am I saying specifically?  Listen up.  Don't make that huge, ugly flatscreen TV with its theater speaker system the centerpiece and focus of your living room.  Are you living in a sports bar?  It's far better to arrange the room in such a way that: 1) not every single seat in the room faces the television, and 2) you are able to hide or disguise it somehow.  Here, I'd suggest buying a smaller TV to begin with, so that the cabinet it resides within is not so huge that it dominates the room.  Know what I mean?


7) Get Some Decent Furniture.
Strive for an eclectic look.  Don't bother with matched sets, which lack imagination, and avoid huge, overstuffed modular sofas and/or recliners.  The latter dominate all but the largest rooms and are almost always ugly.  Ditch that cheap, plastic patio furniture that you have used since college while you're at it.  It's time to become a bit more sophisticated in your tastes here too, boys.  Don't have a lot of money to spend?  No matter.  Try furniture consignment and thrift shops and put out your feelers among friends and acquaintances.  You never know.  That cousin of your best friend might be eager to sell you a couch or dining table and chairs, that haven't been beaten to death, relatively cheaply because they need to make room for new furniture themselves.  It helps to keep your eyes and ears open and realize that, like a wardrobe, you also build a collection of decent adult furniture over time.


8) Retire the Sports Memorabilia.
Ok.  We get it.  You just LOVE the Chicago Bears, Manchester United, or some other professional sports team of world renown.  But must every wall and surface of your room/apartment/flat/house be covered in beer mugs, shot glasses, miniature helmets, jerseys, posters, and the like?  Again, it's time to grow up, get some sophistication, and put most of the crap away although getting rid of most of it might be an even better idea.  You're not 12 anymore after all.  And if you live with anyone else, trust me.  He or she will appreciate to no end you sorting, packing up, and clearing out this kind of stuff.  That also goes for all of those trophies from your junior high and high school years.  Hopefully, your self-esteem is more fully formed and stronger by now, so you don't need to prop it up any longer with items like these.  And if you really must ask "Why?", then I'm afraid there is no hope.  The concept of classic style will always elude you.


9) Ditch the Plastic Organizer Thingies.
The number of these plastic sock and magazine organizer thingies that are on full display for all to see in the public areas of many homes is surprising.  Sure.  If you are one of the multitudes who cannot seem to thrown anything away ever, then these are a handy way to store those old newspapers, magazines, and catalogs. . .  to say nothing of those empty two liter soda bottles that will, no doubt, come in handy some day.  But here's a dirty little secret.  Those plastic organizers are not meant to display just anywhere in your apartment, flat, or house.  Ok, maybe by the back door in the kitchen where the recycling accumulates.  But certainly not anywhere else.  You know?  Nope.  Plastic organizers should be relegated to where they belong: out of sight in closets, cabinets, basements, and garages where the doors can be closed.  And speaking of which. . . .


10) Shut the Closets, Kitchen Cupboards, and Dresser Drawers.
Closets, cabinets, and dressers are meant to be kept closed when you are not accessing the items within.  Yet the number of homes where people just leave these open all of the time is astounding.  Keep those doors and drawers closed, people, and then. . .  Crash!  Bang!  Boom!  Shazam!  In the blink of an eye, this very simple step will transform the rooms in your home by hiding the clothes and clutter, making your space will look 100 times better than it does now.  Try it and see if you don't believe me.


11) Put Your Clothes and Outerwear Away.
On a related note, hang up the things you'll wear again before washing or dry-cleaning, or fold and put them away in a drawer as soon as you arrive home and/or remove them from your body.  Dirty clothes like the day's underwear, socks, and t-shirts, or that sweaty bicycling gear, should go directly into the clothes hamper.  Don't deposit this stuff on the floor anywhere, please.  It's not like anyone is asking you to chew off your left hand at the wrist.  Just pick up your things and put them where they belong.  All right?  You're a grown-up now, and grown-ups don't leave a a trail of debris behind themselves.  Even when they live alone.


12) Keep the Bathroom Straight.
That means you keep the tub/shower, sink, and toilet pristine with weekly cleanings, and towels hung neatly on their racks (the tri-fold works wonders).  In addition, let's not pile up reading material all over the floor around the throne.  Why so many people apparently feel the need to read in the bathroom will always be a mystery to me.  Not that it's something I spend time pondering, mind you.  But the question "Why on earth do people do that?" has crossed my mind from once or twice.  In any case, guys, let's stop leaving various old issues of Sports Illustrated, Men's Health, and ten-year-old computer magazines stacked haphazardly on the toilet tank, or piled on the floor nearby.  Why remind guests, or that poor person who lives with you, of how much time you actually spend perched in there?


13) Keep the Noise Down.
Whatever type of dwelling you live in, things run more smoothly when you don't irritate the family members or companions who share the space with you, to say nothing of neighbors above, below, next to, or across the street from you.  You are not living in a nightclub, so keep the music down especially after dark.  Other people need to sleep undisturbed, and they might simply just enjoy their peace and quiet while awake.  So, show them some consideration and be a polite neighbor.  That also goes for your over-amplified TV entertainment system that's hooked up to floor and window-rattling theater speakers as well as raucous parties that regularly last until the wee hours of the morning  Ok?  Your neighbors as well as those who live with you will appreciate it.  You are not the center of the universe, and it's not your God-given right to behave like a rude prick to those around you.  Grow up.


14) Keep Your Shirt On.
It doesn't matter whether you have the physique of a star athlete in his prime, or not.  Unless you're at the beach, gym, or swimming pool, keep a shirt on.  Guys walking around their front yard or hanging over the sides of the front porch or balcony with bare torsos simply look trashy, cheap, and common.  You might not appreciate that particular characterization, but there is simply so other way to put it.  Presenting yourself to the world in such a way does not call to mind adjectives like polished, sophisticated, and urbane.  'Low rent,' however, is a term that does occur.  Readily.  Neither is running around the neighborhood half-dressed the way to attract quality people in any sense or capacity.  Guys, however taut you might like to think your muscles are, let's keep those fuzzy man breasts and that pale belly covered.  Really. 


15) Make Your Bed.
Even if no one else sees your bedroom, it's nice for you to walk into a crisp, pleasant looking space at the end of the day, whether you've had a crummy day at the office, or a fun weekend afternoon tooling around town with that new special someone.  So, make the bed in the morning before you shower and dress.  And learn how to do it correctly.  "Making the bed" is not simply pulling up the covers, tossing them over the pillows, and walking away.  Take the time to learn how to do it and make it look nice.  There are plenty of instructional links on YouTube for instance.  Oh, and keep things picked up and put away in bedroom too.  Even a pile of books on the bedside table (my personal vice) can get out of control fast.  It's also a good idea to return any glasses, cups, or bowls, from any midnight snacks, to the kitchen as soon as possible the next morning after you finish making your bed.


16) What about Your Windows?
Unless you want a stark modern, high tech look, you'll need to give some thought to how you'll treat your windows.  Not only will sheer curtains and blinds soften the appearance of a room, and afford you some privacy from the world outside in the process, but they are also relatively inexpensive ways to dress the windows of virtually any living space.  Moreover, blinds enable you to control easily the amount of light that comes through your windows, depending on the time of day, season, and weather.  Together, sheer curtains and blinds are a good combination.  If you've got the money and inclination, real drapes might also be a great addition to any room, but they can be heavy, and thus overwhelming, in smaller spaces.  Exercise care here before rushing off in that particular direction.


17)  Keep the Daily Mail and Your Papers under Control.
A small basket on the hall table by the front door makes keeping your mail organized extremely easy.  Just be sure to filter through it every few days and throw out the junk while actually keeping and filing the more important items.  A small wicker basket is also an ideal staging area for your keys, iPhone, and anything else that leaves with you in the mornings and returns home in the evenings.  If you live alone, this might also be a great place to drop your wallet or bill clip and pocket knife when you come in although I prefer to keep stuff like that in a small leather tray on top of my dresser upstairs in our room.  On your desk, or in the den, in and out trays as well as folders for paper statements and bills, which you then file in an appropriate bottom desk drawer, will go a long way toward making life calmer and less stressful than might otherwise be the case.  And you've got be able to find all of that stuff if the Internal Revenue Service or the Inland Revenue decide that you've earned that most coveted of prizes. . .  the all-expenses paid tax audit.  Right?


18) Vacuum Your Rugs and Swiffer Bare Floors.
Not much to say here, really, is there?  One thing though.  Do this more than you think you should, and before you think you need to.  In other words, don't wait until you can actually see dustbunnies blowing in the breeze, or until crumbs and old Cheerios stick to your bare feet when you walk around.  If you live alone, maybe once every ten days, or so, should do it.  If you live with roommates, a spouse or special someone, or, indeed, a family, then vacuuming and swiffering more often might be a better idea.  Once again, if you make this part of your semi-weekly routine, it really won't take that much time to do because dirt and dust will have less opportunity to accumulate, meaning the chore is accomplished quickly.


19) Dust Lamps, Tabletops, and Objets d'Art.
Like the point just above, this is something you need to do now and then, but if you stay on top of dusting, it need not take hours.  Especially if you use cleaning products like Lemon Pledge and old, soft t-shirts on wooden surfaces and, perhaps, Swiffer pads on glass, metal, leather, or ceramic surfaces.  And hopefully you will not have gone overboard with the knick-knacks, which can take lots of time to wipe down.  Tennessee Williams never mentioned how Laura kept her glass menagerie dusted, did he?


20) Cultivate a Well-Stocked Bar Table.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that stylish men maintain a small supply of quality liquor and spirits for those times when a stiff drink is just the thing to help you unwind between a trying day and the evening meal.  Everyone has his personal favorites, naturally, though I'd suggest having, at the very least, a good single malt scotch (or a better blend), a bottle of gin with some tonic handy, a decent vodka, and maybe some Irish whisky, bourbon, or rye.  A bottle of brandy or cognac might be a good later addition for special occasions.  In any case, make sure you've got some really nice glasses and mixing accoutrements specifically for the bar table as well as an attractive ice bucket.  A silver, or silver plated, tray on which to place your bottles of liquid goodies makes an eye-catching centerpiece for your bar table.  It's nice to look at even if you don't avail yourself to it that often.


There.  That should give average guys, who might be clueless about where to start with more stylish living at home, a good starting point.  As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.  Just be sure to keep it civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich
 

Mr. Bond arrives home, to discover the fetching Miss Sylvia Trench has let herself in and is practicing her putting clad only in his pajama top.

3 comments:

  1. So Stokes, are you sayin' that there will be a comely young lass in my bed room if I keep the house nice and tidy?

    ReplyDelete
  2. You never know. But it can't hurt. ;-)

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually, I have a lot of trouble with my wife not doing any of those things. But after 35 years, we have reached a reasonable level of accommodation, sort of. Style-wise, however, I am more in tune with the James Bond of Dr. No. It's a pity I don't live in Jamaica but Ian Fleming did.

    ReplyDelete

All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich