Why don’t men’s magazines cover interior design?
Not long ago I received an email from Tom Dyckhoff, the architecture and design expert, asking that question. We’d never met or corresponded before but I knew Tom from his stuff in the papers and on TV, where he enthuses about cities and buildings and the people who make them. Now he’s writing a book about men at home and he was curious to know why it is that that subject is almost entirely absent from magazines such as Esquire.
Tom’s email gave me pause. Why don’t men’s magazines cover interior design? I mean, it’s true that in the less sophisticated publication for the more simple-minded chap, one does still occasionally see a page devoted to how to construct (not decorate, “construct”) the “ultimate” bachelor pad, all black leather and polished chrome, and sad and lonely empty space, with a fuck-off TV (the “ultimate” fuck-off TV, probably) and no books, as if we were all still Patrick Bateman wannabes, and it was still 1991. But that’s about it. Even in the grand bazaar of luxury lifestyle shopping options that is Esquire, one rarely sees so much as a rug or a lamp or even a decent chair. We just don’t seem to be at home to ceramics or embroidery or tableware.
Where’s the interiors porn? That’s what Tom Dyckhoff wanted to know. And he must have thought he’d come to the right place, asking me. But I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t a clue.
Oh, I tried to mount some sort of defence, of course I did. I pointed to The Big Black Book, our biannual publication about all things design. And I sent Tom some issues of that organ, full of Q&As with Brutalist starchitects and still-lives of minimalist vases and essayistic examinations of obscure Benelux architecture practices. But while it’s certainly a magazine, and it is primarily aimed at men, the BBB is not really a men’s mag at all, at least in the sense the term is commonly understood. So I was baffled. At length, Tom and I met for tea, and continued the conversation.
Is it, he wondered, because furniture and interiors companies don’t generally advertise in men’s mags, in the way that fashion labels and watch brands and car marques and fragrance houses do? I scratched my head. I didn’t think so. We cover lots of areas where there’s no ad money on the table, as of course we should — sport and politics and books and TV and art and music and more — so that can’t be it.
Is it because men don’t care about their surroundings? I stroked my chin. No, it can’t be that. I don’t pretend to any decorating expertise but I am as susceptible to beauty, and ugliness, as anyone I know. I definitely care what stuff goes in my house. And so do plenty of men I know. We just don’t talk about it. (Except for the graphic designers, Tom pointed out. And, of course, he was right about that.)
Is it because, even among supposedly urbane men who will happily chew your ear off about their diets and where they get their hair cut and their exercise routines, the idea of admitting to an interest in interior design is still somehow wussy? Like confessing to making Pinterest mood boards or touring country churches or reading Jojo Moyes, instead of going to the football and the pub and playing Call of
Duty: Infinite Warfare? I stuck my finger in my ear and wiggled it violently, as if clearing a blockage. I suppose that could be the case, but surely we’re past all that, us 21st-century men of the world?
Tom and I kicked all this around for a bit — or perhaps we sensitively arranged all this in an elegant display for a bit — and then I suggested that he write about it. You can read his thoughts on the “weird taboo” of men taking an interest in our homes on page 126.
Tom’s story, I hope, acts as an attractive centrepiece for this special issue, where masculine design classics — an Anglepoise lamp, an Eames chair, a vintage Aston Martin — jostle for space with products that are perhaps more unexpected, given what we know about men’s mags and interior design: a fruit bowl, wooden dolls, a jug, and a rather fetching Balenciaga purse-thing.
The purse-thing, perhaps, is a step too far for you. It wouldn’t work with your own Aston. Or perhaps you’re a Tesla man? It’s all a question of taste, isn’t it? Stephen Bayley has recently published a book on that subject and here gives us his top 10 moments that taste forgot. (Look away now, Donald J Trump.) The rest of the issue, you’ll agree, displays only the rarest discernment, from the properties sold by The Modern House to Haider Ackermann’s designs for Berluti.
Next month, I suspect, normal service will resume: beer, burgers, ballgames and not even the sniff of a man-candle to brighten up your basement. Or maybe the genie is out of the bottle now, and it’ll be antique chaise longues and occasional tables and five ways to add some sparkle to your sideboard. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
Even in the grand bazaar of luxury lifestyle
shopping options that is Esquire, one rarely sees so much as a rug, or a lamp, or even a decent chair. We just don’t seem to be at home to ceramics or embroidery or tableware