Call it intuition. Women definitely have it! Instinctively, we can recognize what works well and what does not work well in our homes. Unfortunately, sometimes the people who build our homes are not as intuitive. That’s why national design firm Design Basics launched a new division called Woman-Centric Matters in 2006, a program which licenses and trains building contractors in how to understand and meet the needs of female homeowners and to market to female homebuyers.
According to Design Basics’ Director of Business Development Paul Foresman, most builders, engineers and architects are men, but they “have a difficult time identifying what women want in their homes—yet women are the decision makers,” he says. Woman-Centric Matters, however, strives to see every aspect of building a new home from a woman’s perspective. From choosing a home plan through moving in, they design the entire experience with women in mind. They first listen to what a woman wants in a home, then create it for her—often suggesting amenities that she may not even have considered but ends up finding invaluable.
Gordon Cudd of Gordon T. Cudd Construction is the only certified contractor representing Woman-Centric Matters in our area. He attended a training session sponsored by Design Basics focused on understanding what women want in their homes. “We learned how to speak their language,” says Cudd. “Sometimes things go right past men.” During this workshop, Cudd learned that a woman’s sensitivities are different from a man’s. He uses the example of closet space: “I have always been a big fan of walk-ins, but I thought that linen closets were the biggest waste of space there is,” he says.
Foresman explains four important criteria that home buyers consider when purchasing a home: the quality of the construction, brand names used, quality of the entire design, and customer experience. But customer experience tops them all! Most importantly, a home buyer wants a good working relationship with the builder, and appreciates one who realizes that every potential owner is an individual with specific needs. “A builder is successful if he empowers the home buyer with information to make wise decisions,” says Foresman.
Woman-Centric Matters builders re-evaluate products and amenities from a woman’s perspective. For example, products that are easier to clean or are low maintenance give us extra time. Closet systems and organizational products help us gain control. And quiet appliances and high-performance air filters contribute to our overall well-being.
Woman-Centric Matters also focuses on four distinct uses that women look for in their homes: de-stressing, entertaining, storing and organizing, and flexible living space. Amenities for de-stressing might include areas for personal getaways, a privately located master suite, large walk-in showers and a porch or work area in which to relax and pursue a hobby. When entertaining is a focus, a floor plan would include formal and informal rooms, outdoor patios and barbecue pits, kitchens large enough for guests to gather around, media rooms for watching movies and sporting events, and game rooms. For homeowners who are collectors and hobbyists, storage and organization are top priorities. Extra closet and shelf areas in the garage and laundry, a rear foyer with closets and storage space, the return of the old-fashioned kitchen pantry, and large linen closets are a must for these households. And a woman’s natural nurturing instinct and tendency to anticipate future events also means her home must be flexible enough to accommodate today’s needs as well as tomorrow’s—think living suites for elderly parents, flexible bed and bath arrangements for blended families, or a home office that might serve as a classroom for home schoolers.
To make it easier to visualize these different uses for different areas in the home, Woman-Centric Matters uses a color-coding system in their floor plan presentations: Areas for de-stressing are shown in blue, entertaining in yellow, storing in orange, and flexible living in green.
Woman-Centric Matters also provides information on the latest products available that are important to a woman—items that a woman wishes she knew about when planning the house, but the builder may not have considered. For example, today there are quieter appliances available. The garbage disposal does not have to sound like a cement truck and the dishwasher does not have to rattle and slosh. New appliances are designed to emit negligible sounds that do not overshadow conversations or background music.
Another item that tops a woman’s list is personal security. More secure locks and deadbolts are so often an afterthought. Garage amenities are often a late addition. But the decision regarding the size of the garage doors should be made early on. The standard garage door is 8 feet wide, yet a 9-foot wide door easily fits a larger SUV without folding the side mirrors in.
Woman-Centric Matters thinking also believes that motion switches should not be limited to high-end homes. Imagine arriving home from shopping late in the evening to an empty home and your hands are full. You can barely get the key in the door as you juggle several packages. As you walk in, the room lights up. What a pleasant greeting! The light comes on automatically because of a motion switch that detects your movement as you
Studies indicate that when a woman comes home after a day at work, she is beginning her second job. Her blood pressure actually rises three points when she walks in the door. Upon entering, what does she see? Usually it is a mess of keys, coats, boots and shoes, backpacks and briefcases. The back door entry area becomes a holding area for everyone’s “stuff.” Woman-Centric Matters suggests an alternative: a drop-off zone where family members can hang their coats, plug in their cell phones, dump their books and check their mail.
Which Type Are You?
With the help of Woman-Centric Matters, builders can learn how to identify a woman’s personality type and determine her specific needs. They have created four general types, each labeled with a feminine name. Though women can’t be pigeonholed into one particular style, the types help the builder narrow down the specific needs an individual might have.
There is the entertainer, Claire, who views her home as a showcase that will make an impression. Formal rooms, a gourmet kitchen and places for guests to gather are all important in the home design. She also needs adequate storage space for linens and tableware. Margo is a non-conformist who cares less about what people think about her home and more about having a place to recharge between work and social activities. An open design and easy maintenance are musts for her. While the home should accommodate children or grandchildren, it does not need to be built around them. Elise is very traditional and practical, and her design centers on the family and its day-to-day operations. Energy efficiency is a priority, along with easy-care surfaces and practical features. Maggie is all about fun and flexibility. She is a busy, activity-driven woman and her home is her refueling spot. Low maintenance and extra storage are musts here too.
These personality types provide clues to what room designs and amenities might suit the individual, and provide a stepping-off point when creating home plans. (To determine your personality type, go to the Design Basics website www.finallyaboutme.com and take their 5-minute test.)
Using the techniques he has learned through Woman-Centric Matters, Gordon Cudd has built a home at Bethel Estates illustrating several of their concepts. He says that any houseplan or design for an addition can be changed to make it more Woman-Centric. According to Gordon, his original houseplan naturally had several features that appealed to women. By adding a few more, he created his first Woman-Centric Matters house.
Every woman wants more natural light in the house. The addition of transoms, skylights and extra-large windows did just that. Pocket doors provide easy access and no waste of space in what would otherwise be tight quarters. And remember Cudd’s early opinion of extra closets? After learning about the Woman-Centric techniques, this home has plenty of closets—and even an old-fashioned kitchen pantry.
Cudd has learned to help a homeowner think of the details that she never would have considered before. They are often small things, but still very important facets of design. By understanding how a woman thinks, Cudd points out that the program has “enabled me to provide a better product.”
While focusing on a woman’s needs, Woman-Centric Matters is not just all about her. A woman is often perceptive enough to understand what makes an entire household run efficiently and harmoniously. She intuitively knows what is necessary to create a comfortable home not only for herself but for family and friends. Woman-Centric Matters makes the whole process of building a home or adding a room so much simpler.
Thank you to Jane Blickenstaff of Blickenstaff & Co. Realtors for helping to make this article happen. Jane, along with several other area realtors, was trained by Woman-Centric Matters to market these types of homes in our area. Jane was instrumental in helping Gordon T. Cudd Construction incorporate some of the Woman-Centric Matters-friendly features in the home pictured in this article.