Let’s Call A Design Truce…Gender Neutral Design

By Greg Lanza

(Greg Lanza Design)

One loves their favorite floral bedding, the other can’t let go of their black leather sofa. Creating spaces for a couple to embrace can be quite frustrating when both are passionate about their own specific style. There’s a level of conflict but with a little letting go, there’s always a solution. Better to compromise than to cause design conflict.

Color, shape and pattern pretty much dictate what’s masculine or feminine in design. Neutralizing a space and still make it exciting for both sexes can pose a challenge. If you have an interior designer, fantastic. If not, with a curated look book, dream board and a plan, design bliss can be achieved—just don’t bring home any surprises. Here are several ways to achieve gender neutral design success.

Color and Pattern
Green has always been the go-to for avoiding gender stereotype. From olive and hunter to lime and grass, green is accepted universally. Its position in nature makes everything peaceful, inspiring and totally on-trend. Bring the outdoors in with a bold green sofa balanced overhead with a series of flirty botanicals. Orange and rust, colors also found in nature, work well with the male-female mix. Bright floral patterns by Josef Frank lean towards whimsey rather than feminine. Muted florals in sienna or gray tones are also a great compromise.

Blue and the deepest navy work, always. Cut it with plenty of white trim, highlight with fresh flowers and orchids in white or even fuchsia or chartreuse. A few floral pillows and a crystal chandelier won’t upset.

Green has always been a suitable color for avoiding stereotypes. (Serena and Lily)

Art and Accessories
A dramatic dark wall can camouflage an imposing dark sofa if painted the same color. It can be made softer with framed art with extra-wide, white mat borders and frames hanging above. A collection of curvy white or cream pottery can add a feminine touch to shelves or tables.

Landscapes and modern art appeal to both sexes as does geometric, abstract patterns, and animal prints. Faux fur adds luxury and softness while making a textured statement. Sisal, seagrass, jute and Moroccan rugs make a workable foundation to build on. Throws and accent pillows are easy seasonal swaps and a way to contrast with the item they sit on. Photography and drawings especially hung in random gallery style are welcomed by everyone and become a conversation wall.

Drawings and art hung gallery-style become a conversation piece for all. (Ralph Lauren)

Mid-century modern furniture promised a futuristic lifestyle that men react well to. Their curvy silhouettes work with traditional and modernist architecture. Mixing soft and hard edge shapes allows both sexes to express their taste. Details like a ruffle on a muted gray, tan or brown throw or cushions can soften a gentlemanly palette. Shape and texture work hand in hand, so this is the perfect place to get adventurous.

Large tropical foliage adds neutral drama without being overly feminine and fussy. Flower arrangements should be kept in tight shape formation rather than wispy and wild.

Mix soft and hard edge shapes. (Josef Frank)

There’s also quirky, eclectic design that take a higher level of skill to obtain the right intention. Think Glam/Farmhouse – mixing a blingy light fixture over a rustic farm table or Mission/Victorian—straight line craftsman wood furniture with swirling florals and lush velvets. As trends and cultures blend more design fusions exist. There’s a lot of mixing to discover.

On a past project, I had to blend her Tuscan dream with his passion for everything southwest. Because it was a townhouse, it was easier than having a home’s distinctive exterior style and interior architecture dictate the direction. Today rules of authentic design can be bent.

Currently I am working in a classic American farmhouse with colorful art from important Puerto Rican and Cuban artists.

Greg Lanza is the owner of Greg Lanza Design / Birch Hill Design (New York and Florida). Visit www.greglanzadesign.com for more information and inspiration.

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