YOU’RE YOUNG, RICH, WITH NO TIME AND NO TASTE – WHO YOU GOING TO CALL?
BY LAURA GOLDSTEIN
David Schwimmer’s character, Ross on Friends just bought a bachelor condo and filled it with Craftsman-style furniture; Will of Will & Grace has panache enough for two and Frasier, well Frasier, that impeccable aesthete, has used a decorator for years. The New York Times is calling this tasteful trend “Guy Decor”. Women refer to it simply as men who have awakened from a narcoleptic state, looked around their living space and realize, ‘oh my God, there is more to life than a black leather sofa and Aunt Ethel’s kitchen table. ‘So if you don’t have a studio set decorator to come to the rescue and you’re young, rich, have no time and no taste – who are you going to call?
Bonnye Gollan of BonWit Design in Toronto sees a lot of single men who have made an incredible amount of money working 24 hours a day and have no comfortable and relaxing environment to come home to. “The single guy hasn’t a clue where to start,” says Gollan “and it’s typical that they really don’t take an interest until a significant other enters their life. They often have very expensive computer equipment and home entertainment centres and a desk from school in their homes – the rest is empty. Also, many of these men who work in high tech industries and may have very modern office spaces are stereotyped into thinking that they should have chrome and glass, black leather or something modern and wild in their homes. When they do make a purchase, it is not unusual for them to buy a whole showroom window at once! These choices may have nothing to do with their personalities or what they really want. Many make terrible decisions because they think it’s in style (‘I’ve seen a lime green leather sofa in a million dollar home,’) she laughs or, more commonly, they completely avoid making any decisions at all.”
Arnon Levy, 29, falls typically into Gollan’s description. He is president of Guest-Tek Services, a three-and a half year old company based in Calgary that develops plug and play software for the internet , used by business travelers in hotels and airports. His company is valued at 36 million dollars U.S. Levy hasn’t taken a vacation in three and a half years, works seven days a week and travels constantly.
“I was lucky,” says the good humoured Levy, “At least I bought a house. It was built in 1912 and my dad and I renovated it. When I moved in all I had was a TV, a futon couch, metallic card table in the kitchen and my old study desk from IKEA. There is a treadmill too. I bought an antique fan that sat in the box for two years before I got around to putting it up. Every penny was going into the business but I finally bought a dark green leather sofa. I have a girfriend who is re-arranging things – I even have a few real plants, ”he jokes, “but I’d love to go to a decorator- my house is such a mish mash of things. I need help but I never have the time.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the young entrepreneurs who buy anything expensive and trendy with no personal attachment to any of it. Alda Pereira of Alda Pereira Design, Vancouver, is known for her innovative and timeless style with an architectural focus. “There is a lot of software wandering around Vancouver,” she says wryly. “But that doesn’t mean they have good taste. Someone came to see me recently who had just bought a house in North Vancouver for 7 million dollars and he wanted to literally furnish it overnight for a party. He had artwork but wasn’t familiar with any of the artists and a huge aquarium but didn’t know what kinds of fish were in it. These people don’t have the time to sit on the chairs I get for them. It’s not an ideal situation because designers need client imput and direction.”
Anton Rabie, 28 president and chief operating officer of Spin Master Toys in Toronto (valued over 10 million dollars), likes to buy from customers’ showrooms. “My goal is to furnish in the fastest time possible, ”he laughs. “I set up the main floor of my house in three to four hours. Decorating is just not a priority for me.”
Sitting amid hundreds of wires in his home office on the third floor, his laptop is hooked up to a port replicator and the stereo is on the floor. Even his award for Entrepreneur of the Year is still in shrink wrap. Rabie readily admits that at least he is spending more time in his home office than at the company’s location. But, he has a pretty clear vision of the next house he will move into with his fiance: “I’d like an office on the top floor overlooking nature, a small gym and some very cozy carpet, not hardwood floors. I’d like some theme rooms based on my travels to Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand and Africa.”
“In my experience,” says Gollan, “it’s a bit of a vicious circle. “If these young CEO’s have nothing comfortable to go home to they won’t have the interest to decorate. But once their house is done, they can’t wait to come home.”
Bonnye Gollan’s suggestions for men working with a designer:
- Always get a referral for an interior designer and don’t feel intimidated. A good designer will make you feel relaxed, listen and interpret what you want.
- Your home does not have to reflect your office environment. Just because your office is high tech, your home can be comfortable and luxurious.
- Talk about your lifestyle – how do you like to relax? Would you entertain at home if it was furnished comfortably?
- When buying furniture don’t fall into the stereotype that men must have straight lines, chrome/glass, a loft to put in oversized furniture. If you’re 5’8” and you’re slipping off your leather sofa, what’s the point!
- Never say to your designer, “I don’t care, you just do what you want.” Everyone has an opinion, even if it’s a favourite colour.
- Have a sense of humour, there’s nothing you can’t change with a good coat of paint. Remember, you’re the CEO of a multimillion dollar company. Compared to that, decorating is not brain surgery!