Battle of the Sexes: Designing for Mars and Venus
When a man from Mars falls in love with a woman from Venus how do they make a home together? They hire a great designer! And every great designer should also provide mediation, arbitration and marriage counseling within the design scope.
Seriously, I have so enjoyed working with marvelous couples who were incredibly varied. I have learned never to make any assumptions. Each couple has its own unique set of dynamics, preference, dichotomies and psychosis that makes for fresh experiences each time. Yes, we have worked with clients from both extremes and everything in between. There are clients that come in dressed exactly the same, and others who have boxing matches that make everyone blush. I would like to also mention same sex couples, with whom I have absolutely adored working. While I reference men and women in this article, as the majority of my clients fall into this heterosexual normality, I do not want to discount the wonderful textures of relations in our LGBT community.
John Gray’s book, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” started a national conversation with the simple acknowledgement that men and women are different. Knowing that was revolutionary as it gave both men and women the freedom to be themselves and to honor their differences. And it gave all of us a language to talk about it to take each person’s needs to heart. I personally believe we all have masculine and feminine traits, and the particular balance of these within each of us contributes to our uniqueness.
A successful space resonates with all its inhabitants, and my job is to find out what is most important to each party and what is the breaking point. It can be a challenge as design addresses cerebral needs such as function and financial considerations but also tends to our emotional needs such as nesting and identity. There are often deep feelings that are brought to the surface in every design project. I love the aspect of understanding my beautiful clients, and then taking a pair of love birds, or even a pair of Japanese fighting fish, and creating a space that makes them both feel happy and at home.
One of my favorite examples is a kitchen design for a couple on the opposite spectrum of design. She is vivacious, gregarious and colorful, and he is an engineer—calculating and exact. They love to cook together, so the solution was a streamlined kitchen full of function with strong but simple lines and geometric shapes for him. For her we executed the design in pomegranate red stained anigre and a dynamic contrast of textures. They both loved it.
There is good reason to work to find common ground with couples. Did you know that home renovation and the associated stress can rock a marriage? According to Houzz.com, the site recently distributed a survey to couples asking them about their experiences with home renovations. More than 50 percent of those surveyed reported that the renovation process caused a significant amount of stress in their marriages. In fact, approximately 12 percent of those polled indicated that the stress of renovation caused them to consider or pursue divorce or separation.
Finding Common Ground
That’s why I take this so seriously. Everyone should enjoy the process and feel heard. Another example of one of these projects was based in extremes. He loved Santa Fe architecture, his extensive cowboy art collection, and reading his history books. She could live in a Zen modern environment with only a yoga mat. The structure that was created to reflect both personas is still one of my favorite homes. It has strong, simple, modern lines implemented with reclaimed woods, rammed-earth walls and hot-rolled steel. The flat-front, smooth brown oak kitchen incorporated carved ethnic panels spaciously highlighted as artwork. I love how the couple complement each other in their marriage and how their home is a perfect reflection of this unique connection.
Just like in design, the collection and composition of separate parts is stronger than pieces on their own. So it is true of a beautiful couple, so it is true of humanity.