In an effort to neutralize the strenuous coupling that comes with Valentine's Day, the New York Times this week profiled interior designers like Susan Manrao and Deirdre Dyment who have found a niche in the market designing homes for freshly divorced men. Not bachelor pads, mind you, but practical living spaces where they can do fun dad stuff like make pizza from scratch the weekend they have the kids, and otherwise do bachelor stuff like seduce sophisticated ladies with fine wine and cursory discussions about the abstract tribal mask their interior designer hung over the living room mantle. Women like Los Angeles' Susan Manrao and New York's Kimberlee Paige Hanson (founder of Interior Bliss Design as well as its lewd cousin Sexy Bachelor Pad) specialize in re-integrating divorced men into independent living, making sure their new homes aren't full of folding chairs and pictures of them climbing Mount Kilimanjaro like it's some big fucking deal that they can afford a plane ticket to Kenya and some new Timberlands. In many instances, these designers say their efforts go beyond mere decorating — they act as therapists, helping these broken men piece their lives back together. Manrao says of her divorced men projects, "I realized my role in this project wasn't simply to design a space, but to help rebuild a home." A home that a newly single 40-something man can bring dates back to without making them feel sad for his bleak, solitary existence. Sometimes, however, Manrao admits that her clients are a little too impressed by her homemaking prowess and see her as a possible servant mate, which is when her purposefully deployed engagement ring comes in handy.
But what if Manrao didn't make a point of wearing her engagement ring, or, even better, what if it was just a prop that she used to fend of her lonely clients? Well, then you'd have the makings of a fine romantic comedy in the vein of The Wedding Planner...something that would go a little something like this:
A conservatively-dressed and attractive woman (probably played either by Rachel Bilson or Kristen Bell) is being interviewed on a major morning show. She explains that she designs homes for a niche clientele of recently divorced men and adds some flourish that makes her job sound more like an altruistic urge than work — "I just want to give them a fresh chance at love." The interviewer (probably a totally hammered Hoda Kotb) asks something like, "So, with all those eligible bachelors around, have you ever..." but Rachel Bilson/Kristen Bell cuts her off and says she has some strict rule about not dating clients.
"Not ever — I have a strict policy about not dating clients [besides, I'm super young and they're all old and sad]."
Cut to Bilson/Bell struggling through a pole dancing class at a chic Manhattan gym called Solstice that her quirky best friend [Aubrey Plaza] has dragged her to. BFF discusses her own sex life in a crass, vulgar way, irritating the incongruously prudish Manhattan women around them. BilBell tries to shush BFF, but BFF says something like, "Oh, you're just mad because you haven't had sex in a year!" The other women in the room hiss and shush her. BFF says, "We're in a POLE DANCING class, ladies! Context clues!"
BilBell is alone at home. She sets a bottle of Kendall Jackson Reserve Chardonnay next to a single wine glass and puts a single Lean Cuisine frozen meal in her microwave. She watches it sadly, probably absorbing more microwave rays than a healthy human should. (Alternate screenplay: BilBell turns into a mutant from all the microwave rays she's absorbed over the course of her lonely single life and goes on a Manhattan happy couple murdering spree.)
A new client calls BilBell — he sounds like a douche and is probably played by Kevin Dillon. He is actually enlisting BilBell to help his best friend [Patrick Dempsey], who has just moved to Manhattan from the Westchester home he shared with his now estranged wife and preternaturally (verging on creepily) intelligent 5-year-old daughter [are there more Fannings?].
Patrick Dempsey tells BilBell that he needs a bachelor's pad because he's a big time finance big timer and wants to sleep with a lot of ladies. BilBell takes notes diligently on her pad of graph paper but her internal monologue tells us that she thinks PD's a total boner. She tells BFF about it later, but BFF isn't so quick to judge and, later that night when they're out on the town for drinks, they run into PD and BFF shakes his hand flirtatiously. When he leaves she says, "He is totally hot." BilBell denies but BFF isn't BFF for nothing and knows that BilBell like-likes him.
The next day, BilBell engages in a getting ready for work montage that confirms our suspicion that she suffers from mild to moderate OCD and her rigorous schedule masks deep-seated insecurities stemming from an eyebrow catastrophe during high school senior photos. She arrives at PD's apartment in Gramercy or wherever and realizes that he has good taste. She also meets his daughter who says something creepy to her like, "Did you know the average land speed of an African gazelle is 40 miles-per-hour but in Kenya they measure distance in kilometers? You have pretty hair like my American Girl doll. Can I have a lock of it for my scrapbook?"
Looking over the project, BilBell realizes that the apartment, though beautiful and lofty or something else that sounds charming to people familiar with Manhattan real estate, is a total money pit. Turning this apartment into a bachelor's pad will test all of her interior designing acumen.
BilBell and PD's working relationship is contentious at first, but eventually they bond when they try and fail to fix a broken bathroom pipe. They get soaked with gross water, laugh, order Thai food, and sit Indian-style across from one another, talking about heady relationship stuff. Some blocking mechanism is eventually triggered when ex-wife Marissa Tomei reveals that she and PD are in reality only separated. BilBell's mad about that for a while but eventually reconciles with PD in an airport/Times Square/coffee shop where they met/Sur La Table depending on the movie's budget. BFF and Kevin Dillon remain cynically single, but the filmmakers somehow intimate that they'll get together or at least do it a few times because they share a discreet affinity for 80's shock rock band Gwar. BilBell goes back on the morning show with her new Patrick Dempsey husband and they talk about how successful their interior design reality show — Designing for Two — is, how lucky they are to have found each other, and how sad it is that people actually live alone.
(Note to anyone who wants to steal this idea: you're welcome and I'll leave the titling to you.)
In Dire Need of Design [NY Times]
Image via action studio/Shutterstock.