How Gender Influences Our Interior Design Choices
When decorating a space, we all know how important it is to inject your personality to create interest and character, but how much does your gender play a role in your décor decisions? Is there such a thing as a masculine or feminine space anymore? Today, traditional gender lines are continually being distorted, and the roles men and women play both at work and at home have shifted dramatically—with more moms returning to work and also acting as sole or primary providers. So we have to wonder: How much do these stereotypes impact your interior design choices? Are men generally more inclined to choose leather and timber with darker palettes, while women prefer bright colors, florals, and patterned pieces? We asked some of the experts to find out. Scroll down to discover what interior designers Abigail Ahern, Trip Haenisch, and Betsy Burnham of Burnham Designs think about gender, and if it still plays a part.
Courtesy of Trip Haenisch
Trip Haenisch is renowned for creating sophisticated spaces with a laid-back twist, and regardless of gender, he “approaches every project with respect to its surrounding, scale, and history.” While the design choices vary depending on the individual or specific project, he believes gender does play a role. “Men tend to look for comfort whereas women are more concerned with aesthetics,” he says.
On Masculine vs. Feminine: When designing a room, Trip says men and women tend to gravitate toward certain styles, colors, and textures. “Women generally are more open to exploring brighter colors and patterns and having fun with the space,” adds Trip. “Men tend to gravitate toward larger, more masculine furniture pieces, particularly those incorporating leather and wood details.”
On Bachelor and Bachelorette Pads: Trip tailors every space to the individual, based on personality and lifestyle, so no two rooms or homes are ever the same. This also means there are no set guidelines when designing a bachelor or bachelorette pad, because it’s all very dependent on the client. “I like to approach different projects and homes based on the way the client lives their life so it suits their style and they can be both proud and comfortable within their space.”
Having worked closely with both male and female clients over the years, Abigail Ahern doesn’t think gender really influences someone’s design style, but she has noticed a particular “look” they prefer. “Women tend to be a bit bolder and more willing to experiment,” she said. “I’ve had so many cases of women trying to drag their reluctant partner into embracing new styles. Often women will continue decorating for longer too, so you end up with a much more layered look and more accents.”
On Masculine vs. Feminine: For Abigail, the “masculine” or “feminine” terminology when talking about interiors is her “shorthand for the kind of vibe we’re looking for” rather than anything to do with the client. “Because I’m personally drawn to that more masculine vibe, I attract clients wanting something similar in feel,” she said. “I love lots of gentleman’s club influences and moody colors, so I don’t get a lot of clients wanting a super feminine look.”
Without generalizing too much, Abigail has found that men often prefer a “more streamlined, tailored look” while women like a “more relaxed, organic vibe.” She has found that color choice differs greatly between the sexes too. “Women seem to go for a slightly subtler palette and will pore over the differences between mocha, burnt toffee, and caramel, whereas men generally are looking for a more primary palette, perhaps white, grays, deep blues.”
On Bachelor and Bachelorette Pads: When it comes to the traditional bachelor pad, Abigail said it’s stereotypically a pared-back and sleek look with “gadgets, straight lines, a big comfy leather sofa, linear cabinets, and of course a massive TV.” For a bachelorette pad, Ahern says there are more patterns, pearlized finishes, sparkling chandeliers, and luxe fabrics like mohair, shearling, and silks. “A bachelor pad would skip the sparkle for brushed chrome, stainless steel, and glass,” she said. “These are the über-stereotypes, but I’m not sure how many people actually live like that. As a designer you have to weave both together for a space to feel right.”
Burnham Design is widely recognized for “chic and cheeky” spaces that don’t conform to gender stereotypes. In fact, Betsy says their clients don’t usually comply with generalizations, and often choose styles that are outside tradition. “We’ve had female clients who hate florals and single, straight male clients who love the color pink, so it’s really all over the board,” Burnham adds. “We feel it’s our job as designers to balance the spaces we work on. If we use a skirted sofa, it may be in a more tailored fabric, like denim, and if we use a classic crystal chandelier, we’ll offset it with leather directors chairs and a studded chest of drawers.”
On Masculine vs. Feminine: Betsy has noticed more female clients looking for “calm” spaces, which she says “seems to be a real design buzzword right now” and is gradually taking the place of “feminine.” Burnham adds, “What it usually means is a soft color palette, often monochromatic, with comfortable fabrics and ambient lighting.” But the Burnham Design team is often “surprised” by the men they work with, who don’t ask for the typically masculine look. “Some of them really want to focus on luxury fabrics, or designing cool built-ins, or creating a really unusual wine room, but then many of them are open to a wide range of palettes and materials,” Betsy says. “Let’s face it; if they’re hiring Burnham Design, they really aren’t looking for a mahogany-paneled office or deep leather wing chairs. It just isn’t our thing.”
On Bachelor and Bachelorette Pads: Betsy says designing a place for a single woman or man is “fun” because the “design can get so personal.” The team found a “really special” purple campaign desk for a female client’s office, which completely transformed the space into a “wonderfully offbeat room.” They also custom-built a polished nickel four-poster bed for a male client, who then requested floor-to-ceiling draperies, a goat hair rug, and animal-print sheets. Burnham Design partner Max Humphrey hung floral wallpaper in the entry of his own home, but “the overall vibe of the room is still dude-like.” She notes, “It’s all about the mix; sometimes it surprises even us.”
Do you think gender influences your interior design choices? Let us know in the comments.