Monday, February 15, 2010

Interior design is a battle of the sexes

Interior Design
Interior DesignWhen interior designer Susan Stutheit sits down with her clients, she starts by asking them to define their priorities about the space.

Is it going to be a place for entertaining?

Will there be a television in the room?

Who will use the room the most?

Usually she is able to find some middle ground between husbands and wives.

And that's the starting point.

Today's homes are made to accommodate families, but it's not unusual to have separate spaces for men and women - sometimes within one room, sometimes in separate rooms.

The division of the sexes at home started in the Victorian era. Upper-and middle-class homes had several gender-specific rooms - a sewing or tea room for the women and a smoking or billiards room for the men.

That 19th century floor plan couldn't be more different from the suburban American 1950s layout that emphasized family space - and a place to watch television together.

Houses don't have to be all of one or the other, according to Stutheit.

Stutheit, a designer at Sutter Place Interiors, sees a variety of options for couples who wish to have individual areas in their homes.

A new trend in master baths, for example, is completely separate spaces instead of the traditional double-sink vanity.

"Women like a place for their makeup and electric appliances that is apart from the guy's area," she said.

Men then have their own sinks, usually near the shower. And, yes, the area may include a small TV.

"Men really like to have a television set in as many rooms as possible," she said with a laugh.

Kitchens, which often are connected to family rooms, now are much more than just the center for meals. "Women often set up their own space, with a place for a laptop, desk or comfy chair for reading," Stutheit said.

If the kitchen is used by two cooks, it is a completely different dynamic. In that case, the area may be divided by tasks - baking or food prep or even a coffee nook.

Other combination spaces, such as a large master bedroom closet, can have gender-specific areas, too.

One way to do that is with customized storage and finishes.

On the guy's side, tie and belt holders, robe hooks, cedar blocks and built-in drawers in a cherry finish.

Women may prefer more shoe cubes, a jewelry insert and bins in decorative prints, which may hold purses.

Sometimes the seating solutions chosen for a room hint at who is going to spend the most time there, Stutheit said.

Women love sofas, she said. They like to curl up and get comfy.

But the "man chair," which may be a recliner or an oversized chair and ottoman, signals this is a guy space, she said.

Having an entire room to yourself is a luxury, but extra bedrooms often are pegged as craft or hobby rooms. They generally are designed for women, and the style reflects that.

Basements, on the other hand, are usually the domain of the man in the house, and the decor reflects that - with a large-screen television or even a spectacular workshop.

In a 2008 National Association of Home Builders study, done before the economic downturn, specialty spaces were becoming more important.

The mudroom, separate laundry rooms and spaces for kids' projects were listed as well as spaces for adult children and aging parents.

With the trend toward smaller homes and remodeling existing spaces, it is hard to tell who will actually end up with any extra square footage in today's homes.


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