Women-centric design is the latest trend in home construction. It's name comes from the fact that women are calling for design changes, but its focus is on ways to make a home more functional for everyone.
"Women look at a house in more detail. They look at every room and what they could do with this and that to make life easier for themselves and their families," remarks Steve Smithburg, president of Homes by Design in Omaha.
The catch-phrase grew out of research conducted by Design Basics, a national home plan design company also located in Omaha. The company surveyed hundreds of women across the country about the things they would like to see in homes and why, says Linda Reimers, president of Design Basics.
Their responses were organized into four categories–storage, entertaining, flexible living, and de-stressing. Their ideas have been incorporated into a series of new home designs.
Additionally, builders are striving to consider each category when talking to prospective homebuilders, notes Chad Bumsted, president of Choice Homes, LLC. in Omaha. "Our customers like that we ask them a lot of questions up front," he says. "We want to make sure they are satisfied."
Asking questions about how the family uses a particular room and what kinds of appliances or equipment will be used allows builders to create an environment that is comfortable and functional.
"It's designing houses how people would like to live more comfortably–in every room," says Smithburg.
Although his children are grown, he remembers tense mornings as his two daughters and son prepared for school using a shared bath. Women-centric design includes an option for a compartmentalized bath. This element separates the stool and shower from the vanities and sinks, says Reimers.
"That eliminates the pain of waiting for a sibling to get done," he adds. "It's what women-centric is all about?eliminating family stress and tension and adding comfort wherever possible."
It could be extending the laundry room for space to fold and iron. It might be builtin cubby holes by the dryer to aid folding and sorting. It could be the positioning of the laundry room off the master bedroom instead of in the garage entrance.
A double-sided coat closet provides necessary storage and maximizes space when it opens between the garage and entry. A master bedroom with sitting room becomes a place to relax away from the main gathering areas.
Some high-end custom home builders have offered these options for some time. Reimers believes this is because when people meet with a custom builder, typically a woman is driving the design process.
"We have found over the years that women really lead design, but too often general design builders don't incorporate these elements into their every day designs," she says.
Smithburg agrees saying that few builders in the $150,000 range will make these custom changes.
"People have always wanted these things, but many didn't think they could aff ord it," notes Smithburg. "Most of the time, the little changes with a big impact are nominal, such as the security of an outdoor light switch next to the bed."
Some of the design features are more costly, he adds, but even those are less when incorporated into a plan before building begins.
"It's the ultimate common sense thing," Smithburg comments. The research is striving to include people's ideas and more, so they can see a complete plan instead of trying to think of and incorporate all the options themselves, he says.
This foresight not only helps people get more of what they want; it keeps them from getting socked with big financial surprises, too.
Change orders always cause headaches and increase costs. Women-centric design strives to incorporate these features from the beginning. The guided questions also yield important information before the first nail is driven.
"If you know from the beginning what the cost is going to be, then it makes things less stressful," says Bumsted. "Building a home should be an enjoyable thing."