This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
The innocence of a man taking to the internet, seeking out a specific Reddit thread of male living spaces, and asking for help identifying the Herman Miller Eames lounge chair and ottoman – one of the most well known chairs ever manufactured, as well as one of the most expensive – is one of the more endearing posts shared on /r/malelivingspace, and reshared on @redditspaces. This joy is quickly dissipated, however, when it is followed up by one lazy twat’s ingenious idea to prop up his curtain pole on a can of beans.
The Male Living Space subreddit is setup for men to either seek advice on their home setups and how to decorate it, or to show off their one armchair, two canvases of New York skyline and three cheese plants setup. Although I’m being cynical about the posts themselves, the ensuing threads on Male Living Space often avoid the incel or 4Chan banter that is expected when men gather to the tune of over half a million, and the majority of comments from its 545,000 members are full of support. Even on the hapless posts of rooms containing just an airbed and gaming computer are met with banter between the boys that rarely reach trolling levels, as well as genuine advice on good interior design.
Between extremes of adorable hopelessness and chaotic neutral energy, come posts that have one resounding element of similarity – a full force lack of taste. The male equivalent of all-grey houses with mirror tables and crushed silver settees, these posts exemplify what we have known all along. Without women, straight cis men would be happy sitting in rooms that contain solely a Lazy Boy armchair, a 60” TV and an Xbox. That’s not to mention the posts on the thread that literally only contain those three items.
Scrolling through the subreddit will show you room after room that either attempts to emulate the grey and navy makeovers of Bobby Berk for Queer Eye – the kind that is specifically designed not to offend anyone but make men feel better about bringing back women (girlfriends, mothers or both) to their homes with no danger of impeding on their masculinity – or a style that makes no attempt to be stylish at all. Personally, I love the typical shots by posters proud of a two seater sofa and camp chair setup.
Cas*, the man behind @redditspaces, believes that the subreddit has spawned its own kind of style that men are attempting to emulate before posting. “There are definitely very specific trends that crop up in terms of posts on this subreddit that most people probably aren't aware of," Cas explains, adding that he curates the content on the Twitter account heavily to show the more entertaining faces of the community, people who can't decorate to save their life.
“The decorating trend among the popular posts will almost always be a neutral grey or brown minimalist space, big couch, big TV, fancy computer setup, plants, and staging the photo to look like it's out of a magazine," he says. "There's a checklist of sorts when it comes to what qualifies as popular. If it has plants, a rug, a clean minimalist couch, big windows, a view with natural light and a Herman Miller Eames lounge chair then that's an instant upvote magnet. It can get very stale very fast, but it's especially appealing to men who have always dreamed of their perfect ‘bachelor pad with no roommates’.”
The style, though inoffensive, is repetitive and, as Cas implies, posts including this decor become essentially a pissing contest to see who can do it better. It leads to the men of Reddit deciding between simple styling matters like whether to go for the classic oversized Pixar lamp lighting solution in matte grey or glossy black not based on their own preferences, but what will score them the most internet points.
Regardless of what they have to live with day to day in their own home – and without considering that maybe one day they will be Jack Torrance-ing their way through their £500 oak table because they never liked it – it follows that styling decisions for men don’t come from within an inner taste but an outer need to impress their peers.
Cas agrees that the most infuriating posts on the subreddit are those that are the most in line with the others: “While its easy to laugh at places that are just an air mattress and a pizza box, the worst offenders will always be people who have too much money and not a lick of creativity or basic housekeeping. I'm talking about people who rent four-bedroom homes exclusively for themselves and decide to exclusively use folding tables for any and all surfaces.”
“Someone renting a $3,000 high-rise luxury apartment in a big city and not knowing what a rug is for. It's such a waste of potential and at that point, I'd decorate for them for free,” he rages.
Unfortunately, posts that try to break out of the monotonous collage of exposed brick and leather sofas are quickly downvoted and while laughing at ludicrous shoe display setups is fun in itself, the fear of being a post on a Twitter account mocking bad interior design might be part of the reason why men don’t bother expressing themselves in this way in the first place.
The man blasting Bowling for Soup while leaving his curtains to fly free is undoubtedly having a better time than the man struggling to place fairy lights in his home to give the right kind of bohemian vibe. The man happily purchasing superhero blowjob art for his new man cave has a fulfilment in his life that no cynic will ever achieve.
*Name changed to keep anonymity.