The key to designing a gender-neutral room doesn’t mean choosing androgynous furniture or a beige palette. By marrying classically masculine and feminine textures, colors, patterns, shapes, and objects, your room will achieve a pleasing balance that will make men, women, and children alike feel comfortable. Whether you’re decorating a man cave or a young girl’s room, a first apartment for newlyweds or a family home, here are tips for creating a gender-neutral space.
Let Opposites Attract Males or females who live on their own or in single-gender households sometimes end up with spaces that read as overly masculine or feminine. And, when members of the opposite sex share a space, the attempt to keep things gender neutral often results in a bland atmosphere that leaves everybody cold. If you’re starting with a masculine room with dark-wood floors, deep-gray walls, and industrial windows, soften it with vases of flowers, sculptures, mirrored furniture, pretty wall sconces, or anything else that helps balance the masculine energy. Give a living room full of frilly florals a dose of testosterone with a rugged coffee table or trunk, an industrial light fixture, or a coat of dark paint.
Pair Objects That Get Along But Don’t Match Nobody says your bedside tables or light fixtures have to be identical twins. Simply make sure they have something in common—be it color, material, or overall size—to help them peacefully coexist. Place pendant lights that are similar in size but varying in shape on either side of the couch. Select matching vintage industrial lights, one in blue gray, the other in salmon pink, on either side of the bed. Mix square and round pillows. Pick two different chairs for your bistro table.
Use Hard and Soft Textures A man cave doesn’t have to be filled with leather, dark wood, and boxy lines. It will be even more fun to hang out in and have more appeal if you add a cozy throw on that chilly leather couch or a chandelier above the pool table.
If you’ve got a masculine metal desk, throw a sheepskin on your office chair to add softness. A farmhouse dining table will benefit from a set of velvet-upholstered chairs. Place a fluffy rug on a polished concrete floor.
Play with Color and Pattern Keep a feminine little girl’s room from looking too sweet with baby blues or doses of apple red. Soften up a chocolate-brown midcentury sofa with a peach-colored rug. Tone down an elaborately carved Louis XV bed frame with a coat of black paint or rustic washed linen sheets.
When it comes to fabric and wallpaper, go bold and mix florals with stripes and plaids instead of choosing a neutral pattern. Lighten up an all-gray room with touches of gold or pink. Toughen up a delicate upholstered French armchair by re-covering it in a pinstripe suiting fabric.
Mix Straight and Curved Lines One of the easiest ways to create a balanced room is by pairing straight, angular lines with soft curves and rounded shapes. Complement a pair of masculine club chairs with sequined pillows, a shag rug, and a round coffee table. Arrange a kidney-shaped desk with a linear task chair.
Introducing organic shapes and natural elements, such as a fig tree or a driftwood lamp, can also help create a balanced space in which any creature will feel at home.