What is a Woman-Centric Home Design?

What is a Woman-Centric Home Design?

“A guy must have designed this home. No woman would have designed it this way,” a comment overheard during a model home walk-through. The square footage was on par with nearby homes, as were the finishes chosen. Focused on construction efficiency, the builder was proud of his new model, having shaved days out of the construction timeline. But there were no windows in the bathrooms; when opened, doors blocked being able to walk by; and the bathroom linen “closet” was a joke. Gone was the decorative roof dormer with transom windows and brackets in the gables, the craftsman tapered porch columns had been replaced with simple 8x8 posts, and the uninspiring, raised 32-panel garage door was chosen by default.

Woman-Centric home design is rooted in addressing design-related issues women discuss with us, developing new, sometimes innovative solutions to those design challenges. Often, they deal with a home’s livability: making things easier such as a doorless shower (no door to clean!); giving back a little more time (e.g., a direct connection to the laundry room from your walk-in closet); and contributing to everyone’s well-being (increasing natural light levels). Just as frequently they address views and focal points, such as adding a gallery display to a hallway, reducing its perceived length; creating a small alcove at the doorway into your bedroom for visual privacy; and not entering your home from the garage just to be greeted by piles of dirty clothes strewn in your “laundry/mudroom.”

Woman-Centric home design appreciates both style and livability, form and function. Eliminating regrets is one way design is addressed. You love your new kitchen, until you realize there is no provision nor room for a pull out wastebasket drawer and you’re stuck displaying an unsightly tall kitchen wastebasket  that’s always in the way. Or the quandary of keeping kitchen countertops clean and uncluttered, while at the same time keeping small appliances readily available.

Inspired by women - what small appliances do you use most often? Wouldn’t it be great to have them ready to use, yet not cluttering your kitchen counters? Whether part of your walk-in pantry or a dedicated space just outside your main kitchen, a Small Appliance Center solves this dilemma elegantly!

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Appliance Center Concept

Design Basics has long been blessed by invaluable feedback from professional home builders and related tradespeople. Such feedback was, however, also a bit biased, though unintentionally, by the fact that it was mostly coming from men. Therefore, to achieve a more holistic view of home design and how people actually live in their homes, Design Basics goes out of our way to talk about every-day, real-world home design issues with women in the home building trades as well as female home buyers. Rather than being “sexist,” Woman-Centric home design is inclusive, soliciting and acting upon the design deficiencies and opportunities coming from all sources.

Back in 2003, our pioneering research into women’s preferences in the home uncovered the fact that women were primarily using four lenses when looking at a home’s suitability for her and her household. Other research shows women more easily get stressed than men and that women hold on to that stress more and longer than men. It’s no wonder then, aspects of the home and its design that can help her de-stress are design priorities.

In the Slater (plan #29333), the suite’s bayed sitting area, wet bar in the bedroom, sunset deck, plus two bathing options including a doorless walk-in shower in the bathroom can all help alleviate stress. (See also: De-Stressing Concepts in Bathroom Design; Is Your Home Stressing You Out?; I Need My Space!; Take the Stress out of Working from Home)

Entertaining is the second lens and is entwined with how she likes to entertain. Family get-togethers? Dinner parties? Having a few close friends over? The Slater’s open concept has a bit of formality with the columned, arched opening to the great room. A 10-foot high ceiling spans this area, including the dining and kitchen. And the rear patio has a roof overhead, so that the barbecue or study group plans need not be cancelled due to rain. (See also: Entertaining: Planning for Fun; Entertaining: Beyond Four Walls; How do You Like to Entertain?)

Slater - #29333

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While a home design may identify the intended use for a given space, you may envision that space differently. And some areas in a home can serve two purposes simultaneously. These are examples of flexible living, the third lens. If you work from home, the office suggested at the front would be ideal. Or perhaps you prefer the seclusion and location of the pocket office off the suite’s bedroom. Just as easily, that front office could be a spare bedroom, and the pocket office a second walk-in closet. (See also: Flex Spaces Save the Day!; Flexible Living: You Have Options; Flexible Living: Changing Households)

Slater - #29333 Alt Bath

Another example of flexibility are pre-configured floor plan options, such as the Slater’s optional bathroom layout with a larger walk-in shower but just one sink.

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The Slater’s 12-foot-high ceiling in the suite’s walk-in closet is high enough for three hanging rods + shelves, providing LOTS of storage, the final lens. According to women we’ve talked with, the three keys to storage are: 1) dedicating adequate square footage, 2) locating storage right where it is needed, and 3) organization within storage – think garage or closet organization systems  and kitchen organizing amenities. (See also: Storage...Just Imagine the Possibilities; News Flash - Storage Sells!; Your Garage: Vehicles vs. Storage)

Join us next time for an in-depth look at Woman-Centric home design!

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Entertaining: Planning for Fun

Entertaining: Planning for Fun

Some prefer to entertain formally; others thrive on deep, life-giving conversation with a few close friends; and some prefer topical get-togethers such as book clubs and study groups. But when it’s Friday night, after a particularly trying week, you really appreciate an invitation to a fun night at Maggie’s house!

Finally About Me“Maggie” is the name we gave to one of the four primary personas in our Finally About Me® design personas, which are uncannily accurate in identifying what people prioritize in their homes. Energized by being around other people, Maggies don’t tend to take life too seriously and are focused on fun, which is one of the reasons they’re so popular – they’re fun people to be with! Regardless of which of the four personas best describes you, we can all learn from Maggie when it comes to home design for fun-filled entertaining.

Where does the big-screen TV go? Maggies actually have a difficult time seeing themselves living in a particular home until this question is answered, because media-related entertaining is super-important for Maggie. More evident in modest-size homes, this can become a bit more important when you enter directly into the home’s primary entertaining space and the only pathway through the home involves interrupting viewers’ line of sight of the TV.

It could be the hottest must-see show or the Super Bowl. The Bloom (plan #29303) provides a traditional front entry hall to help direct traffic. Most people will put the big TV above the fireplace, though we sometimes hear complaints that such a viewing angle is uncomfortably high, inducing a sore neck.

Bloom - #29303 traffic pattern

Slightly larger in square footage, the Greenwich (plan #8621) provides space for your big screen TV alongside the fireplace in the family room. But by design, that family room doubles as a hallway, meaning everyone entering or leaving the home via the front door will interrupt TV viewers’ line of sight.

Greenwich - #8621 traffic pattern

A companion issue to where the big TV goes may be related storage for associated electronics, from sound systems to game consoles. Preferred by some home buyers, built-in storage may be open shelving, discretely placed within cabinetry, or a combination of the two. But due to today’s wireless technology, which do not require line of sight, audio/electronics closets have sprung up in many homes.

Then there are noise issues, whether your sound system is too loud, or other things in your home are too loud to enjoy that TV. If your island contains the sink and dishwasher, since there is no full wall for the dishwasher to back up to and help absorb its noise level, you may want to invest in a quieter dishwasher if that island is open to your entertaining space. If that TV and speakers/sound bar are mounted on the wall shared with your bedroom and your spouse wants to rest, you may want to talk to your builder about various soundproofing measures that can be taken to reduce sound transfer through that wall.  

Revenna Springs - #35079

The Revenna Springs (plan #35079) suggests built-ins on either side of the fireplace, a traditional approach when the TV will go above the fireplace. Or, the TV may be mounted directly above one of those built-ins. Notice also there is an audio closet off the hallway leading into the family room providing space for the necessary electronics, yet not necessarily right next to the big screen. And, that island sink and dishwasher are open to the family room. This is the time to spend more money to get a quiet dishwasher, so you don’t have to go elsewhere in the home to enjoy movies while washing dishes.

Finished Basements. In many households, and especially homes with an upstairs and a downstairs, two separate entertaining areas are essential. It could be a billiards room downstairs in a finished lower level and the great room on the main floor. It could be a finished room over the garage for the kids’ gaming, minimizing the noise interruption of your first-floor socializing. It could even be a separate main floor gathering area for your mom and her friends while you have neighbors over for a cookout.

The Tollefson V (plan #42155FB) is an entertainer’s dream! The main floor (below left) is wide open with spacious rooms to handle larger gatherings. Downstairs (below right), there is another full kitchen and eating area, which will likely double as your game table. The family room is spacious enough for air hockey and Foosball, or your kids’ video game tournament with all their friends. There is even a dedicated home theater, which can receive special attention when it comes to soundproofing. If building on a basement foundation, how much of that space will you finish off for entertaining?

Tollefson V - #42155FB
Tollefson V - #42155FB

Outdoor Audio-Visual. While outdoor entertaining was the topic last time, we want to touch on the fun of outdoor audio and video entertaining here. In case you haven’t kept up, there are numerous exterior solutions for big screen TVs, from all-weather cabinets to amazing weather-tight outdoor hi-def TVs in a range of sizes. Where, on your covered porch/deck/loggia/patio will you mount the TV to avoid sun glare washing out the picture? Outdoor TV brightness capabilities vary, all the way up to TVs that can be used in direct sunlight, but as of the time this article was written, an electronics store was selling 55” outdoor TV’s for $2,000 rated for “full shade,” while the same brand 55” TV rated for “full sun” was priced at over $5,700.

Some people are content with just having their favorite tunes playing. Is your preference to install speakers? If so, will power need to be run to those speakers? Or would you be happier relying on battery powered wireless speakers paired to your smart device?

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

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Entertaining: Beyond Four Walls

Entertaining: Beyond Four Walls

We get it. Some people are all in on outdoor living, relishing being outside, even at home. Second, we know that entertaining is one of the primary lenses people look at when considering a home purchase. At the intersection of outdoor living and entertaining is the sweet spot that helps determine many a home sale. Whether or not those issues are high on your priorities, a home designed for outdoor entertaining shows up in noticeable, and not so obvious, ways.

Modena - #29372

The Modena (plan #29372) has an inviting covered porch wrapping three sides.

Murnane Manor - #42156

The Murnane Manor (plan #42156) establishes its own sense of welcome with its fabulous front courtyard, anchored by a water feature to the left and French Door pass thru to the formal dining room.

Outdoor entertaining spaces in front of the home beckon passersby. Still, most of the time when we think of outdoor entertaining, we think of rear patios and the back yard. It may be privacy and lack of distraction from cars driving by, the security of a fenced rear yard for kids’ play and decreased likelihood that a ball is going to get kicked in front of an oncoming car, or just the fact that your back yard is more spacious. As with indoors, how you like to entertain will help determine the amenities that make your outdoor entertaining area ideal.

Porches, loggias, decks, and patios. Porches, loggias, and decks are attached to the home. Porches and loggias always have a roof, decks may or may not be covered. Advantages of a covered outdoor living space include shade, being able to still use the space when it rains, and the fact that materials used such as cedar typically last longer when protected from the weather by a roof. Porches may also have walls with screens and sometimes windows. Loggias have a more formal feel, incorporating columns to the open side and sometimes arches. Consider however, that covered and especially screened-in outdoor living areas will reduce the amount of sunlight enjoyed by the adjoining rooms. Patios are built on top of the ground and while they might abut the home, they are not attached to the house.

Multiple outdoor living spaces adorn the Sinclair Terrace (plan #42424 shown below). Sliding patio doors at the back of the dining room access the 30-foot screened porch, so even large dinner parties can enjoy the gathering without pesky mosquitoes.

Sinclair Terrace - #42424
Sinclair Terrace - #42424

Note the skylights atop the covered porch in the Comstock (plan #2778 at right), providing added sunlight for the great room, which might have appeared a bit dark because of the porch roof blocking sunlight.

Comstock - #2778

How and where we access the outdoor living areas is a significant design consideration. The choice of hinged or sliding patio doors is often dictated by the adjacent interior space. If a hinged door would have to open into the dining area, potentially conflicting with the placement of table and chairs, a sliding door would be best. Can the transition to your outdoor living area be barrier free for individuals with limited mobility? That indoor/outdoor connection can also become congested when entertaining, so is there the possibility of two doors, providing dual traffic routes in and out? 

Gunnison - #50016

The Gunnison (plan #50016) offers doors onto its loggia from both the dining room and the great room, providing a circular traffic route with minimal congestion. Notice also, being framed by the dining room and owner’s suite, this particular layout offers maximum privacy from side-neighbors for your get-together. And there is a door off the owner’s bedroom, perfect for enjoying quiet sunsets and cheery mornings.

Sometimes overlooked or underappreciated is where the bathroom is located that your guests will use when you’re entertaining outdoors. You would prefer they not have to walk all the way to the front part of your home. Planning a swimming pool in your backyard? If that nearby bathroom has a shower that’s even more accommodating!

Rourke - #42082

The Rourke (plan #42082) has a 5-foot shower in the hall bathroom conveniently, but privately, located near the dining room’s door out onto the rear deck/patio. Also, notice the private grilling porch – separate from the outside entertaining area.

Connery - #42084

Because there is a Jack-and-Jill bathroom for bedrooms 2 and 3, the Connery’s (plan #42084) full guest bathroom serves splendidly as a traditional guest bathroom when entertaining indoors. Perhaps even better is when your party moves outdoors, as there’s a covered patio pathway to this bathroom’s direct outside access.

Outdoor Cooking. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults own a grill or a smoker (Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association). So, it’s only natural that our affinity for grilling out is a significant design consideration, beginning with where that grill will be located. Will it be the centerpiece of a full outdoor kitchen? A visible part of your outdoor entertaining space, or would you prefer a more private grilling porch? People who don’t want an outdoor kitchen but love to barbecue may fall in love with the Chill-N-Grill™ amenity found in several Design Basics’ home plans. If you plan on running a natural gas line to where the grill will be located to avoid lugging heavy LP gas tanks in and out of the car, up and down steps, plan also on an inside shutoff valve for that gas line, in case of emergency or severe weather. If possible, you’ll also want to run electricity there for a grill light. Overlook that, and you will find yourself grilling after dark, cutting into that steak you’re cooking and not being able to discern if it is medium rare or medium.

Cherry Gables - #42441

The Cherry Gables (plan #42441) suggests an outdoor kitchen at one side of its covered patio, right next to the eating area. 


Don’t have or want an outdoor kitchen but love to cook out? The Fiala (plan #42281) positions its Chill-N-Grill™ conveniently just off the patio doors leading onto the covered porch.


Chill-N-Grill™ design concept, with everything you need for a great barbecuing experience! 

Kennedy - #42134

Our attraction to fire doesn’t stop at the grill. The Kennedy (plan #42134) showcases a traditional fireplace at the far end of its covered patio. Nestled between two arched openings and underneath a beamed cathedral ceiling, the fireplace is the focal point of this wonderful outdoor space and also the home’s great room. It’s so easy to imagine ceiling fans suspended from those exposed timbers, too! And did you notice there’s a door from the outside into the rear foyer with its adjacent wine cooler cabinet?  Perfect for outdoor entertaining!

The Evergreen Weekender (plan #42054) presents a decidedly more casual approach, inviting conversation and s’mores around its fire pit anchoring the uncovered portion of the home’s rear patio. Other amenities include powder bath access and double doors leading to storage for backyard furniture, activities, and games.

Evergreen Weekender - #42054

How you like to entertain will strongly influence your desired outdoor living amenities. Stringing lights can make the occasion fanciful or festive, where might you want/need power outlets? Your home faces east and you enjoy being out back in the evenings. Even if you have a covered deck, do you need to consider retractable awnings? 

A final reminder – outdoor entertaining space and amenities do not affect a home’s square footage, but they can significantly affect a home’s cost. Another reason you shouldn’t compare homes on a cost per square foot basis!

Next week: Fun-filled Entertaining

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

How do You Like to Entertain?

How do You Like to Entertain?

This should be a question asked of every home buyer. That answer likely will have a profound effect on finding the right home for you. Formal living and dining rooms provide a welcome sensory buffer from the kitchen (visual mess, clatter and chatter, cooking odors) when entertaining. But ask any real estate agent, today the majority of home buyers seek large, combined entertaining spaces with a socializing area and expandable eating area, both open to the kitchen. Yes, as a nation we’ve become a bit more casual – just look at how we dress for work or church. What else is driving the popularity of the open concept? Practicality – buyers understand “cost per square foot” and value space they could use daily more than infrequently used formal entertaining areas. Togetherness – as family time together is increasingly rare and a separate kitchen often results in isolation when prepping, cooking, or cleaning up. And, multi-tasking – whether that’s watching TV while preparing dinner or keeping tabs on the kids after dinner.

The semi-formal “Great Room” borrowed from both the formal living room and casual family room. Often open to the front entry, great rooms may showcase the living room’s attractive finishes (flooring, ceiling treatments) and amenities (fireplace, lovely windows) as well as the family room’s big TV and comfortable furniture. Unrestricted by walls, which limited table size and therefore seating, an open dining area allows you to extend the table, accommodating big family holiday meals. Cherished memories! After all, grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to be with everyone, not to sit at the “adults” table while the kids eat elsewhere. 

Though it is already a generous-sized dining area, the Sunflower Glen (plan #42425) has an open layout that permits “temporarily borrowing” space from the great room, so that you can add leaves to your dining table or set up another table alongside your existing table for large dinner gatherings, allowing everyone to be together.

More than the clothes we wear and the vehicles we drive, we reveal ourselves through our homes. Now part of the public entertaining space, kitchens add to your story. Appliances may suggest the serious chef; storage can be beautiful and obvious, minimalist and hidden, or unique and colorful; and finishes, including flooring, counter tops, and back splashes, speak volumes about who you are. Eliminating kitchen clutter assumed new importance, ushering in solutions such as the Drop Zone to catch items when you first arrive home, Small Appliance Centers (see the Sunflower Glen above) to keep such items off your kitchen counter tops, and larger prep pantries or ironically, Work-in Pantries which, while corralling the mess, harken back to the separate, closed-off kitchen spaces typical of older home designs.

In the excitement of a model home tour, sometimes unnoticed is the presence and design of the front entry foyer. While it’s true that most of the time we go in and out of our homes through the garage, we still welcome guests into our homes at the front door. Do you prefer a home that opens directly into an entertaining space such as the great room? While immediately welcoming, people living in such designs have mentioned they sometimes miss out on greeting their visitors. Conversely you may prefer a more formal sense of entry for receiving visitors, but this comes with the added cost of that square footage. Is there a closet at that front entry, or do you plan on hanging coats elsewhere?

When entertaining, people gravitate towards sunny spaces. Physiologically, our eyes are attracted to light and studies show that sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in our bodies, a feel-good chemical.  Add in the obvious benefit of being able to easily and clearly see everything, and sun-filled entertaining areas win almost every time. Oversized windows, particularly out the back of the home can offer beautiful vistas. Or, you might spend the same amount of money on standard size windows placed on two, or sometimes three sides of your entertaining area, ushering in daylight from multiple directions. Sunlight can be more prevalent in our kitchens as well. By accommodating storage needs with an extra-deep pantry, the Silver Creek (plan #42028 shown below) omits traditional upper cabinets on the rear kitchen wall in favor of additional windows! When we’ve shown home buyers the opportunity to delete some upper cabinets in favor of additional windows in the kitchen, most will gladly spend a little more for the added sunlight. Just be sure you’ve addressed that “lost” storage with, say, an oversized pantry.

Silver Creek - #42028
light cabinets in kitchen

What about your kids? While the open kitchen/dining/great room layout can work great for your neighborhood get-together, where will the kids play and not disrupt the party? If you are fortunate enough to have a basement foundation, that may be your answer – a play room in the basement. But if you’re building on a slab or crawl space, having a secondary entertaining place for their play is the recipe for everyone’s enjoyment. Finishing off space over a garage is ideal for noise reduction. In lieu of a two-story high entertaining room, would you see more value in a rec room built atop that main floor entertaining area? And though primarily envisioned as a place for parents with their children, the Family Lounge can also double as a kids’ entertaining area.

Cedar Glen II - #42229 UL

The Cedar Glen II (plan #42229) offers the potential of finishing nearly 250 sq. ft. of space over the garage – an ideal place for kids’ entertaining.

Honey View - #42343

The Honey View (plan #42343) includes an upstairs rec room accessed by a couple stairs, allowing the entertaining area directly under to still feature an impressive 11-foot high ceiling.

Dillon Park - #42477

The Dillon Park (plan #42477) provides a family lounge upstairs, which could double as kids’ entertaining space.

Join us next week for: Outdoor Entertaining at Home

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Flexible Living: Changing Households

Flexible Living: Changing Households

With more than 60 million Americans living in multi-generational households, the tremendous popularity of home plans with two owner’s suites is easy to understand. In fact, 20% of Design Basics’ top-selling home plans last year have two owner’s suites!

Caring for aging parents, shared finances, and bringing the family together are the most common reasons for these plans’ popularity. With grandparents or even great-grandparents in the home, the suite they use will usually be located on the first floor, allowing them to mostly avoid climbing stairs. The Cedar Glen II (plan #42229) features both owner’s suites on the main floor. Secondary bedrooms are found upstairs as well as possible expansion over the garage – there’s even a version enhanced with skylights.

With its streamlined foundation and modest 42-foot width the Cedar Glen II (plan #42229) is affordable and accommodating for multiple generations.

Independent entertaining can call for a somewhat different layout, well-illustrated in the McAllister (plan #42027). Here, the original design’s Bedrooms 2 and 3 can be reconfigured as a second owner’s suite complete with its own entertaining area and possible private access from the front covered porch. This is a great layout for times when your parents are having a few friends over at the same time you’ve planned on a get-together with neighbors in the great room.
Frahm Cottage - #42355

Frahm Cottage - #42355


Even more independence can be found in our plans with Casitas, such as the Frahm Cottage (plan #42355). Positioned behind the garage, the Casita is in effect a small apartment, complete with its own kitchenette, laundry area, and gathering area. This Casita has its own outside entrance, though a door could be added from the main home’s rear foyer.

Petaluma - #42290 UL

Petaluma - #42290

Casitas can also be the perfect solution when a live-in caregiver will be part of the household. The Casita in the Petaluma (plan #42290) is located atop the home’s garage. Adding a door off the second-floor hallway means immediate caregiver help is just steps away. Or maybe your situation involves adult children. Forty-five percent of college graduates move back in with their parents after college, often due to the huge student debt they have taken on. Perhaps it is the loss of a job or other life circumstance. Casitas can provide the togetherness AND separation these households crave. Casitas may also provide some rental income. A surprising number of Millennial home buyers look to rent out part of their home from the day they move in.

Whether it’s a desire to grow closer, sharing expenses and upkeep, or life-altering events, households are changing. New homes designed with two owner’s suites are meeting the need and facing little competition from resale homes.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

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