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!

(Click on image to enlarge.)

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

(Click on image to enlarge.)

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.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

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!

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Designing with Natural Light

Designing with Natural Light

Home designers know natural light is one of the most important elements of residential design. We are drawn to places in our homes that are bathed in natural light and oftentimes we don’t even realize it. But whether we’re having friends over or simply curling up with a good book, chances are we can be found in sunny spaces.

Physiologically, our eyes are attracted to light and studies show that sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in our bodies, a chemical that can improve our mood and also help calm us. Sunlight’s other health benefits are well documented – from Vitamin D production, lower blood pressure, and improved calcium absorption; to improved concentration, reduced irritability and headaches. Unfortunately, as we age, our eyes’ lenses yellow and harden, so less of the available light gets through. Rooms appear darker and less inviting. Everyday chores and even reading become more taxing.

In addition to the health benefits, abundant daylight dramatically affects our perception of color and size. Public areas in your home bathed in sunlight are perceived to be “welcoming” and “cheery.” They also appear larger than they actually are. It’s no surprise, then, when entertaining, people gravitate towards sunny spaces. Add in the obvious benefit of being able to easily and clearly see everything that sun-filled entertaining areas win almost every time. From the presentation of the food to the subtleties of your decorating, increased light levels in your dining area help make for memorable entertaining. Oversized windows, particularly out the back of the home can offer beautiful vistas. Placing windows on two, or sometimes three sides of your entertaining area, ushers in daylight from multiple directions.

  1. Natural light from three directions, including two sets of triple-wide windows out the back, illuminate the Silver Creek's (plan #42028 shown below) great room.
  2. When entertaining, people always seem to gather around the kitchen island. Rather than upper cabinets, there are additional windows out the back of this home's kitchen. Just be sure you've addressed that "lost" storage with, say, an oversized pantry!
Silver Creek - #42028
Silver Creek - #42028 rear windows
light cabinets in kitchen

Kitchens that enjoy high levels of sunlight are so pleasurable to be in. Additional solutions for adding daylight is to place awning windows or glass block between the backsplash and upper cabinets, high transom windows above the upper cabinets, and skylights over the kitchen area.

Consider also, windows as art. Not only are beautiful window shapes available, but the grouping of these windows can also be dramatic. Repeating arched windows… staggered thin vertical windows… delightful transoms… all speak to design aesthetics. 

Serena - #42282

Wall art?

Transom windows are smaller and typically placed high in a wall allowing daylight and at the same time, privacy. In the Serena’s (plan #42282) rear suite bedroom, those transoms provide light while still allowing you to position your bed against that wall. And in the adjoining bathroom, transoms above the shower provide much-needed natural light.

Private spaces with more than adequate natural lighting feel “safe” and “serene,” one of the reasons for the popularity of bayed window sitting areas in bedroom suites. Daylight in the bathroom has a major effect on the color rendition of makeup. Electric lighting produces various color hues, many of which are not complimentary of skin tones. Then there are privacy concerns. A big window over the bathtub can usher in sunlight, but if it is covered over with window fashions for privacy, not much light is getting in. Glass block or privacy glass is a wise choice in bathrooms.    

Other considerations. 

Most interior doors in homes are left open. Therefore, placing windows directly opposite the door leading into a room elevate light levels in the hall or adjoining space leading into that room. Windows atop a staircase or at a staircase landing provide added light, making those stairs safer to transition.  

Transom windows can also be used inside the home to further disseminate daylight. In the Gainsville (plan #6651), with windows on two sides of the great room and flex room, glass doors topped with transom windows share sunlight throughout these spaces.

Gainsville - #6651

Sometimes, the area you love for enjoying Mother Nature actually blocks much of the sunlight that otherwise would brighten your great room. Skylights to the rescue! Due to their angled orientation to the sun, skylights allow three times as much light as same size vertical window.

Kauffman - #50012V

Skylights added to the Kauffman’s (plan #50012V) sunroom brighten the adjacent great room. With the added natural light afforded by skylights in the bathrooms, you may find no need for turning on the ‘electric’ lights. And with windows in closets still being rare, adding a skylight in the walk-in closet makes quick work of finding the item you’re looking for as well as discerning colors.

What more can you do if adding windows or skylights just aren’t an option? Window screens can reduce the amount of natural light passing through that screen by as much as 40%; however, there are some newer screen materials that block very little light. Strategically placed mirrors, particularly in bathrooms and dressing areas, can reflect sunlight, effectively doubling natural light levels. Even the paint you use matters, as lighter tints and glossier finishes reflect more light. Consider also where you work. Can you move your workspace closer to the windows? Just be cognizant of glare, particularly when at certain times of the day it might wash out your computer screen.

Whether public or private, areas in your home bathed in daylight are likely among your favorite places. Whether you relish moments alone for personal reflection or growth or life-giving time spent with loved ones, “light, bright, and airy” describes the perfect space. For so many reasons, high levels of natural light should be one of your top priorities when remodeling your existing home or building new. Be aware, building codes specify natural light levels, but understand these are minimums. Take the initiative and stress the importance of natural light levels when talking with your contractor or designer to eliminate future regrets.

For more resources on thoughtful design:

Cover photo courtesy of VELUX.

Beyond the Basics with Tricia Baker

Tricia Baker, Plan Alterations DesignerDescribe your responsibilities at Design Basics.

As the plan alterations designer, I’m responsible for incorporating changes to plans in accordance with customer request and architectural specifications. I also review existing plans to identify how the design could be modified for increased livability and style. I work closely with our senior designer and our Woman-Centric Matters!® team to ensure our plans meet our Woman-Centric design standards. In addition, I am a CAD drafter and provide customer service to builders, homeowners, and other industry professionals, answering questions about design, making recommendations, and searching plans that fit our customers’ needs. I also utilize my education and training in selecting materials and colors for many of our homes’ exteriors and I really like how the rendered elevations are turning out!

What made you decide to be a designer?

I enjoyed interior design in high school and took Exploring scouts at a university while in high school. That got me on the path of wanting to be an interior designer. But, when I actually got partway through college, I found I enjoyed the more technical side of design, drafting, and designing the actual blueprints and changing blueprints to make designs more functional.

What made me passionate about custom changes to plans, though, was the experience of my parents building their house. They couldn’t decide if they wanted a fireplace in the family room; and, at the last minute they decided they did. We went to the house every day and noticed the jog for the firebox in the foundation wasn’t there. The contractor tore out the concrete and put in the foundation for the fireplace. What we didn’t realize is that when they put in the foundation for the fireplace, they didn’t stretch the garage back 2’-0” to accommodate the 2’-0” firebox, which resulted in the 3rd car stall not able to accommodate a regular-sized vehicle! Lesson learned – career path decided.

What do you enjoy most about working in the home design field?

Working with customers to learn more about their wants, needs, and desires; then, translating this into a house plan that meets the way they live. Helping a customer design their dream home is exciting and rewarding!

Where do you get your design inspiration from?

I get design inspiration from anywhere and everywhere! Just look all around you, everything has a design. Nature presents a fabulous palette of colors and textures from which to draw inspiration. The advances in technology and graphic arts has provided a wealth of new ways to look at design. And, of course, customers – what they are looking for, how they live, etc. Everything influences design. I usually tell people when it comes to design, ‘Do what you like not what’s trendy because trendy will eventually be dated and what you like never will.’

What advice would you give to other women interested in working in the trades?

Go for it! Do what makes you happy. There may be challenges and obstacles along the way, but learn as much as you can about your field of interest, find a mentor, volunteer to learn a new skill, etc. Once you have the credentials and experience, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.

What are the biggest or most exciting changes in home design that you have seen over the years?

I love seeing the evolution of how design used to be to how we all live now. I would say the biggest change that I like is the design of the rear entry foyer. Years ago, we discovered that moving the laundry room out of the basement into the rear foyer was a much-desired design change. Now, we design that rear entry foyer with a drop zone, bench, and lockers for dropping off our stuff on the way into the house and have moved the laundry room to a location near the bedrooms or behind closed doors. Also, so many family and friends walk thru the garage to get in the house versus the front entry, having a space to put everything is great and not being greeted by the laundry is even better!

Tricia Baker and SonTell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a single mom with a very active teenage son named Rece. If I’m not supporting him and his team at one of his sporting events, I like to scrap book and play pool in my spare time, and play with our 13-pound fur baby, a toy Australian Sheppard named Diesel! I’m an avid sports fan and my favorite teams are the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the New England Patriots, and the Boston Red Sox as well as the Omaha Storm Chasers (KC Royals affiliate).

Tricia holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Science and Natural Resources – Interior Design from the University of Nebraska. Tricia's knowledge of Design Basics' home plans and processes combined with her enthusiasm for great design helps customers realize their dream home!

Learn more about Plan Customization from Design Basics and how we can help you realize your dream home.

(Photo credit: Cindy McAndrew, BrightSide Photography; the Shelton Farm (#42392) as built by Mark Hughes Construction)

Design Concept: Rear Foyers

Design Concept: Rear Foyers

Problem: Most families enter their home through the garage, but once you get inside, where does your stuff go? Where do you hang your jackets, stash your shoes, backpacks, handbags, etc.? And, when you leave in the morning how can you make it more convenient to get out the door on time with everything you need?

Solution: The Rear Foyer Design, with a Drop Zone, offers organization and convenience for families of all sizes. When you include hooks for hanging, cubbies or baskets for small items, a spot for shoes, and a handy bench, you have taken your rear foyer design to the next level. Everyone can get out the door on time with everything!

If you've taken our Finally About Me® Quiz to identify your home buyer personality, you can appreciate the different styles of Rear Foyer design depicted here. The four personas are: Claire, Margo, Elise, and Maggie.

A 'Claire' persona prefers a formal, sophisticated style, which is reflected in the design using elegant cabinetry and doors to close off the clutter; while a 'Margo' prefers the contemporary look with sleek design, vibrant colors, and contrasting textures. An 'Elise' or a 'Maggie' tends toward a more practical design where items are easily accessible yet organized.

Rear Entry Foyer - Claire

Claire Rear Foyer Design

Rear Foyer - Margo

Margo Rear Foyer Design

Rear Foyer - Elise, Maggie

Maggie and Elise Rear Foyer Design

Take our Finally About Me® Quiz on our website to discover your design style!

For more resources on thoughtful design: 

Design Concept: Drop Zone

Design Concept: Drop Zone

Problem: Statements like, "When I get home, everything seems to end up on the kitchen table," or "Everything the kids walk in with gets left on the island," these and similar comments inspired one of our most popular Woman-Centric design innovations, the Drop Zone concept.

Solution: According to a Recon Analytics study, people with an attached garage mostly go in and out of their home using the door between the home and the garage (rather than the front entry door). It is a vital transition space, offering storage and other amenities, making the Drop Zone a perfect spot to "drop" keys, mail, etc., that would otherwise end up on the kitchen counter (see the Peony - plan #42038 - at right). It can also be a handy spot for recharging electronic devices so they are ready to go when you head out the door!

Search our plans for Drop Zone designs. Or, talk with a plan specialist to make Plan Alterations to a different plan.

Peony - #42038

For more resources on thoughtful design: 

Pin It on Pinterest