Like Martha Stewart with a Scotch and a Stogie

This is being marketed as a “Potpourri for Men”. Let us be perfectly clear: THAT IS NOT FOR MEN. Read on for some suggestions that don’t suck.

Okay, confession time. How many of you have had to surrender your decorations, or move them to your man-cave, in favour of doilies, scented candles and giant ferns? How many of you are embarassed to greet your friends in your own living rooms because of the bowls of potpourri that somehow replaced your three-foot-long model of the U.S.S. Missouri? (Hey, come to think of it, where IS the Mighty Mo, anyhow? I haven’t seen her in a while…)
Well fear not, Hoons. Not only are we here to help, but we have enlisted a spy to help us in our covert mission to try and reclaim some of our own houses. She is sympathetic to our cause, and knowledgeable in these things. Her condo features both scented candles and Matchbox cars displayed prominently. A big flat-screen and decorative pillows. Paintings of flowers and a framed macro close-up of the hood ornament from a 1955 Pontiac Chieftain. And she is helping us Hoons to move out of the man-cave, and to do so with enough class that we even seem like we belong.
Step One: Agreement

I think an old car fits nicely into any decor, personally.

The first step, obviously, is to address the problem. This could take some time, as it’s more effective to make mention of the subject and then drop it. Women notice everything, so saying something like “You know, I just don’t feel comfortable in this room. It has nothing of ME in it. It’s like I don’t even live here.” and then heading sadly to your man-cave will let her realize that there is a problem.
You will need to identify a few decorations that you find particularly offensive. These will frequently be bowls of potpourri, photos of chubby babies, or things involving lace with no discernible purpose. Make sure she finds you staring at it at some point, looking contemplative. When she asks what the problem is, say simply, “I really don’t like this. Not at all.” this may lead to a small argument, but remain rational about it. Use the word “feel” a lot: “I can’t help it; that’s just how I feel.” If you play it right, she’ll start to understand that all those chubby babies stuffed into hollowed out vegetables give you the creeps.
Step Two: Analysis
The next step involves some careful observation; you must determine your lady’s tastes in decorating, as this determines the direction of your project. Your significant other may like many bright colours, or metal finishes, or warm woods, or plain monochrome designs. This is what you need to determine, I can’t help you here; every woman is different, and you are going to have to try being observant.
Once you’ve made that realization, you need to tailor your new projects towards her tastes. But whatever it is, there is a simple rule that needs to be followed: Everything needs to have a place.
Step Three: Understanding
Creativity is key to displaying these properly.

Let’s put this in context. If you’re building a proper shop in your garage, you can’t just dump all your tools in piles on the workbench. Not only is it inconvenient if you need to quickly find your oil filter wrench, but it makes it embarrassing if you have visitors. Let’s face it, if you have a proper garage, car-guy friends like to hang out in there, have a beer, and smoke a cigar. That simply can’t be done if you have tools just lying in piles everywhere. So you invest in a good tool-chest to store them in, and organize them in a way that makes them logically easy to find for you.
Your significant other probably takes a similar approach to decorating her rooms; as such, if you walk in with an old piston, covered in grease, and tell her it would make a great centerpiece for your dining room table, you’re going to get kicked in the nuts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Now, we’re going on the assumption here that you have a man-cave in addition to your garage. (If not, and you haven’t managed to make your garage serve double-duty, well, there may just be no hope left for you.) Since you’re here, we’re also going to make the assumption that it is decorated in various tributes to automobilia; if not, it’s not important.
If your man-cave is appropriately decorated, it probably sticks out like a sore thumb. And as any designer on those home-decorating channels will tell you, a good design must be able to flow through the entire house. The fact that your room doesn’t fit with the rest of the design is a failure of you and your spouse to work together to be harmonious. You need to find ways to make your two design styles work together, so that your various motifs can be seen throughout the house, indicating the ability of the two diverse aspects of your relationship – yours and hers – to come together and comingle in a way that creates something beautiful together.
Okay, I just made all that crap up, and I’m kinda proud of it. Try those lines on your spouse, let me know how it works.
The important thing, however, is to realize that she has a place for everything, just as you would with your tools. As such, you need to work with her to place your pieces of art. Now let’s look at your artwork.
Step Four: The Projects
So. Here’s the tricky part. You think you’re not artistic, you think you’re not creative enough to make these things work. But you are, you just need a bit of help.
Even a rock can be art if properly displayed.

Anything can be art if it’s given its proper respect. The idea is to turn the object from something mundane into something special. A simple example to start is this gift my friend, a teacher, received when they built a new school to replace the one he worked in. When the old school was torn down, the principal collected pieces of the exterior walls – really just concrete lumps – and arranged them nicely inside an acrylic box. He added the school logo and a label saying it was from the exterior walls of the school, and gave them out to the staff as presents. Virtually everyone has them displayed appropriately somewhere.
There is no reason something similar couldn’t be done by a car guy. Indeed, I wish I had thought of it earlier. I have a cracked piston from a Chevy 327 kicking around somewhere that may or may not have been the result of a little too much fun in a ’63 Impala. With a great deal of cleaning and polishing – and who doesn’t love a reason to break out the Dremel? – and a careful mounting on an appropriate base, it could have been a beautiful item for a bookshelf.
Speaking of books, virtually every car guy has magazines sitting around, and virtually every car guy has been yelled at to throw them all out. If so, this is an indication that you aren’t displaying them correctly. A nicely-organized storage rack can work wonders in solving this tension, but one suggestion we received sounds even better. Since there’s probably a particular magazine that you are keeping for a specific reason, or maybe a few of them, they should be displayed in such a way that the reason is obvious. A friend suggested investing in a very cheap podium, like they use in libraries to display a particularly huge dictionary. Place a few magazines on this podium, and place it neatly and unobtrusively in a corner of a sitting room. Seek feedback from your spouse; odds are good, if the podium is nice and the presentation is tasteful, you will meet with only minimal resistance if you’re willing to compromise on placement.
Step Five: Advanced Projects
Morning adventure becomes proper artwork.

So once you’ve broken the ice and managed to integrate some pieces of automobilia into the rest of the house, you may want to take on some greater challenges. If you’re lucky, you have the kind of spouse who recognizes your passion for what it is, and will begin making suggestions for better ways to incorporate automobilia into her decorating schemes, and will give you some tasteful items that will soften the testosterone overload of your man-cave in a stylish way.
If you can take your project to that level, it’s time for some advanced projects.
In the first case, the project itself is simple, cheap and effective. The challenge is in getting it started. Now I know that Graverobber, Murilee, Mad_Science and myself are all blessed with spouses who tolerate our old-car obsessions. In my case, however, I have a significant other who helps with it. If you will recall, a few months ago I went to an auction looking for an Audi Quattro Coupe; while I didn’t find it, my significant other and I did manage to get some great photos. This past weekend, we discovered that several stores were having sales on picture frames.
With a bit of picking and choosing, and some creative selection – I just grabbed all the photos that I took in “portrait” not “landscape” mode – we selected some photos and frames. A quick crop here and there, a minor touch-up and a second run to London Drugs for a bigger version of one photo, and voila. We have art.
Why, it almost looks like I know what I'm doing!

Now sure, you can download my photos and turn them into your own wall-hangings. You can also rely on some of the beautiful work done by the Saucy Minx, but if you do, you’re kinda missing the point. The point is the experience. Taking some great photos for the sake of creating artwork can actually be fun, but more importantly because you’re doing it together it’s more likely that you’ll be allowed to hang said artwork in more prominent locations.
Step Six: The Masterpiece
If you can manage to achieve this final level, you are my personal hero, not just because the skills are beyond my grasp – I admit it, I can’t weld, never even tried – but because the actual act of making it look good is so challenging.
They opened a new Bed Bath and Beyond in West Edmonton Mall recently, and since neither I nor my significant other had been in one before, we investigated. In mere moments we concluded that it was pretty damn boring; like a tacky, cheap version of the top floor of a Hudson’s Bay Company store. But there was one piece that caught my eye.
Let's call it art. Not "scraps", art.

These pieces of art were listed for some appallingly high price. Let’s say $300, just for the sake of argument. Many women were commenting that they thought they were beautiful and would love to have them, but the price was simply too high. They’re absolutely right. They are, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than spare pieces of scrap metal tack-welded together. But it got me thinking.
With a bit of work, why couldn’t something similar be done with spare auto parts? Piston rings, rear-end gears, transmission valves, main-crank bearings, brake calipers, valve-springs. Any of these pieces can be quite beautiful when viewed right and cleaned up nicely.
This, then, is your mission. If you want to earn your Master’s Degree from Hooniversity, you must make this piece of art, and get it prominently displayed in a non-man-cave portion of your house, with your spouse’s endorsement.
No, they're not going to remain sitting on the couch. Well, probably not.

Already accomplished that? Email me the proof, I’d love to see it.

51 Comments

  1. I'm liking this 'tack-welding things together' idea, I'll admit.
    I also need to get my mass of debris sorted before I can begin to consider a 'decorating style', and it'll likely be a bit too computer-geeky, but hey! There might be hope.

    1. You can build a pretty snazzy clock out of a craft-store clock kit and some hard drive platters. Bonus points if you can make the heads work as the hour and minute hands.

    1. Use the engine block as the base for your new coffee table! Add a nice thick piece of glass and voilà! Table!

      1. Quite possibly the only coffee table I have ever wanted to buy/build was one a local shop had featuring a flat-6 for a base. Being flat it was short enough to be coffee table height, and with barrel carbs at each end it was very stable. Something like this, but y’know, outside the car with glass on it.

      2. Probably the only coffee table I have ever wanted to buy was a flat-6 with barrel carbs that a repair shop near me had thrown together. Being flat it was low enough to the ground to be perfect coffee table height, plus the two ends are far enough apart to make quite a sturdy table. The hard part is finding someone willing to part with a Porsche engine for zero dollars.

      1. All sorts of other companies specializing in appealing to feminine tastes have "for Men" lines, so why not Glade?
        I'm thinkin' burnt rubber, bacon, fishing trip…hell, they should hire me as a consultant! I'd only ask for $500k. A week.

        1. Diesel fumes, hot engine, clean dog, gunpowder smoke, new leather jacket, fresh sawdust while you're cutting 2×4's during a framing job, fresh asphalt, I could go on and on.

    1. I was in Yankee Candle around Christmas, and they offer a candle scent like that. I was impressed.

  2. There is no such thing as "man pouporri." Sorry.
    I love the smell of gasoline and wish it came in an air freshener can, but my neighbors would evnetually get suspicious at their rapidly-sinking property values.
    Lastly, when I finally move out of the '84 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia camper of my dreams and into my very own "shaggin' pad," the first thing I buy besides the EuroCave SoWine Home Wine Bar will be this Haynes poster:
    <img src="http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/12/2009/10/500x_Haynes_Manual_Wall.jpg"&gt;
    It will go nicely with the Haynes AT-AT t-shirt a friend shipped to me from Ol' Blighty, because it is far too awesome for Americans to fathom without immediate cranial detonation.

  3. Hilarious and interesting article. I have always had a little automotive decor in my home, and I still do. I think the majority of it should be kept to a certain room, like office or den, but, if tastefully done, can look good wherever. My computer room would make most ladies shudder. There are posters of the Ford GT (imagine that), GT thermometer, GT clock, Coke sign, Pepsi sign, but also a feminine touch of flowers, etc. My living room has just a touch of automobilia. I have a toy Maserati race car that was driven my Wilbur Shaw at the Indy 500, and a few related items in a glass display case. The centerpiece on my coffee table is several dealership brochures of the Ford GT and a couple of NASCAR books. I don't care for potpourri. That's my take on this…..but I'm uncommon, you know.

      1. It took you a year? I guess you weren't crossing the t's or dotting the i's with some of the teasing I get at times.
        You can believe me and trust me. Oh, BTW, want some candy, little boy?

        1. What can I say? Was too distracted by all the cars around. I like Candy, could always use some. And BTW, I am not little anymore. I am in fact a ripe old 26 (soon to be 27).

    1. So you have a Coke sign and a Pepsi sign in your computer room? I'm surprised it hasn't burst into flames yet! We knew you were uncommon … uncommonly good!

  4. I have an aunt and uncle that are moderately well off, and they redecorate their house every decade, or so. Their house is in a very modern contemporary southwest style (Santa Fe type stuff). But in their living room amongst the painted wood floors, and the deer hydes that are draped over the end tables…there hangs a giant, metal silhouette of Chief Pontiac. It's an awesome piece! It's made from 1/8" steel that is painted red and has an "aged" look. I am just waiting for the day that they decide to remodel again, so that I can get my hands on that thing. It's going in my living room regardless of what anybody thinks. 🙂

  5. As Project House Hell nears a milestone — namely, the upstairs is nearing completion — I have started working on Mrs. engineerd to try to incorporate thing that I will like into the decor. We have things we both agree on being there, but there is still room for me to try to work some automobilia into our master suite. I hope I am successful.
    I can't complain too much, though. The one room that is [mostly] complete is painted in maize and blue, and features a miniature Michigan Stadium on the dresser. I would like to get a Michigan helmet to go in there once we move out and it becomes the guest room. Also, the office will [hopefully soon] be painted in USC's cardinal and gold and will feature a Trojans rug my dad got for me for Christmas. I have already selected some automobilia for that room, as well, including my Ford GT model.
    While none of this is set in stone, I can tell you that having a spouse that understands your obsession and working with her to incorporate things you both like makes this entire process so much easier.

      1. As a SoCal native from a family with deep Michigan roots, I grew up a very confused child. I get crap for my split allegiance, but it only matters once a decade or so when the two play each other at the Rose Bowl. Otherwise, the feeling about Notre Dame is mutual, and USC fans are none-too-fond of the boys from Columbus, either.

  6. Outstanding article. I will have to save this for my archive. A good place to start is art decco prints that have cars in them. I have a Monaco 1937 race along side a bicycle mfg co. Both are inexpensive and can also open a automobila theme door, or trunk or window, boot…..
    I have to say very well done with the framing of the old cars. I have worked at an art store in the framing department and have seen good work surrounded by terrible mats and frames. Taste is hard to come by.

  7. Dear god! All this sounds more complicated than US-China trade negotiations.
    * – Silently is glad of the fact that he doesn't have a significant other, apart from a GF.

    1. Very nice.
      I remember going in to a tyre shop years ago, and the centre piece of the waiting area was a coffee table made from an old F1 wheel + slick with a large circular piece of glass laid on it. I decided right there and then, that at some point I must build/own a piece of furniture like it. However, it’s not as easy to find a cheap F1 wheel as I had hoped!

    2. I have an old NASCAR Goodyear tire out in the garage that I've wanted to convert into something like this for a while. Where'd you get the glass?

          1. I'm sure it'd work, but I think looks better with a wheel.
            but since it's a NASCAR tire, then maybe it'd look cool just as it is. A Mustang tire alone isn't that special. lol

    1. Lemme check the spam folder.
      Long comments with lots of pics or links tend to end up there….sorry.

  8. I have the original vinyl from Dill's (my 65 Impala to those not familiar) seats. I have some tears in the driver bucket and to replace that meant buying a complete set, so I said f it and replaced the foam on all at the same time as the material…
    I have hopes to make something from the vinyl some day, be it a couch or use the tri-y pattern from one of the bucket to make a leather jacket that'd make the Fonz cry and slap his momma in the face… something will be down with it, OH YES!
    Other than that, I have these that go up in a prominent place whereever I live:
    [img]http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30427142&am

  9. I know I'm late to the party, but it's interesting that this post was brought up. A good friend of mine (and also on of my LeMons drivers) is unfortunately going through a divorce. He and I (and a lot of my other good friends) actually met through another automotive message board that I've now been a frequenter of for 12 years. Anyway, he has been pretty candid and open about his divorce on the board, and he mentioned that now that he's moving out on his own, he can finally put up some automotive related decorations in the house because his soon-to-be ex wouldn't allow it.
    This got me to thinking that I'm pretty lucky. My girlfriend made it a point to make sure I had things around the house that represented me and what I was interested in, and that it didn't become an estrogen-filled doily fest. She's pretty awesome. I took some photos of the car related stuff around my place (originally posted on the other board I mentioned):
    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/sopadilla/IMG_0162_Large.sized.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/sopadilla/IMG_0160_Large.sized.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/sopadilla/IMG_0161_Large.sized.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/sopadilla/IMG_0164_Large.sized.jpg"&gt;
    We have a framed photo of the Porcubimmer (given to me by my team members) in the hall, a framed version of the Hemmings article done on my LTD (given to me by my g/f for my bday, hung opposite her college diploma), my 1/18 scale models around the TV, and finally a framed photo of an abandoned Datsun B210 from Lost America in my bathroom. Not shown is a framed photo of an abandoned 1950s Ford truck that she gave me for my b'day.
    Of course not everything can go in the house, so the garage will be my domain. For the first time in my 30 years, I'll have my own garage big enough to work on cars. I'll finally be able to move all my tools and the Porcubimmer home with me! Just last weekend we cleaned up the garage and I'm working on creating my man cave. My friend (another LeMons driver) stole a soon to be disposed but perfectly functional tool box from the Navy base and I wasted no time in sticker-charging it with all the decals I collected at SEMA.
    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/sopadilla/IMG_0157_Large.sized.jpg"&gt;
    And all of my racing trophies now have a place to be shown.
    <img src="http://www.ltdlx.org/albums/sopadilla/IMG_0158_Large.sized.jpg"&gt;
    I'm very excited to have my own garage and to be able to work on a car without having to drive to my parents' place, and my girlfriend is happy to know that when I spend all day working on the Porcubimmer, I'll only be a few steps away instead of 30 miles away!

    1. Why do you have an Atlas sticker on your box?
      The Missus loves to have me around working on stuff. We're house shopping, and she's even gone so far as to strongly prefer places with a detached garage and driveway up the side of the house, so the she can see what I'm up to in the driveway from inside the house.

      1. My friend and I went on a decal collecting spree at SEMA this year and I just used all the decals I got. The bottom case isn't pictured. There's even a Honda Racing decal, heh.

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