Ed­i­tor’s Let­ter

Esquire (UK) - - December 2017 - Alex Bilmes

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

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