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By Dawn Wolfe
Are our homes reflections of who we are, or just a place to crash after a busy day? Do the colors we choose and that perfect chair, sitting in just the right place by the window say anything about our values, our outlook on life – or our sexual orientation?
BTL asked several prominent Michigan gays and lesbians to weigh in on one of the most vital questions of our times – do gays and lesbians decorate differently?
Sean Kosofsky, the director of policy for Triangle Foundation, has been in a lot of homes, both gay and straight. According to Kosofsky, the biggest decorating difference is found not between gays and lesbians, but between gays and straights.
“I think that gay men are far more likely than straight men to entertain and having a home that is presentable is important,” Kosofsky said. “A lot of straight folks have these really saccharine, sanitized homes out of a magazine. I’ve been far more likely to see queer folks with different forms of art or travel decorating their walls.”
“I would say that gay and lesbian people are far more likely to have homes that truly reflect their personality,” he added.
However, it didn’t take long for us to find another point of view on this weighty issue. Leslie Thompson, Affirmations Gay and Lesbian Community Center’s executive director, believes that there is indeed a difference in the decorating styles of gays and lesbians – and she has a gay decorator’s word to prove it.
“I do believe there is a difference between the decorating styles of gay men and lesbians,” she said. “Gay men tend to decorate with crystal or antiques – lesbians with sporting equipment and furniture they made by hand. I once had a gay male decorator tell me he didn’t work with lesbians any longer, because after he had finished with a house he went back over to take a look and they were storing a bicycle in the living room.”
Thompson did cite one similarity between her decorating style and the styles of her gay male friends.
“One thing that I do have in common with gay male decorating is our love for naked women art. I am always amazed at the beautiful breasts displayed on the walls of my gay male friends. I, too, have an extensive collection of art deco female nudes, but there is no way you will ever see naked men adorning the walls of my home,” Thompson said. “No offense, boys, but it is just not where my taste lies.”
Thompson said that she has found one similarity in the homes of her gay and lesbian friends – evidence of loving hearts.
“One thing I find we all have in common is the puppy dog curled up in the corner somewhere. No one’s home is complete without a rescued dog or cat happily greeting you upon arrival. Whether a gay man or a lesbian – we seem to have a special place in our heart for our pets,” she said.
Patrick Lombardi, director of volunteer services at Lansing Area AIDS Network, believes the issue is a matter of taste.
“It is always quite apparent to me when someone lacks style or taste, regardless of whether they are gay or straight. Not all gay folks are blessed with good taste, and based on my experience, not all gay folks taste good,” he said. “The same could be said for heterosexuals, although I’ve never had the opportunity to taste one.”
“Lesbian and gay men seem to have been assigned the ‘decorator gene’ stereotype,” Lombardi continued, “but I can say from personal experience, some were definitely shortchanged. Most of my straight friends are very tasteful people – but I think it has to do more with how they treat me, and not how they dress or decorate their houses.”
And Barb Murray, executive director of AIDS Partnership Michigan, doesn’t believe that orientation has anything to do with decorating styles.
“I don’t actually think there is a dramatic difference in the way people decorate, whether gay or straight,” said Murray. “My observation is that there are two styles – interior design to impress, and interior design of the ‘this is our nest’ variety. I believe my partner and I fall into the ‘nest’ category.”