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Single men spruce up life at home

''When I first left home my parents gave me a piece of advice: 'Don't buy cheap furniture,' '' says Dave Anderson of Hopkins, Minn. ''That inspired me and stuck with me.''

For the past 10 years, Mr. Anderson has collected both antiques and new pieces with traditional styling for his apartment. ''I've really enjoyed it,'' he says. ''I've learned a lot about furniture and what I like.''

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Increasingly, single men are discovering the satisfactions of domestic life, including cooking, entertaining, and putting more effort into housework, as well as choosing furnishings.

Today about 9 million American men live without female partners, nearly twice as many as a decade ago.

With the trend toward later marriages, single men are not waiting until they have a spouse to take their homes seriously, according to a report by Judith Langer, an opinion researcher who interviewed single men aged 21 to 55 in Boston , Chicago, Nashville, and Los Angeles. She found that many male householders, both divorced and never-married, have a sense of pride in their homes and apartments. Although few are concerned with perfect housecleaning, most do want their places to look respectable.

''To me it's important to love where I live,'' says Lionel Goulet of the Dorchester area of Boston, who owns a computer consulting business. ''I've always bought the nicest furnishings I can afford.''

Awaiting final divorce papers, Mr. Goulet is living in an apartment for a year while he looks for a new house. His desire to buy rather than rent is largely economic. ''Owning a house as a single person is absolutely essential,'' he says. ''I discovered that my third year out of college. Otherwise all your savings go to Uncle Sam.''

Housework is an activity almost everyone would like to sweep under the rug at times. But despite the sloppy-bachelor stereotype, neatness rates high for some male householders.

''It really bothers me if I come home to my apartment and it's messed up,'' says Paul White, a concert pianist and bank examiner in Boston. ''It's like a cluttered mind; it doesn't give me space to think.''

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Although he would like to hire a maid, he doesn't mind housecleaning. ''If you do it every day you don't get bogged down with it,'' says Mr. White, whose one-bedroom apartment includes mementos from his travels, such as statues from Rome and Milan and a cuckoo clock from Switzerland.

He makes a special effort to have his home in order when entertaining. ''It's not good etiquette to have a messy apartment when people come over. It makes them feel uncomfortable - it looks as if you were in the midst of something and they are intruding,'' he says. ''When I was in college I had a messy room. It was fun not caring,'' he continues. ''But you get to a certain point in your life when you decide, 'If I don't care about myself, no one else will.' ''

Although some single men prefer to take guests to a restaurant or club, entertaining in the home is gaining popularity as more men cultivate their culinary skills.

Daniel Rossmiller, a legislative aide and lawyer in Madison, Wis., enjoys cooking and usually invites friends to his apartment for informal gatherings about once a week. His specialties include Malaysian and Indian dishes. He is now experimenting with vegetarian cookery, using produce from a garden he shares with his girlfriend.

Unlike many single men who tend to avoid the kitchen unless they are entertaining, Mr. Rossmiller usually eats dinners at home. He goes food shopping about once a week. ''I get a lot of grief,'' he says. ''I'm a refunder and a coupon clipper.''

For some, transient life styles can delay the nesting instinct.

Jim Snipes, who is starting work with a law firm in Washington, D.C., has not lived in the same place for more than nine months since graduating from college 13 years ago. He is living in two unconnected efficiency units of an apartment building he owns and is looking for a single-family home with open space and a lot of light.

''After living out of footlockers and suitcases, first as a student and then as a consultant, I am looking forward to settling into my own place,'' he says.

In terms of furnishings, he says, ''I'm inclined to keep things simple. It's partly an aesthetic preference, but after living in Asia (on a Luce scholarship) I recognize the luxury of space. I don't want to be overindulgent by spending a lot of money on elaborate furnishings.''

A special place for guests is a priority for his new home, he adds, saying, ''Having been the guest of so many people, I'm looking forward to repaying the hospitality I've enjoyed over the years.''

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