Oct. 9, 2004. 01:00 AMELLEN MOORHOUSE
REAL ESTATE EDITOR
There's a perfect housewarming book out there for all the single men buying condos: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Capitalizing on the popular television show of the same name, this volume features the five gay lifestyle gurus: Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez, and their breezy wit and wisdom.
The result: 250 pages of straightforward advice on food and wine, decorating, dressing, grooming, dating, culture and just living in general. (The book was published earlier this year by Clarkson Potter and sells for $39.95.)
Too bad it's aimed only at guys. If you skip the advice on nose hairs and monobrows, this book has lots of useful advice for just about everyone, male or female, Gen-X or boomer, gay or straight.
Maybe you don't have a palate for wine and are oenologically challenged. Five pages in the book tell you how to order and sample it, provide the names of five types of whites and reds, and some sage advice: Let the sommeliers choose for you at a restaurant and don't be too concerned about vintage, since most wines are made to be consumed right away. (Tip: 1997 was a great year for reds.)
Maybe, like me, you've given up cooking because of schedules crowded by work and family. This book has a series of simple recipes for gourmet dinners that don't require anything more exotic than kosher salt and fresh herbs. Follow the instructions for presentation, and voilà.
The decorating section — 41 pages — offers basic principles and quick tips to follow. It also has a case study, where Thom Filicia helps a husband, partial to taxidermy, and a wife, who favours patchwork quilts and a "girly" aesthetic, find a way to live together in comfort. His felicitous solution: Mission style and a patchwork leather couch.
One of Filicia's recommended techniques, which would please decorating expert and New in Homes columnist Debbie Travis, is paint-on architecture. He points out that this can be intricate patterns, or can be as simple as exaggerating baseboards or creating door frames with paint in a standard-issue apartment.
In the makeover to mission style of the couple's house, Filicia used what he calls "hammer-on architecture." He installed battens at intervals around the wall, as well as baseboards, to create an Arts and Crafts look and inject style into a suburban house.
Filicia offers good advice on how to start a decorating venture: pick five favourite things around the house, and use these to determine your style and colour preferences; consider the light in your apartment; try to understand the way you use the space; and finally, window shop.
He discusses the challenges of lofts, and has five quick fixes (five seems to be the book's preferred number) to dress up any space: Have a lamp with a dimmer; a natural-fibre rug; beautiful art books, a vase with something simple and natural; and unscented candles.
The photographs and page layouts, with lots of quotes drawn from the text, tips and extended cutlines, make it easy to absorb the advice. And let's not forget the flippant irony that characterizes the show and permeates the text.
My advice to guys who want to dress up their digs or themselves: Put the book on your wish list for birthday or Christmas presents. My suggestion to women: buy the book for a male friend — but read the sections you're interested in first.