When Enno DeRoos bought a four-bedroom house in Oyster Bay, he had to start from scratch when he decorated it. DeRoos was divorced, and had brought nothing from the home he'd shared when he was married. The now-single father doesn't advise doing things this way.
"Don't leave everything behind," says the 48-year-old business owner. "Bring everything that has value to you and can characterize who you are and what is important to you." This is especially true for parents, he says. "Bring the small things that are important -- things that have a connection to the other house, so the child can find that connection also."
Starting over after a breakup has its challenges, but also some undeniable perks: When there's only one head of the household, there may be emptiness but also new possibilities -- ones that only arise in the absence of a partner. As Mark Epstein, a Manhattan-based designer with a home in Water Mill, says, "Suddenly, one of them is freed from that additional person's choices, and it's like, 'Wow. I can do whatever I want.' "
Well, yes, but definitely within limits. Liberating though a return to bachelorhood may be, a guy would do well to remember a handful of traits that can distinguish a man's house from a frat house: practicality -- its suitability to his day-to-day needs; personality -- the individual touches that make it feel like home; and, yes, affordability -- a must, since splitting up tends to limit a man's budget.
Here's a sampling of spaces designed for post-relationship living -- guy style.
TWO-BEDROOM APARTMENT: Great Neck
It took Howie Zwang, 44, only two weeks to decorate his two-bedroom apartment in Great Neck. After separating from his wife, he wanted to create a warm second home for his sons, ages 16 and 13. With their input, he planned the space decisively. Then he shopped furniture chains and found pieces that suited his needs from Ashley Furniture. He says he wanted an elegant and inviting home, so home accents and sports memorabilia are thoughtfully placed.
Zwang owns Gotham T-shirts, a custom screen printing business. The apartment's proximity to work, town and public transportation made it a practical choice. "My business is in Glen Cove, my country club is in Roslyn. I'm a four-minute walk from a great little town full of culture. . . . I'm two blocks from the train station," he adds. His second bedroom has bunk beds for the boys. That leaves enough space for a sofa and ottoman, where they can watch TV and play video games on their 44-inch HDTV.
Zwang decided a men's parlor with club chairs and a granite-topped bar made more sense for his new lifestyle than a traditional dining room. Heirloom sports collectibles and original artwork show what he's all about.
"I own a business, I'm successful, I work hard," he says. "I picked out all my furniture from Ashley. . . . It's good-quality . . . at a great price within my budget."
ONE-BEDROOM APARTMENT: Bay Shore
When Philip Sciortino, 51, separated from his wife and moved into a one-bedroom Bay Shore apartment, his top priority was to show his kids, ages 21, 18 and 15, that his door is always open. So one of his first purchases was a pair of sleeper sofas from Raymour & Flanigan for overnighters. Sciortino, who owns a tax and financial planning company in Levittown, says he wanted a no-fuss, pulled-together look, so he sought out matched sets. He scored coordinating seating for the kitchen, as well as a bedroom set from Bob's Discount Furniture. "What's important for anyone going out shopping -- buy as much as you can that matches all at one time, rather than try to piecemeal it together later," he says.
Sciortino chose a clean, well-maintained apartment that the landlord had freshly painted and carpeted. "It's within my budget, it's comfortable and I'm in a location right off Main Street in Bay Shore," where he enjoys the bustle, Sciortino says. He makes the most of the space with multifunctional furnishings, such as the sleeper sofas and a storage chest from Marshall's that doubles as an end table.
Sciortino's individuality shines through in his living area, with a makeshift putting green, a turntable and a guitar. "Sitting Duck," an amusing Michael Bedard print, shows his sense of humor. "And I have pictures of my kids on my dresser," he says. "I'm going to get some really cool pictures of my kids, head shots, black and white, and put them on the wall somewhere. I'd like to see that all the time. It would make me happy."
Sciortino brought almost nothing from his previous home, so to stay on budget, he had to prioritize: Coordinated furnishings were important to him, but matching kitchen items were not, he decided. He picked up mismatched dishes from the clearance table at Bed, Bath and Beyond. "They were good enough for the price. Down the road I'll get a nicer set, but in the meantime, as long as I have something to put my chicken on, I'm good to go," he says.
FOUR-BEDROOM HOUSE: Oyster Bay
This is no bachelor pad -- it's a family home. Enno DeRoos says his first order of business was to create an environment where his 13-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, could feel comfortable, secure and happy. He enlisted Locust Valley designer Susan Bloom to help him make that a reality.
DeRoos says he wanted his home to exude warmth and coziness. "The colors that are in there make it very warm," he says. Updating the living room fireplace with a custom wood surround calls attention to this coziest of focal points.
Four bedrooms plus an attic offer plenty of space for DeRoos' relatives to visit from overseas. And the home was built to last, says DeRoos. "It's low-maintenance because it's a stucco home, a solid home that has been there for 100 years," he says.
In the dining room, a Kingston valance with panels, green damask wallpaper, a custom area rug and a round wood table suit DeRoos' traditional tastes, while the fresh fresh green and blue color scheme in Gabrielle's room shows off her youthful energy.
Bloom saved her client some money by incorporating some estate sale pieces and antiques into the design. DeRoos' property includes a cottage, which he rents for extra income.
Advice from the experts
It's not uncommon for a breakup to mark a man's first decorating foray beyond the media room, says Water Mill designer Mark Epstein. If your idea of a tabletop accessory is a universal remote, you're a decorating rookie. Can't afford to hire a pro? Here they offer free advice:
Before you splurge on that California king mattress or giant flat-screen, please measure. "They always want a king-size bed, but they don't think about the size of the bed in the room," says Epstein. "Rethink the scale of the pieces and rework the floor plan in a creative way," says Roslyn designer Mercedes Courland.
Courland says window treatments are "always the last thing a man thinks of," but they're one of the first things you'll need. If you need more time to decide, start with blackout shades -- you can add treatments later, Epstein says.
"Remember to create the space when you come home at the end of the day where you can empty your pockets, plug your phone in to recharge," says Epstein. Try a tabletop tray to corral your items.
Add some color
Epstein says men tend to gravitate toward "every single item that's brown." Break it up -- maybe add some green, he suggests.
Even if you're satisfied with eating over the coffee table, "get a proper table for eating on," says Epstein. That's extra important for guys who have kids or plan to bring a date over -- but even when dining solo, a man should have a place to spread out the Sunday paper and have a bagel, he says.
"They should add maybe some art, some books, accessories that are cohesive with their interests," says Epstein. Books are an inexpensive way to do that. "Books are almost animate objects. They add personality and bring company to the now companionless environment," he says.