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AU Traversing the great divide

Property Here - Thursday, June 20, 2013

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WHEN it comes to creating the perfect home, men and women have vastly different priorities.

The gender lines have been drawn, say experts in home design and building. While women want functional floorplans and storage space, family-friendly kitchens and open-plan design, blokes really are more interested in barbecues and big TVs.

Interior designer Melissa Bonney runs The Design Hunter, which offers an end-to-end service, taking building and renovation projects from concept to completion.

In her experience, women are most concerned about interior spaces and how the home functions.

"They think about kitchens and family spaces like living spaces and making sure there's enough room for kids, and definitely storage throughout the house,'' she says.

"Storage is always a big one when people renovate. Often your traditional semis and homes that don't have storage in bedrooms.''

Women, often the homemakers, are the ones running the home, so it's important for them that home functions well and is easy to run and easy to live in.

On the other hand, Melissa says men tend to have more of a technological, outdoors focus, with big barbecues, benches and built-in outdoor kitchens on their wish list.

"They definitely want somewhere to cook. All men love a barbecue and often somewhere to store tools and things like that,'' she says.

"Although, depending on their situation, some men do have something little that they want inside. They want to make sure there's a proper office space, and a big wi-fi.

"Some men are also concerned about doing a built-in entertainment unit and how the sub woofer fits in and where the wireless speakers go and how to access the DVD player without having to open the doors. They're very focused on all that technical, electronic type stuff.''

Melissa believes the reason for the differences in men's and women's priorities is time spent in the home.

"It's a very broad comment to make but generally women are the homemakers, doing the more functional things for the family, whereas home for men is more about relaxing and coming home from work,'' she says.

"So barbecues and TVs and those things that are associated with relaxation.''

Inevitably, women take over the design process but that doesn't mean they have free rein.

"The men will be the ones who weigh in at the end with the yay or nay,'' Melissa says.

"Generally they're the ones who have the financial control so they'll scale things down -- they really do have the final say.''

It's for that reason Melissa endeavours to get men involved in the design process from the start.

"So we do try to involve both parties from the beginning and understand what they both want out of it so everybody's happy.''


Metricon sales and marketing manager Regina Barnes says women's and men's roles tend to be quite traditional and their different focuses come to the fore when they're buying a house together.

"Traditionally women are concerned about open spaces,'' she says.

"They worry about their kids and visibility, so homework and computer nooks and where they're going to be is important. A lot of women want these spaces close to the kitchen area so when they're cooking dinner they can supervise homework.

"Women are definitely concerned about kitchen layout, functionality, about the kids, and making sure they've got enough room in their bedrooms.

"They like linen cupboards and space for storage of kids' toys and their clothes, walk-in wardrobes with lots of space for their shoes and clothes and good hanging and wardrobe fitouts with shelves and drawers.''

And just like Melissa found, men buying a new house show a keen interest in the more technical parts of the home.

"When they come in, the men seem to be very focused on the home theatre rooms and having the surround sound all wired up,'' Regina says.

"They're worried about the depth of their garage and if they're going to have room for a workshop. When you initially speak to them they're very concerned about the technology side of things -- the tele. They want to watch their sport.

"Sometimes that goes into their outdoor spaces, so they get heavily focused on the outdoor room and questions such as can they have a tele put in there to watch the footy.''


Relationships Australia dispute resolution practitioner Bill Hewlett says men and women tend to have different ideas and that can be a cause of conflict when they're building or renovating.

"At the risk of generalising, I think men are more process focused,'' he says. ``They actually think about the process of doing the renovation.

"Women often think about what it's going to look like when it's finished. So there's a different dream if you like, a different idea when they start.

"Men have a vision of going to the hardware store and buying that saw they always wanted and women have a vision of friends coming around and there's cushions everywhere, and there's lovely colours and a water feature.

"Somehow or other, even though we live in modern times, I think women still have a sense of responsibility for how the place looks and she'll feel bad if there's not enough food to eat or she'll feel bad if the home is a bit messy.

"He probably won't notice because he'll be heavily focused on something else.''

Bill likens renovating to other life stressors such as the arrival of children, being out of work, getting a new job or moving house, and he says such projects involve taking on something most relationships haven't been designed for.

"It's not uncommon for us to find out when we're talking to people that they're in the midst of a renovation,'' he says.

"Couples often start off with a mutual dream. We're going to have this lovely home, life's going to be fantastic and then the harsh realities are that you have to do things that are going to be tiring or stressful or difficult or boring.

"People have got to a point where their relationship is designed for going out on Saturday night, seeing friends on Sunday, working nine to five, and so and so cooks dinner on this night.

"The relationship's set up to work under those criteria and all of a sudden you're changing it.''

Bill says the trick is to negotiate the difficult things in a way that keeps both people feeling included, valued and
listened to.

"If you structure a relationship that is well suited for whatever happens you'll be OK,'' he says.

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