Home Wrecked: Post-Divorce Décor

Def Leopard said it best: love bites. If not for the interior decorator at the end of the tunnel, that is.

Imagine retuning home to find your house devoid not only of your ex-live-in’s personal effects, but the living room furniture the two of you had purchased (sniff, together) not that long ago. That damn couch, the source of so many arguments. That wretched upholstery, so many moons spent arguing over this print or that. The cushions that might or might not have precipitated the end of your love affair. All gone.

So tragic.

But consider the silver lining. Breakups and divorce offer rare opportunities for personal reinvention and boundless career opportunities for lawyers, mediators, real estate agents, brokers…and interior designers.

Emily Weinstein of The New York Times profiled nearly half a dozen designers to the suddenly single style hounds that “found [their] niche after realizing there was one kind of client [they] preferred over all others: the divorced man.”

Why men? Because as one designer put it, “a huge percentage of them leave the matrimonial home and live in dumps [with]…old hand-me-down furniture that was in the basement.”

They’ve got grandma’s living room set, college relics, “and they don’t have a clue how to pull it together.” Some haven’t lived alone since freshman year. The horror.

The Times reports that there are firms that are even going beyond design, offering pantry restocking and cooking classes. All in the name of helping these affluent lonely men rebuild some semblance of a home and fast. No one wants to look like pathetic slobs in front of the kiddies.

A big chunk of Weinstein’s thesis is that when the assignment is rebuilding a home, the interior designer must transcend his or her own style predispositions and become equal parts family therapist and sexologist. And a delicate balance it is, creating a family-friendly man-cave that also doubles as a potential sex den.

How not to decorate post-divorce, unless your first name is Wilt and your last name is Chamberlain.

Take for example the five-bedroom Los Angeles house decorated by Susan Manrao for recently divorced Tim Geddes:

“It’s comfortable for a family, but it is not a family home,” Weinstein writes.

“People would say this house is a man’s house, but there is still a softness to it,” Geddes adds.

“If you took a woman there, you wouldn’t necessarily know there are kids,” Ms. Manrao chimes in.

The right way to hang a really big flatscreen TV.

That bodes well for guys like Geddes. After all, men head back to the alter faster than women. Men are also more likely to reap the economic benefits of remarriage and fare better financially in divorce.

Portrait of a healthily divorced man. 

Not so much. 

But what becomes of the fairer sex? According to Census numbers, recently divorced women are more likely to receive public assistance than their male counterparts. Women are also more likely to live in multigenerational homes (i.e., moving back in with her parents) and with their children in tow.

That means they’re less likely to have the disposable income to afford a professional decorator, or the inclination. For the divorcee, it’s less about rebuilding a home than it is redefining it.

In a similar trend piece on post-divorce décor, Kim Palmer of the Seattle Times writes about a woman named Wendy Berghorst. Though Berghorst and her husband had previously been featured in another paper (the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Love Nests, wherein couples presumably tout their joint decorating triumphs), five years later she found herself as part of the fifty percent.

She rented a residence nearby, “invited a bunch of her “fun women friends” over for a painting party. She baked a coffee cake, made sandwiches and served mimosas to toast her new life. Her friends, in turn, helped her transform the house with a palette of fresh colors, selected by a friend who’s an interior designer.”

Notably, not a work-for-hire interior designer, but “a friend” who happened to be one.

Divorce gets fun with a good old fashioned painting party. 

If the Times article is any indication, the trend of boutique for-men-only services like the Sexy Bachelor Pad will continue. Another interesting tidbit to keep in mind is that while divorce rates dropped with the state of the economy, they are creeping up once again. That equals more men (fathers, particularly) who will be more willing and ready than ever to relinquish control to an interior designer’s aesthetic for the sake of making a fast, comfortable transition for their kids – and their manhood.

All the single ladies? Expect to see them lining up at Home Depot. Their post divorce décor is all about regaining individuality, control and adding a fresh coat of something new.

From the hilarious Flickr set of Kris Krüg titled: Divorce Party Camping Weekend

Images: Dr. John Bullas; New York Times/Laure Joliet; Puno Dostres/Pinterest; Ruffwear; Lee LeFever; Kris Krüg



K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.