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His 'n' Hers Homes: Why Separate Spaces Bring Couples Together

It’s more than having a sink of one’s own. Interior designers and architects are creating separate spaces that simultaneously reflect differing tastes and bring couples together in their home

The growing trend for separate ‘his and hers’ spaces, including bedrooms, bathrooms, dressing rooms and studies, might suggest that when space and money are no issue, all we really want is a room of our own. It could even be seen as a desire to lead separate lives, as is quite possible in a penthouse designed by BradyWilliams studio at The Hempel in Bayswater, where the two master suites each occupy their own floor and even have separate entrances. 

But architect and designer Charu Gandhi sees more than binary division in the master suite. There is actually something rather romantic, she thinks, about his and hers spaces. It’s about using clever design to bring together a couple’s different “interests, habits or timings”, says Gandhi, who in her previous role with Candy & Candy (and now as director of her own design studio Elicyon), has transformed many of the apartments at One Hyde Park.
“It’s the symbolism of being separate but together. 

A couple can indulge their individuality, but they don’t want to do any less together. The focus is on making the relationship work,” she says, having designed bespoke mattresses that are divided down the middle to suit different desires for firmness, and wall-mounted TVs on each side of the bed, “so one partner can sleep and the other watch with their headphones on”. 

She has also created bathrooms with two distinct but harmonious sides – denoted in accents of nickel for him and gold for her – which meet in the middle with a shared bathtub, and furniture that indulges each partner’s hobby. “In Ebury Square, we designed a freestanding bar cabinet for the man’s whisky collection, and a more delicate interpretation for the lady to house her antique crystalware,” says Gandhi. “His and hers spaces are very much about indulging each other. Everyone has their sanctuary – whether it’s their study or wine room, a flower-cutting room or a gift wrapping room – that helps them relax and adds value to family life.”

If it’s all about customising your personal space, nowhere is that seen more acutely than dressing rooms. ‘Hers’ often look like luxury stores, as seen in designer Sophie Paterson’s vision for the apartments at W1 London, a new boutique development in Marylebone. “Many female clients want a display area within their dressing room to store bags or shoes. We create niches specific to the dimensions of their favourite Birkin or Jimmy Choos with lighting designed to highlight these key pieces,” says Paterson, who has installed sitting areas, fridges and even mini kitchens within dressing rooms. 

While women like to showcase certain items and want “fluidity” in the design, “to accommodate future purchases or seasonal changes”, she says, men like dedicated slots for each of their items, with high gloss and dark veneers. Add watch winders, leather-clad cufflink storage and cedar backings – which act as a natural moth repellent – to the wish list, comments Graeme Martinow, director at the architecture and interior design practice Boundary Space. The ultimate luxury for her? “Refrigerated fur storage,” he says. “A must if you need to keep your fur in peak condition.”

Separate bathrooms have similarly become havens for each half of a couple to express their tastes and habits. Designer Janine Stone describes one female client’s Calacatta marble bathroom, with an antique Venetian mirror and ice blue slipper chair, as “a symphony of glamour and indulgence”. His bathroom, on the other hand, is “unapologetically masculine, from the basalt vanity unit, walnut panelling and cabinetry to the copper roll top bath and dark chinoiserie detailing”. 

All tastes and whims can be catered to in the new wave of super-sized bathrooms, however, which are of similar proportions to the sumptuous master bedroom they sit next to. In the recently sold Carlyle Penthouse at Chelsea Creek,  the Artelior-designed 200 sq ft bathroom – entered through a walk-in wardrobe – includes elegant tub chairs with a side table for candlelit drinks, a TV panel built into the wall and surround sound speakers in the ceiling. Integrated technology tends to be high on men’s wish lists, whatever the room, which includes screens and even phones in showers.

Mark Parkinson from property search specialist Middleton Advisors recalls one feature that surprised him – a separate exit out of the property, directly from the man’s bathroom-dressing room. “If he has to leave early for work, he can sneak out without disturbing her,” says Parkinson. Decide for yourself whether that’s romance – or a handy way out.