Indie Living

For musician Kevin Whelan, living alone is a double-edged sword. “I enjoy the peaceful time,” he says, “and I dislike the peaceful time.”

For musician Kevin Whelan, living alone is a double-edged sword. “I enjoy the peaceful time,” he says, “and I dislike the peaceful time.” As a member of the indie rock group the Wrens, Whelan leads a double life. During the week, he’s a corporate guy, working in the regulatory policy and intelligence department at Pfizer. On his own time, he scribbles lyrics and melodies at the piano and plays the occasional weekend concert in Barcelona.

Since their first official gig as the regular band on the Cape May–Lewes Ferry in the early 1990s, the Wrens have sailed choppy seas. With the release of their second critically acclaimed, full-length album, Secaucus (Grass, 1996), the indie rockers seemed poised for a major breakthrough. Then a series of derailed contract negotiations and missteps—Grass Records’s new owner tried to get the band to sign a new contract, and the Wrens refused—brought the momentum to a crawl. Though the band continued to write music and perform at hot spots like Joe’s Pub in New York, it wasn’t until the release of Meadowlands (Absolutely Kosher, 2003) that critics again paid heed, calling the eclectic album a rite of passage for fans of emo music (a highly emotional punk subgenre). The band hasn’t released an album since, though they plan to release one in the fall.

Until 2004, the band lived together in a series of houses in Bergen and Hudson counties. But as band members got older, relationships and marriages pulled them away, one by one. The latest to go was singer/guitarist Charles Bissell, who, in his words, “relinquished my Garden State green card and moved to Brooklyn.”

Now, Whelan lives in a house just a few doors down from where his brother and bandmate, Greg, settled with his wife, Michelle, and infant daughter, Sophia. Forgoing his usual way of decorating with secondhand materials or “free stuff,” Whelan is trying to fix up the house since he purchased it two years ago. With the help of his family, he’s painted the first floor, patched a leak in the kitchen ceiling, and furnished the living room. But the house is still more of a music hub than home sweet home. Keys, sunglasses, and a passport are strewn across the piano, the second bedroom serves as a sound studio, the paneled basement is used for rehearsals, and the band’s road equipment lives in the dining room.

“We don’t have any curtains. We have amplifiers,” says Whelan, who admits he’d like to landscape the front yard, paint the exterior, and, he jokes ruefully, “get a woman in the house.”

Boy Toys

Beyond the giant flat-screen TV, Bose SoundDock, and cigar humidor, the frontiers of cool march on. —N.B.P.

Brunswick Billiards
What’s a bachelor pad without a few toys? Brunswick’s Astoria billiard table ($4,249) features inlays of burled maple, and you can customize your own by cloth color. At the Game Room Store, Fairfield (973-227-2245), Freehold (732-761-2520, 732-294-9944), Bricktown (732-206-0323), and Woodbridge (732-636-1111),

Home Wine Steward
If you have the finest vintage from a favorite French vineyard, you’ll want to show it off with this solid cherry wine-tasting table ($2,575). It features five drawers, two storage cabinets, and a spring-loaded, pop-up storage drawer to hold stemware. Made in Bordeaux, France, it has an earthy patina, warm wood tones, and compact size (43.5” W x 39” H x 16.5” D) that make it a handsome addition to any cocktail party. At Lloyd’s French Shop, 130 W Main St, Somerville (908-526-7788),

iRobot Roomba Scheduler Vacuuming Robot
Having a Roomba ($349.99) means never having to vacuum again. This smart machine quietly cleans your hard surfaces and carpets, including under furniture and other hard-to-reach spots. Its built-in sensor will even keep it from falling down the stairs. And the newest model (shown here) lets you know when it’s time to empty the bin. At Target, Sears, Brookstone, Sharper Image, Linens ’N Things, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

With 1950s television shows like Bachelor Father, in which a man raises his orphaned niece, the unmarried male started getting respect. Eventually Playboy founder Hugh Hefner breathed new life into old fantasies, while Doris Day and Rock Hudson gave bachelorhood a comic spin in Pillow Talk—shag carpet and all. Whether it’s your first time flying solo or you’re taking another crack at it, here are a few ways to feather your nest in style:

Color Coordinate
Rule of thumb: Choose three colors to use throughout the house, one dark and two lighter shades, such as chocolate brown, sea green, and beige. Make sure paint, furniture, and window treatments fit the palette.

Keep Furniture Simple
You won’t trade in your couch as often as your cell phone, so get back to basics with classic lines. Avoid heavy ornamentation, bold prints, or plaids; they get old fast. Leather is a durable, sophisticated choice for chairs and sofas. Just make sure you take your furniture for a test run before buying. There’s no need to push your new sofa and chairs against the wall. Position that love seat closer to the fireplace or coffee table to create an intimate space for date night.

Display Collectibles
Do you collect baseball hats or maps? Group favorite items together to create a conversation piece. Whether you hang your favorite framed autographs on the wall or line up model planes on a shelf, choose items you like seeing every day.

Clean It Up
Living alone is not a license for sloppiness. Don’t use your closets to hide piles of laundry. Don’t let dust bunnies move into your bedroom. Instead, get organized with bookends, storage bins, laundry bags, and shoe racks from shops like the Container Store. If you have time to clean only one room of the house before a big date, make it the bathroom. Periodically clean out the medicine cabinet and change the shower curtain liner. And don’t forget to wipe up after shaving. —N.B.P.

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