Bachelor Pads 101

The phrase “Bachelor pad” no doubt conjures a strong image for most people. Some might think of a greasy studio apartment with torn posters on the walls, clothes on the floor, and a decor scheme that could only be described as “discarded-pizza-box-chic.” Others imagine the more polished but still cringe-inducing idea of sweaty animal print furniture, a million candles surrounding a circular waterbed with its reflection in a mirror suspended on the ceiling, and perhaps even a stripper pole in the place of a coffee table. Somewhere between the fictional extremes of inept filthiness and extreme cheesiness lie the majority of true bachelor pads: simple starter apartments without a lot of style.

The secret to impressing a woman with your apartment isn’t that much of a mystery: make her feel comfortable there! Depending on your goals, age, and scene; that doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

If your goal resembles that of TV’s How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson, that’s only to get women in and out as quickly as possible (though I hope that it isn’t). For Barney, that means spartan, minimalist and uncomfortable furnishings, a huge 100″ television, a prominent display of pornography, a kitchen empty of food and bedding only big enough for one. While this works for him on television, unless you are Neil Patrick Harris himself, the best strategy is to do the opposite and look at Barney as a great example of what NOT to do, even if you are in the same boat of eschewing long-term relationships (I’m sure even call-girls appreciate a comfortable apartment!).

The first most important thing in your bachelor pad is cleanliness, particularly in the bathroom and kitchen. Most women find disgusting bathrooms and unidentifiable food sludge overrunning the kitchen counter to be complete mood killers. The stereotype of the horrifically messy bachelor pad is more of a myth than anything, so for most men this goes without saying. No need to be immaculate or spend every day scrubbing the tile until the whole place smells of lemon (although that does sound pretty nice…), just use the same level of tidiness you’d try to maintain if you had your mother or boss coming over.

The second most important part of your apartment is your lighting, an often overlooked aspect in most households in the country. You probably think of lighting as utilitarian: it helps you see when its dark! That is true, but lighting’s most under-utilized function is the ability to create mood. When I say “mood” I don’t mean that silly moment in comedy movies where a guy flips on some romantic music and claps his hands to spark a fire in the fireplace. Mood can be something other than romantic. It can be relaxing, comfortable, exciting, or no-nonsense (for when you are trying to unwind, socialize with friends, have an at home dance party, or buckle down and work on your bills). Bright, harsh overhead lighting is subconsciously uncomfortable and won’t make anyone, let alone your date, want to stay for long. Instead of relying on the dated overhead fixture that came with your apartment, use smaller table lamps positioned around the room instead for a more mellow and relaxing effect. Indirect lighting, like positioning LEDs behind your television set or behind a painting can also add positively to your experience in the room. A rule of thumb for starting to experiment is that the softer your light is, the better. If you need additional light for working on a puzzle or playing a card game, having a brighter task light handy for the purpose will keep the room feeling comfortable while giving you the light you need.

Candles are often regarded as too cheesy for a single guy, but with a stylish sconce or table arrangement candles can look very sophisticated. Avoid plain tealights or pillar candles with no holders or without deliberate arrangement as it will look like the candles only purpose is “seduction.” If it is part of a larger decoration scheme it won’t stick out in the way that you may have noticed it does in other bachelor’s apartments. Pillar candles look nice in groups of three and creating an arrangement yourself doesn’t have to be hard. General retailers sell ready-made holders and also pieces like flat mirrors and dishes that can be creatively arranged to your heart’s content. Having candles out and integrated into the way your whole room looks, but not lit, can be an impressive touch. Lighting them as soon as you enter the room can look cheesy, so play it by ear.

Bachelor pads tend to be underdecorated rather than overdecorated, so most men will want to add things like curtains and matching pillows. Any accessory made of fabric will make a room feel cozier and more welcoming. As a bonus, curtains are said to have a subconscious connection to bedsheets in the minds of your lady guests! As long as your couches and chairs are in more neutral shades (black, white, brown, beige, etc), curtains and pillows are where you can really inject some interesting color into your room without worrying about it matching or not. Choose your favorite colors, or go by whatever is on sale, or maybe even go by color psychology: red is supposed to be an exciting, passionate color, while blue is a calming and relaxing color. Pillows can be any shape or size or texture you like. Really big pillows can double as extra seating when you have lots of guests over. Its recommended that you try picking out a variety of textures and fabrics when you pick out your pillows and curtains, don’t pick out all shiny or all fuzzy ones. Variety gives your room depth and visual interest and makes people want to stay longer. Men with contemporary furniture tastes will want to stick to simple curtains or roman blinds (or both).

The opposite of the underdecorated bachelor pad also exists, however, but it tends to be overdecorated with stuff and collectibles rather than traditional “decor” items. This subject is a touchy one for some men: How much of your collectibles should you leave on display? I think that a good rule of thumb might be to let each interest only take up 20% of the visual space in your living room. That means that if you love anime for example, don’t plaster all of the walls in posters and let every shelf be full of random figurines and collectible swords. Display your favorites as tastefully and in as grown-up a way as you can, and keep the rest in a less obvious place or even in storage. Apartments are too small to display EVERYTHING we own, its just a sad fact of life.

Another sad fact of life is that whether its subconscious or not, we all judge based on appearances and a full-on anime lair (or Star Trek dungeon etc) may scare away someone who doesn’t even know what Japanese animation is, but who might have really enjoyed your hobby with you had they been eased into it. Imagine walking into a date’s living room and seeing what appears to be an obsessive shrine to something completely foreign to you. Even the best of us can’t help knee-jerk reactions. If we want to cast the widest net possible we have to put our best foot forward. That said, there are some people who are the hardest core fans of something possible and who cannot be dissuaded from their lifestyle, and that’s great, but just realize that it limits you.

Stylish ways to display collections are to make sure that the furniture, shelves, frames, or display cases are all in great condition and match well. If you have a bunch of figurines on a bunch of randomly colored shelves, it will look more like a dorm room than an adult’s apartment. Frame pictures in similar style frames, and try to avoid large posters. Large photos or canvases look much more polished than a poster that your date no doubt has seen on an endcap at Walmart or Hot Topic. Black and white photographs of you, your friends, pets, and family look great clustered together on a wall and add to the atmosphere of comfort (in addition to letting your date see into your life a little bit more). Photographs of you and your ex are usually considered a poor choice. Artwork can look wonderful on the walls, but try to steer clear of anything too popular or generic; go with something that really speaks to you personally rather than what you think other people like.

Temperature is really important to the comfort of your apartment. If you don’t have an air conditioner, you should really consider getting one if you live in a climate that frequently sees 90 degree plus weather. Even if you can’t use a traditional window sill model, they have more options these days including ones that sit on the floor and don’t even need attach to a window. Keep throw blankets around for when it gets colder — they’re also great for cuddling.

Keep activities somewhere easy to access in your living room. Board games, cards, and puzzles aren’t just great for when you have friends over, they’re fun when you’re stumped for conversation with your date, too. Some ideas beyond the staples of Monopoly and checkers are Apples to Apples, Battleship, Clue, Likewise, Scrabble, and Fluxx (an easy to play, popular card game). Stores often have great sales where you can pick up several board games at once for huge savings. Even if you don’t think of yourself as the kind of guy who’d play a board game, maybe you’d surprise yourself with how much fun you’d have! (Even if you have to have a couple of drinks first to get into it…)

Lastly make sure that when you’re all done that your apartment reflects who you are. My tips aren’t to strip away your personality and replace it with a sterile, mass-market generic clone. Its only when you get all the distractions and clutter of bad style out of the way that you can let people see your personality in your apartment the clearest. Getting rid of that old Battlestar Galactica poster and replacing it with a photograph of you packpacking through Europe or playing with your dog makes that space in your apartment much more meaningful and lets a stranger or date understand you that much better. Spend some time thinking about who you are and what you’d want a stranger to know about you and let that lead the way in your style decision making.