R.I.P. Ms. Black Leather Couch

Local decorators have tips for guys when it comes to interior design

By Mike Savicki


It was love at first sight. Me, a soon-to-graduate young business professional relocating without furniture to Charlotte and her, a black leather couch displayed prominently on a High Point furniture showroom floor. As soon as my eyes met her fluffy arm rests and overstuffed cushions, I knew she was the one for me.


Ms. Black Leather Couch liked me right back and immediately sweet-talked me into buying her friend, Ms. Matching Black Leather Loveseat, too. I caved and within the hour the three of us were heading to our new Lake Norman condo together.


Once home, it didn’t take long for Ms. Black Leather Couch and Ms. Matching Black Leather Loveseat to become the center points around which I designed, finished and decorated my entire new condo. It was the 1990’s so I chose trendy black and white appliances to compliment my living room pair. I selected black tile for the kitchen, front entry, bathrooms and closets and matched it with black speckled Berber carpet. Then I whitewashed every wall, door and trim board because Ms. Couch and Ms. Loveseat said it would make them stand out better. For home furnishings, I chose black wooden chairs to offset a white dining room table. I even chose end tables and bookshelves based upon how their “noir and blanche” coordinated with Ms. Couch and Ms. Loveseat.


The final product was a stunning display of extreme visual contrast. So much so that at first glance after entering my bachelor pad, friends and family members regularly recoiled violently before wondering out loud if I had intentionally chosen to decorate for penguins or zebras instead of humans.


In hindsight, the place probably could have used more color.


So, when I sold the Davidson condo and moved to a Cornelius house, the first thing I did was call and enlist a professional in order ensure I didn’t repeat my design mistakes of the past. Having barely survived seven years of coming home to a black and white movie set for a home, and having grown sick of my friends showing up in black and white striped NFL referee jerseys whenever they came to raid my fridge, I felt it was the correct thing to do.


The lessons I learned helped me avoid failing on residence number two, and the lessons I learned while researching this piece can help the modern bachelor avoid failure, too.


Huntersville’s Debi Thomas, who has been working with Lake Norman clients (including guys) was probably someone I should have called decades earlier.


“Generally, men don’t know what they want as far as décor as much as women do, so at first it’s about helping them figure out where they want to go, and articulating their ideas about what they want, before they make too many mistakes,” Thomas tells me after I recount my story of black and white decorating hell.


“What I tell many people to do up front as they are beginning the process, no matter if it is a single room or an entire house, is to look through magazines and rip out pages of what they like, or take photos of rooms that appeal to them then share them with me,” she continues. “This helps me see so much – how much detail they like, if they like patterns and color, whether or not they are drawn to formal or casual or even if they like one certain look over another.”


Then, Thomas says, it’s all about helping the client envision the final product, educating him or her on different options, then working collectively until the last piece of furniture is placed, curtain hung and plant displayed.


Curtains? Plants? I never even fathomed either in my condo.


I also called Cornelius’ Starr Miller because I had heard stories about her unique design approach and knew she has worked with a few prominent area males on their homes. Her advice made perfect sense. Miller told me that when working with guy clients, she first asks them about their hobbies, interests and lifestyle before beginning the process of educating them on looks, styles, options and price points. There is an art and science to the process, she says, and if done correctly, guys can design not only for function but also for form, as well.


“What I have found is that men like design if it makes sense to them,” she shares. “If it is going to be something like a lot of flowers, they will likely run. But if it is going to be more contrast, or a feel that is more manly, they feel comfortable in the process and may actually enjoy helping select fabrics, choose individual pieces and create a space they not only enjoy for themselves, but are happy to share and show to friends.”


Since nowhere in either conversation did the words black leather couch and matching loveseat enter, I have decided it just might be time for me to part ways with my first loves. I’m sorry my black leather ladies, it’s time for you to go.


This article was originally published in the March 2015 edition of Currents Magazine.