When the residents of a new Toronto condo take the elevator up to the amenities on the second floor, they will be entering a dude dreamland. Plans for the INDX condominium, set to begin construction in the city's financial district early next year, include a video golf simulator, Bulls vs. Bears Room, where there will be billiards, a big-screen TV and a foosball table, Benjamin's Poker Room and The Bank Lounge for kicking back.
It may not be to every guy's tastes, but still, it's a dude-centric layout. That man-friendly aesthetic will permeate the building, from the shoeshine station in the lobby through to the look and feel of each unit, which are just a few degrees removed from Ron Burgundy's ideal of leather-bound books amid the smell of rich mahogany.
"We've used very deep, rich earth tones, very sleek finishes," says Andrew Hoffman, president and founder of CentreCourt Developments, which is co-developing the project. All but two of the building's 798 units have been sold, a clear sign of its appeal.
The building is geared toward the young, busy professional who works in the city's core – man or woman – Hoffman says. But the marketing campaign for the building was inspired by Barney Stinson, the carousing womanizer played by Neil Patrick Harris on the television show How I Met Your Mother, he points out. So you know what gender is top-of-mind here.
In fact, look at popular design trends, from rough-around-the-edges reclaimed furniture to industrial-style restaurants, and you may see how a guy-centric aesthetic now informs so many spaces. There is no straight line from the metrosexual trend from the mid-1990s to here, but the interests that gave rise to the man cave have moved up from the basement and are taking over the whole house. As designers and decorators point out, we are all – both men and women – hyper-conscious of design. With men playing a more active role in the choices of how to outfit their living spaces, the market is responding to their interests.
"There's definitely been a trend in Scandinavian design and some of this Old World European stuff that's big, that's heavy, and it does definitely have very masculine feel to it," says Laura Stein, founder of the Toronto-based Laura Stein Interiors. "Guys have been more involved in the decision-making when it comes to the design of their home."
Thanks to the proliferation of design media, "people are so much more aware of it," Stein says. "It used to be that women sought it out and found it. And now it's everywhere, so men are more exposed to it than they used to be. … They're becoming a little more design-savvy. They have opinions about things."
Jonah Takagi, a designer based in Washington, D.C., wanted to tap into this growing niche market with Field, a guy-centric housewares collection that launched in September. "I feel like the world of interior design and mainstream product design can be a little bit feminine," Takagi says. "Guys are spending so much more attention to the aesthetics of their personal products."
The Field collection includes a cylindrical pen pot made from reclaimed yellow pine, a stainless-steel bottle opener that is gorgeously dude-tastic in its simplicity and adherence to a function-is-form vibe, soapstone bookends and a copper paperweight.
What is guy-centric design? Really, what makes a paperweight masculine or feminine? Think clean, modern lines, an absence of frill or unnecessary ornamentation, with wood, metal, leather and canvas all used as popular materials in pieces that are chosen and arranged according to a functionalist philosophy.
When it comes to understanding how many men value function in their homes, pillows are a good place to start, says Michelle Miazga, co-founder of Port + Quarter, a Vancouver-based interior-design company that launched in April and specializes in design for men. Many women may like to stack throw pillows on their couches for no other reason than that they look pretty, she says. Men, not so much.
"Pillows is kind of an issue that we always laugh about with guys," Miazga says. "They look fantastic on a sofa. But a guy needs to be able to put his head on it or lie on it," she says. "That's something we always think about: What's the function of what we're putting in a room for a guy?"
The company initially carved out a target market of men 25 to 45 years old who are professionals and first-time home buyers, but the clientele has proved to be much more diverse, Miazga says. "We thought we would have a market with divorced men and single men, but we are finding that we are getting a lot of couples," she says.
Miazga's company is part of a wave of businesses that are courting men, from design companies to spas. "In Vancouver, it's a huge industry now," she says. "People are just catering more to men."
But while design that has a guy-friendly vibe is increasingly popular, it is hardly exclusionary, says Neil James, managing partner of Stylegarage, a furniture and accessories retailer with stores in Toronto and Vancouver.
James points to industrial-style restaurants kitted out with concrete and lit by Edison bulbs and the style of furniture and home furnishings offered by Restoration Hardware as examples of "masculine" design that now enjoy widespread popularity. "It doesn't necessarily make it just for guys. I think a lot of women like that look," he says, adding that pieces are not created with conscious thought about gender preferences. "Good design is good design."