Quick note: We’ll be in Cincinnati tomorrow at the Books By The Banks festival at the Duke Energy Convention Center where we’ll be giving a talk at 11am and then signing books (advanced copies will be available for sale there!) and most likely being fantastically awkward (more details here). Hope to see some of you there!
And now for a fabric-fest. I know not all husbands enjoy being as involved in decorating decisions as I do, but I’d be willing to guess that many guys are more interested than you’d expect. We’re opinionated creatures. Heck, even I fall into that I’m-pretending-not-to-care-about-that-lampshade-as-much-as-I-really-do trap sometimes (and then later I end up disputing its purchase to a shocked you-never-said-anything wife), so I thought that it might be enlightening to peek into the male brain – well, at least this particular male’s brain – on a topic that we fellas may pretend not to care about.
The word “fabric” itself sounds like it’s a subject that guys shouldn’t care much about (like it should fall somewhere on the list between mascara and handbags), but men actually choose which ties and shirts they like (while saying things like “I’d never wear that” about others) so they must have at least a few thoughts on the subject. And since fabrics are such a big player in how your house looks (pillows, curtains, bedding, upholstery, etc) it ends up making a huge difference. So I, for one, think it’s worth sticking my manly nose in when fabric decisions are being made – so I feel just as home in our house as Sherry does. And in case any of you have trouble getting an opinion out of your man – or if as a dude who’s reading, you’re hesitant to give one – here’s this guy’s take (*points to self with thumbs*).
THE SAFE ZONE:
It should come as no shock that sticking with a stereotypical “male” color palette is usually a pretty safe bet. Blues, green, browns, grays (nothing too bright or neon, but more deep and muted) usually will make me say “this one’s not hurting my eyes.” Along with that, another safe approach can be sticking with masculine patterns: stripes, checks, plaids or even a plain old solid color. Just think of things you might see on a shirt in the men’s department. There’s something about subtle patterns that are smal-ish in scale that usually make me feel more comfortable than something really bold. And generally anything with sharp corners and crisp lines rubs me the right way. So if you stick within both of these zones, there’s probably a good chance that it’s dude-friendly.
But if you stick with both a masculine color and a masculine pattern you could, well, end up with a very masculine fabric and – if it’s not balanced by distinctly feminine items in the same space – you could end up with a very masculine room. Which is cool, but if that’s not the look you’re going for, the next option is to go masculine in either color OR pattern, but not both. I think Sherry and I do this a lot. We have ornate gray & white patterned curtains in the living room (ornate = Sherry’s jam, gray and white = my jam). Same thing for the green (my thing) and ikat (Sherry’s thing) curtains in the dining room. Take these fabrics for example. The top two are man-friendly patterns (as least to my eye) with a bit of feminine color worked in for balance. And the bottom two are manly colors with subtly feminine curves or shapes, so they seem to even out in my head as well.
A NOTE ABOUT FLORALS:
Sometimes people (myself included) are quick to write off flowery fabrics as distinctly non-man-friendly. But when I think about it more, I don’t actually think it’s true. I love our headboard fabric. It’s leafy and graphic and nature-ish and the colors are really us… but guess what, it could be described as a floral. Shocker, I know. But when it’s balanced with the moody gray walls, a rustic wood dresser, and graphic blue rug it doesn’t make the room feel too girly for me.
So maybe instead of ruling out florals completely, just try to think of them as “organic” patterns (since the word “floral” can evoke some pastel lace monstrosity). Sure, they might still have flowers on them, but they also include leafy patterns with vines, branches, and, um, leaves. And at that point you’re like two degrees away from natural items like wood, tree bark, and rocks. And I, for one, love rocks. So maybe we should stop thinking that patterns with flowers are off-limits to guys. I think these four are pretty cool, actually. Especially the one on the top right. Come to papa.
I said earlier that I tend to lean towards small scale patterns since they remind me of men’s shirts. I think it’s mostly because the smaller the scale, the less crazy-pattern-y it looks. But I’ve learned there’s any easy way to go bolder with pattern without scaring myself off: keeping it to two or three colors (even better if one of those colors is white). Large patterns are less scary to me if they’re graphic and crisp. And if they’re geometric enough, I’m usually even willing to step out of my color comfort zone. I think all four of these are pretty darn snappy.
So that’s one man’s dork-tastic fabric analysis (I like grids, what can I say?). Just like with anything else, there are definitely exceptions and we’re not all the same (we’re not just pieces of man-meat and eye-candy you know) so what one guy may like might be deemed “completely terrible” by another. For example, in certain applications I kinda really like toile. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. Maybe it’s the history nerd in me, but the little detailed scenes are very amusing to me in a weird way. Some guys may love damask, or leopard print, or the floweriest pastel pink floral the world has ever seen. You never know. That’s why the best bet is always just to ask (or to speak up if you’re a quiet-but-secretly-rooting-for-something lad). I’m 99.9% sure the world won’t spontaneously combust if guys get on the fabric train a little too.
Psst- All fabrics except for the first one, which is from Ikea, are from fabric.com (and that first shot of me and the bean is from an awesome local store called U-Fab).
Michelle | Letters from Boston says
I feel like I know roughly as much about fabric as the average male, so this was informative for me as well :-) Thanks for writing it! Good luck in Cincy!
Can’t wait to meet you guys tomorrow and hear you speak! Hope you have safe travels.
P.S. My husband is letting me buy another copy of the book since my pre-ordered one isn’t here yet! Happy Sweetest day to me :)
Aw that’s I sweet! So exited to meet you!
Thank you John for such an honest and straightforward discussion – I really appreciate you sharing the specific ‘why’ you are drawn to certain fabric choices (it’s much more helpful than just saying you don’t like things or dismissing entire patterns/colors).
As always from you, an enlightening post – thanks for sharing!
Oh my gosh, I just sent this to my husband! PERFECT post!!! We are trying to pick out fabric for drapes in our living room, and I think you hit the nail on the head with your “dork-tastic” description and grids!! LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! Thanks! PS your daughter is precious!
So glad you are coming to Cincinnati! See you tomorrow!
I’ve been watching your website for a while now, but never actually commented on any posts [don’t know why because some of your post were really informational (ex. building of the deck)].
you are totally correct on the fabric subject. Guys like to say they don’t care, but they actually do. It is pretty humorous what silly things guys won’t admit to. my household on the other hand, it is reverse. my wife is the one that doesn’t care – well let me reverse that..she does care.. she just acts like she doesn’t care so i do the job and then she’ll care :) .
Anyway, i just wanted to drop in say HI and wish you guys Good luck on the book tour. It is amazing what a little blog turned into! Congrats!!!
p.s. Don’t forget, while visiting these great country, please do eat at local establishments and don’t forget as Andrew says “if it looks good, eat it!”
Haha will do! We’re going to be eating our way around for sure.
Anna in Ohio says
I’m sadly going to miss you guys tomorrow (I’ll be on vacation in Tennessee), but have to echo Reuben! Skyline Chili, Skyline Chili, Skyline Chili, and Graeter’s Ice Cream. Please don’t leave our fair city without trying a three way (not as dirty as it sounds, I promise!) and having any Graeter’s Ice Cream flavor that includes the famous mammoth chocolate “chips”!
You’ve rfinitely piqued our interest!
I grew up in Cincinnati, and I would like to second the three way and Graeter’s. Skyline isn’t for everyone, and please don’t judge it based on the way it looks, but it is so darn good… give it a try!! And when I visit home, I always have to get a scoop of Raspberry Chip ice cream from Graeter’s (Coconut Chip is a close second). It is the best!!
I have been to Skyline and it is de-lish!!
Hmm. A word of warning about Skyline. It’s not actually chili. When I was in 7th grade my family moved from the South to a suburb of Cincinnati, and all we heard was “Skyline, Skyline, You Must Have Skyline Chili, Best Chili Ever OMG.”
It’s gross. The beans are processed to a paste, and then they add cinnamon to it, serve it over spaghetti and call it “chili.” Being a native Southerner, I cannot abide it. AT ALL. My sister says that if you’re drunk, and don’t actually expect “chili” when you eat it, then it’s pretty good. I can’t vouch for that, though, because the first time I tried it was the last. Oh, and I don’t drink. :)
But I will second the Graeter’s ice cream rec. If you like peanut butter and chocolate together, I recommend “peanut butter chip.” It is pb-flavored ice cream with HUGE chunks of milk chocolate in it. Mmm, mmm, mmm!
tin chin says
I just want to let you guys know that you are doing a great job here! I’m all the way from the Philippines and it will definitely help when I pick fabrics for the items that we what to upholster for our house! My husband tends to go to the safe side of using solid colors for a lot of things. :)
Aw thanks Tin!
Not sure why, but this is one of my favorite posts ever. Thanks!
John, you’re brilliant. No seriously, this is awesome. My husband and I fall into pretty traditional categories with our home care, but just like I care about the big things, he cares about the little things. Now that I think about it, he’s had pretty similar reactions to fabric samples I’ve brought home as you did — I just didn’t consider that there might be a method to the madness! Thanks for the help!
HAHA! “Come to papa.” Made me laugh.
On a more serious note, this post helps me as a wife. I feel stuck in picking out patterns to spruce our place up. My husband only tells me what he doesn’t like and says “I don’t know” or picks something extremely masculine when I ask him for what he does like. Thanks for the insight, John!
Karen F says
Thanks for this, John–it’s like pulling teeth for me to get my hubs to tell me what he likes (funny, he’ll usually tell me what he DOESN’T like, only after I bought it, haha)!
I’m still trying to find the balance between a way-too-feminine space and a way-too-masculine space, but this helps.
Raina@ Mamacita Spins The Globe says
I love all of these fabrics. Also I laughed out loud when I read the “Come to Papa” comment. :)
This post was amazing. <3
Emma (Broke Ass Home) says
This is great, John! Much like the post about how to talk to the husband and get him interested. I’m sometimes jealous of my girlfriends who’s husbands don’t care a smidgen about decorating. My mom once redid the bedroom from taupe to morning glory blue (including bedding and curtains) and my dad didn’t notice for EIGHT MONTHS.
Nate is a lot like you because he likes to be included in all of the decorating decisions. I’ll make a mood board to get a springboard and then sometimes he’ll get so into it that he’ll completely take over (like our dining room) Decorating a home is definitely a team sport and I think you guys do an amazing job!
Those last four patterned fabrics totally look like they’re moving. Groooooovy.
My husband is always very vocal about the fabric choices I make – he wouldn’t let me disregard/ ignore his opinion if I wanted to! That being said… thanks for the great insight, it might make fabric picking a smoother process! :)
I’m glad you posted this! I don’t have a lot of decorating experience (or none, really), so I’m not clear on what I do and do not like. Having fabrics presented in this way, noticing both color and pattern, is really helpful.
I’m not typically into florals either, but I dig that lower left one.
Good luck on the book tour.
Still waiting for photos of John & his cat!
this post was both awesome and adorable. and your “Come to Papa” had me laugh out loud. Took me by surprise!
And a lot of toiles meet your “scaling it up” criteria. It’s (often) just a 2 (or 3) color all-over pattern–which is interesting, becuase it mean’s you’re consistent! (Plus, it means toile fall has a place within your “grid”–which is critically important!!!! Gotta have an algorithym. LOL!)
Mel W says
Got the male opinion from my household on these fabrics and gained quite the consensus. This is helpful in trying to bridge the gap (my man is an opinionated one so it has to work for us both). Thanks for sharing …
Thanks John for your thoughts on this subject! My husband is pretty opinionated about what comes into our home as well, so having it spelled out from a male POV is very helpful! I think just from reading your blog I have brought more geometric patters into our home than I would have before (I am a folral gal..).
Keep making those opinions known, the balance in your home is really great! : )
Karen F says
Great post, John! Really interesting and insightful. I’m definitely going to have my hubby read this (he falls into the “I don’t care, but I really secretly kinda do care” camp when it comes to these kinds of decor decisions.
Also, GOOD LUCK this weekend, guys! You’ll be great!
Great post sir! It will help when decorating our first home which we close on next week (is this real life?!). Also, can’t wait to see you all tomorrow! I’ll be the weirdo who makes you both think, “And we thought WE were awkward…” lol
Haha bring it on! We will win the awkward contest.
cheri s says
I’ve been noticing lately, how nice your blog is laid out and it always loads properly on both my pc and ipad. So this is just a shout out to say we appreciate the behind the scenes stuff that goes on! I’ll go a step further and call it creative genius! Thanks!
Aw thanks Cheri! That makes me happy.
I second that Cheri. My husband is a web developer/programmer extrordinaire, so I tend to pick up on what’s working or not working with website functionality. It’s really no accident that John and Sherry ‘went pro’. Things like a smoothly running site scream ready-for-primetime.
Aw shucks you guys are sweet.
Fabric is the one design item my husband and I disagree on (it takes forever to find something we both like). But your take on fabric is pretty spot on, we have two florals, both from IKEA. One is browns and blues and the other is greens and reds, and both are more naturey than floral. Although I don’t think I will ever get him on board with a toile or paisley, not matter what the colors are.
Second IKEA fabric. must. be. mine.
This was really interesting. I’m a single girl but I still found this useful. I’ve been trying REALLY hard to stay away from making my place looks too “girly.” I want it to look young and fun but not little girlish.
*just as a quick note – I was slightly distracted while I was writing this comment and accidently wrote USELESS instead of USEFUL. I’m really glad I caught THAT mistake. :) You guys are NOT useless. :)
Great post. Welcome back from projects, John! I had to laugh and relate especially to this one because I’m in (and dragging my husband to) fabric shops weekly these days as we finish the nursery. I am always surprised at how opinionated he is!
Mostly he’ll stay quiet and just pull out suggestions. But if I ask his opinion or something catches his eye, comments like “that’s not going in my daughter’s room” and “wow, do we have so many cat hoarders in Jacksonville that this fabric actually sells?” are refreshing, hilarious and productive.
Ginny @ goofymonkeys says
Those are some great fabrics – do you guys look for fabrics at places like Joann or do you stick with smaller shops?
We hit up both! Mostly local places are where we get fabric for upholstery and curtains but Clara’s weekly fabric is from Joanne a lot since they have great sales/coupons!
Right on dude!
The wife and I run a democratic household and both have our say in just about everything for the house. I can get kinda picky about fabric/patterns myself.
Mekenzie @ Interiors By Kenz says
I LOVE this post so much!
You were dead on with the fabric choices. I live with several men in my house. One of them chose a light gray and white gingham pattern for curtains (almost exactly like the one in your block of examples). Another one wanted an iPad case sewn, and picked that deep blue and white pattern EXACTLY like the other example you had.
Thanks for bringing some testosterone to the textile department.
Gabriella @ Our Life In Action says
Nice post John. Always nice to see a man’s take.
My hubby actually made a quilt once – it is beautiful and spot on. I think he liked it because of the measuring, making sure every square was….well square. :-D
That does actually sound tempting now that you put it that way…
N Shirley says
My husband used to try and teach my son to work on cars, after a while I told him he had the wrong kid in the driveway- my daughter is very good at mechanical things. I notice when Sherrie sews she really doesn’t seem to enjoy the process, I tend to think John would be much happier running the sewing machine! And making a quilt- what’s not to love? Geometry AND mechanical things!
I wish my guy had less of an opinion on decorating our home! Thanks for the great tips on male thinking!
This is so insightful. I never know what to grab that will even stand a chance of appealing to my husband. That’s not to say all men think alike, but at least it gives me a starting point. Good luck with your travels, such an exciting time!
yep, I’m a bit of a fabric-o-holic, and I even though i admit I have a problem I have no desire to get treatment! and bravo to your good taste, the last graphic orange pattern (mandarian dorrest premier print) is exactly what I am doing for curtains in my 8 year old son’s room. I ordered lots of swatches from fabric.com and he picked the same one I did. I guess the kid’s got good taste too!
I went to the U-Fab event to see ya’ll for the first time and missed you by TWENTY MINUTES (according to my Instagram stalking!). It was the saddest day!
But then again, I left and headed straight to Yapple, so I suppose there are worst things in life ;)
Aw man! So sorry! Next time for sure!
You’re awesome! My husband is kinda like, “whatever you want” when it comes to design, but every once in a while, he’ll pipe up and say “I really like that” when he sees something colorful or cool. I really appreciate it and think it’s great when men get excited about decorating.
For me, as a male, I don’t mind looking at fabric. I just don’t like to look at them for hours & hours.
It goes back to how most men and women shop differently. I’m pretty quick to know if a fabric is the right choice.
Amber on the other hand, requires a month long soul-searching quest to decide if one shade of grey linen is better than the other.
What can I say, I like to exhaust my options.
I am pinning this to show my husband! I want so badly to do something floral (like the top right, that you said you like) for our shower curtain in our gray and white bathroom, but he says he wants nothing “girly.” I think we need that bit of floral to keep the room from feeling too harsh and geometric–the floral will soften it up. Here’s hoping this post helps! Thanks John!
Ahh thank you for your male insights! :) Love this post.
“Come to papa” has to be the funniest line I’ve ever read by a man writing about fabric! LOL.
See you guys tomorrow :)
Oh, my love/hate relationship with fabric.com. Some cute stuff at good prices, but isn’t it a total NIGHTMARE to navigate? It would probably take me half the day to try to find the fabrics John used in this post. How do you guys find what you want on there? Any particular sections of the site that you find lucky?
I just poked around lazily while on the sofa at night. It took a while but I was watching tv too… So it wasn’t so bad. Haha.
[email protected] says
I LOVE all of these fabrics – does that mean I decorate like a man??
Haha I said the same thing when I read it!
My hubby never seems to care, but I wonder if he’s holding back on me. Could you tell me the name of the blue leafy fabric?
Sorry I’m not sure, but it’s from fabric.com.
I think it is P. Kauffman Chloe Sapphire. Why I know that? Because I’ve been eyeing it for a year now. Why I can’t seem to get myself to buy it?
1. It’s always sold-out and at $23/yard, I’m gonna need a lot of explaining (graphs and scientific proofs that I need it) to the hubby.
2. The hubster might not like it.
So, just once in a while, I get in the fabric.com website — drool over it and dream about how it would look nice hanging in my master bredroom window. Sad! LOL!
Kristen | Popcorn on the Stove says
It’s nice to hear a guy’s take on this! My hubs is fairly opinionated about fabrics (so I bring him shopping when I’m making pillows or curtains) and decor items. I think we’ve found the perfect balance of not picking fabrics that are too girly or too masculine.
Have fun this weekend!
My husband has a very……unique input into design. He only cares about bedding, and he is extreme. I can decorate the whole house in neon pink leopard print and he wouldn’t really care, but GOD FORBID I buy a new set of sheets or comforter without his express approval, LOL! It makes me a little crazy!
SOOO excited for tomorrow – eek! :) Are Clara and Burger coming with you? Drive safe!
This one is such a quick trip it’s easier to leave them back with Grammy & Tom Tom. :(
Love this post! I could’ve used this insight before dragging my husband to Joanns to pick out fabric for our headboard. “I don’t like that one.” “Why not honey?” “Uhh I dunno. I just don’t.” Painful experience!
My husband confessed that he sometimes feels silly about how much he enjoys furniture/decor/tile/fabric shopping for our home. He likes to be involved and definitely has an opinion about how our home looks and feels. You’re not the only one, John! Promise! lol!
He tends to go for more simple patterns in “manly” colors too. For him though, texture plays a huge role in fabric choices. He is always concerned with how a fabric feels, hence the reason he likes suede and velvet type fabrics.
It took us hours to pick a fabric for our sofa because we bickered between feel and style. We found a compromise though. 5 hours later.
As always, thanks for the dude’s perspective!
John – THANK YOU!! I loved this post! (Seriously, there were parts that still have me chuckling! “Come to papa.” and “I, for one, love rocks.” Bahahaha!) Giving us the male’s perspective and the way you break it down, is truly helpful for this gal. My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to fabric and our bedroom has been totally masculine for 10 years!! Aaaggghhhh! (Him: safe neutral solids and stripes. Me: longing for some natural, organic shapes w/ more movement and a pop of color.) After reading this I’m really excited to see if we can come to a compromise. Can’t wait to show him some of the swatches from this post to see what he thinks! PS. I like tree bark & rocks too! LOL!