Men take pride in apartments, condos

The image of a "bachelor pad" as a halfway house between childhood home and marriage is quietly slipping into the background. More and more men are staying single longer, and many choose to live by themselves. There were 6.5 million men living on their own in 1979, compared with 4.9 million in 1975.

Those hole-in-the-wall apartments with a hot plate, mattress, and brick-and-board bookcases are metamorphosing into apartments, condominiums, and even houses with grdi storage systems in the kitchen, tweed sofas and teak bookcases in the living room, and antique coatracks in the bedroom.

To be sure, most men still start with castoffs from their family attic, but more and more are sprucing up what they do have and adding to it from trendy household goods stores with names such as Basics or Crate and Barrel. Even department stores, which formerly catered to established families and brides-to-be, have created areas aimed at young professionals (male and female) seeking easy-to-transport furnishings, fashionable kitchen products, and storage savers at midrange prices.

"The number of men shopping here is increasing all the time," says Carol Sapoznik, regional manager for Crate and Barrel in Cambridge, Mass. "On some Saturdays, we might have 50-50 men and women browsing.

"Men are setting up their own places, whether they are recent graduates with good jobs wanting a better life style, or newly single men who still want a good home environment," Ms. Sapoznik says. "There is a trend toward appreciating home."

Bob Compton, who works for IBM in Indianapolis, went into apartment living "cold turkey" after graduating from college.

"I arrived three years ago with a sleeping bag and suitcase," he says. After rooming with another IBM employee for a month, he found a spacious one-bedroom apartment. His parents gave him a hide-a-bed couch and a dining room table.

"I visited a friend in Boston and she helped me pick out plates and dishes," he says. "Now I have no trepidation in choosing my own things."

Then Mr. Compton grabbed his credit card, went to furniture stores, and rang up a bill that took him eight months to pay. Included in the purchases were a couch, ottoman, and bookshelves. Later he sold the hide-a-bed for a regular bed.He has framed some of the paintings he did in college.

"It took a full year to get my apartment to where I wanted it," Mr. Compton says. "Now I'm at a point where I will not mess with it until I get a boost in salary."

He says his story is typical of many young men starting out.

"It takes a year to get rid of the things [from college] that are not cool," he says.

Mr. Compton admits he is not too domestic, so he has not invested in much cooking apparatus.

"Cooking and cleaning is not the therapeutic for me like it is for some people," he says. "I eat out or have dinner at friends' houses."

"But I do have people over, and it is important to make a good impression," he says, recounting the time his branch manager stopped by on the way to a company softball game. "If I lived in a dive, I'd be embarrassed."

Other young men enjoy cooking and use the kitchen as a focal point in their apartments. John Piecewicz, who lives on Boston's Beacon Hill, says his kitchen is of utmost importance. It includes a Cuisinart and handmade cookware.

"I do a lot of entertaining," explains Mr. Piecewicz, who gave eight brunches in his studio apartment last winter. Vicki Steele, a neighbor and good friend, helped him arrange his antique furniture from his family with a new forest green sofa/hide-a-bed.Thin blinds and track lighting give the room a contemporary look.

Some people predict that the current crop of home-oriented young men will be surpassed by the next generation.Nancy Marks teaches home economics to 7 th-through 12th-grade boys in Ithaca, N.Y. They take on such projects as sewing pillows, reupholstering furniture, tending plants, and learning how solar energy can be used at home.

"I don't see a difference in how boys and girls approach things," Ms. Marks says. "The boys like it!"

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