Male-Order Design

By STEVE KAUFMAN
Contributing Writer

It’s difficult to talk about the roles of men and women when it comes to home decorating without risking a 25-years-to-life sentence for political incorrectness.

Many men are the chefs in the family and want the kitchen designed to accommodate their wants. Many wives are the entrepreneurs in the family and need a personalized office for their business activities or financial management.

Men can be the gardeners, women can be the do-it-yourselfers. Or maybe she’s the one who clears the decks and shuts everyone else up when a Kentucky basketball game is on TV.

Happens all the time.

But when home builder and designer Rob Osborne was asked to discuss “What Men Want” in terms of home redesign and remodeling, it was necessary to make some assumptions and give in to generalizations for which we’ll almost certainly be criticized.

Osborne runs Details Consulting Group (www.detailsconsultinggroup.com), and has been a custom home builder for more than 20 years. He has worked with hundreds of thousands of customers and has seen trends cycle in and out. What he has found is today’s men want to be involved in more of the decision making, and certainly the budget, of the project.

But he’s also getting more involved in some of the design details, Osborne says, and that can include decisions about the kitchen, master bathroom, exterior of the house and – still, and always – the finished basement.

“Most of the men I’ve worked with don’t care too much about the color plan,” he says. They may, he says, take an interest in architectural details – like, say, the crown moldings – but mostly “they defer to the woman on those decisions.”

However, the kitchen is increasingly falling into the male realm. “Most of today’s home designs include a wide open floor plan with the kitchen integrated into the great room,” Osborne says. It’s more than just preparing Tuesday night dinner for the family. It’s part of the entertaining process.

And many more men take over the kitchen when the family is entertaining, whether it’s for grilling steaks, boiling lobsters or experimenting with some new Italian recipe. TV shows like “Iron Chef,” “Bubba-Q” and “Food Fight” have made everyone a foodie, male and female alike.

“That doesn’t mean men get involved in the choice of cabinets,” Osborne says, though they generally prefer modern lines and flat panels. But men increasingly want heavier, more industrial touches, like 54-inch stainless steel refrigerators or 36-inch cooktops and bigger-is-better granite-topped counters, so they can flail away more comfortably.

Rob Osborne.

Rob Osborne.

“I’ve found most guys cook on the stovetop,” Osborne observes, “grilling more than baking. So they want plenty of room to spread their elbows.”

Similarly, in the master bathroom, size matters and bigger is increasingly better. For example, says Osborne, “the man may not care what the walk-in shower looks like – tiles, finishes and the like – but he wants it to be a good-sized stall.”

That means 25-30 square feet instead of the once-traditional 9 square feet. It also means a special showerhead with all the modern bells and whistles – pulsating, rainshower, handheld, spa, high-velocity, low-flow. Also dual showerheads, body jets and the like.

“Not everyone is a tub person, but I’ve found men more often want Jacuzzi jets, women more often want soaking tubs and everyone these days wants a separate tub and shower, even in the older homes.”

Not surprisingly, planning the basement is generally when Osborne’s male clients suddenly become hyper-interested. “Men will often give in on all the upstairs decisions as long as they can have their basements,” he says. They want their media room or gym or music room or sauna or pool table or bar area, and he says he’s getting increased requests for cigar humidors and wine cellars. Those, of course, require extra considerations – cedar walls, light and temperature controls, dehumidifiers.

For that matter, there are extra considerations required in almost all custom work. Media rooms require running appropriate cables and Osborne says many men want a digital system that integrates sound and audio with the house’s security system, lights, phone and computer.

“Men ask for that all the time,” he says. “Women don’t want to be a part of that conversation. In fact, they often won’t even show up that day.”

Of course, the budget is also of importance to most men. “He often doesn’t understand the design details his wife wants and tends to try putting on the brakes,” Osborne says. “I often have to step in and show him pictures of what we’re discussing or other projects I’ve done, so he knows I know what I’m talking about.”

“I can do pretty much anything they want for any budget” he insists. “But the reality is, things that look nice tend to cost more money.”