When it comes to decorating, what makes some men swoon (a beat-up leather recliner, a sweet shot-glass collection) would cause some women to run for their scented candles and floral throw pillows. So, if the two sexes can’t agree on the purpose of potpourri or the importance of a pool table, how should they be expected to adhere to the same design do’s and don’ts?

Two new books, “The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking” ($20, Harper Design) by Kate Payne and “The Man Cave Book” ($15, Harper) by Mike Yost and Jeff Wilser, explore this gender disparity, and offer up feminine and masculine takes on feathering your nest or tricking out your garage.

We spoke with Payne and Wilser about everything from bargains to beer. What we learned probably won’t lead to any kind of decor detente. But it might help you understand why those action figures or vintage teacups mean so much to your better half.


Jeff Wilser, co-author of “The Man Cave Book”

Why do men need man caves?
The rest of the house is generally the woman’s purview. A man cave is the one safe outlet for a guy to decorate without adult supervision or restraints and free from the shackles of taste. It’s a sneaky way for guys to release their own interior designer in a way that’s socially acceptable. It’s about expressing your individuality in a fun way by taking your hobbies and interests and doing something visually interesting with them.

What’s a must for every man cave?
You have to have some form of reclining, relaxing chair or couch. Function should trump style. If you can’t be comfortable in your man cave, you’ve failed. Most guys will want to have some kind of easy way to get drinks, because God forbid you have to walk 20 feet into the kitchen to get a beer. And the best man caves are the ones that really do have a coherent visual theme. The theme could be whatever the guy likes — his college basketball team or vintage cinema or old Civil War maps and paraphernalia. Whatever it is, the more you can make it embody the space, the more interesting it becomes and the more it expresses your personality.

What should never be in a man cave?
Diapers. Emotions, unless it’s righteous anger that your team is losing. It’s not really the place for Oprah-type discussions. And I think tea is kind of frowned upon.

Any common misconceptions about man caves?
I think the biggest misconception is that it’s a place only for the men and no women, no family and no friends; that it’s just a place for the man to be a man. Almost categorically, all of the guys I talked to were all in on the joke; they get the irony of this. The man is the guy who creates it and decorates it and builds it, but, generally, it’s a place where friends are welcome and where women are welcome. It’s less of a bunker and more of a tongue-in-cheek nod to their hobbies and interests.

Say you’re a man who doesn’t have his own lair yet but wants one. Where do you start?
The classic rookie mistake is thinking you have to do it all at once. You can start pretty small. Think about what you’re interested in and start with that. Then you can kind of grow it from there. Start with a couple of key objects and then be on the lookout for other items.


Kate Payne, author of “The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking”

Why do women need an updated approach to homemaking?
Based on my experience moving around a lot and trying to set up a house but not having a ton of money, it didn’t seem like there was anything very relevant to today, to how we live and how we’re setting up houses in the context of having a job and not being able to sit around all day and do all this cool stuff for your house. A lot of the things I was seeing were either focused on big projects or didn’t speak practically to beginners.

Can men use your advice?
Of course. I fought hard with my editor to make sure guys were mentioned in there. This is for everyone; having a house is really a guy and a girl thing.

Why is it important to have a comfortable home that’s stylish?
Because it’s really where we rejuvenate and refresh ourselves. We all go home at the end of the day and try to get ready for the next day. If your house is a stressful place or it just doesn’t make you feel good, you’re not really doing yourself any good.

Got any decorating tips for gals — or guys — on a budget?
To really not look at your house as what it should be but as what it is. Go room by room and figure out some key things that would make you feel happier in that space and go buy that. Don’t go buy some $250 chair you’re never going to sit in because there’s supposed to be a chair in that corner.

Is it important for your decor and furnishings to match?
No. Get complementary things, of course. But you can get really nice things at a discount that aren’t a whole matching set. You can do it with towels, silverware, dishes, even furniture pieces. In our living room, we have kind of a wood situation going on; we have so many different colors of wood happening that at a certain point it’s almost endearing. In the future we’re going to address it, when we have more energy and resources, but now it’s about arranging it so it makes the most sense.

You encourage people to actually use their kitchens to cook. What’s wrong with using the room as a takeout menu storage center?
To be able to feed yourself with food of your own making, I think of that as empowering. You end up saving yourself money and saving yourself time, and you know what’s going in your body. It’s this empowering feeling of making a few of the meals you consume and feeling good about them. And that eventually leads to hosting other people just by making more. Then, you can have a dinner party and have a space where people are enjoying themselves.

Cleaning is not high on many people’s lists of homemaking priorities. How can they make the job a little less dirty?
Take a targeted approach. You might never clean your house if you looked at it as, “I have to clean the whole house today.”
Try to break it up. Say, “I’m going to clean the bathroom and mop the kitchen floor today.”

We know about man caves. Is there such a thing as a woman cave?
There is such a thing as a woman cave, and it has a lot of closet organizing kinds of things everywhere. There’s always an excess of organizational equipment and not necessarily a lot of organizing.

After reading your chapter on hardware, will hip girls be able to set up man caves for the men in their lives?
I think they could definitely do it. I don’t give a rundown on how to actually use the tools, but it gives them some information to send them forth and purchase some.

If she were invited into a man cave, what should a hip girl bring?
She should bring some beer and a big casserole, because it makes for good leftovers. The man in the cave will be very appreciative.

Written by Express contributor Beth Luberecki