Kitchen Battle: His vs. Her Designs

Plenty of studies have revealed that preferences tend to align by gender: Yale University found, for instance, that boys almost always go for moveable toys (a car or truck), while girls choose ones that promote nurturing (a doll, teddy bear or play cook set). But how does this gender difference play into kitchen designs? Do guys go for the latest gadgetswhile gals focus on aesthetics? We asked kitchen designers if they’ve ever run into the “battle of the sexes”—and we uncovered some interesting patterns in the way men and women approach the space.

If you look at retro kitchen advertisements, you’ll notice that they’re almost completely devoid of men. Historically, the American kitchen has been a woman’s domain, but now guys are getting into the action as well. Kitchen designers are responding in-kind, creating kitchens that fulfill the desires of both sexes. Although there are always the stereotypical requests (an indoor barbecue or built-in beer tap for the guys; café curtains and retro pastel appliances for the girls), couples often find common ground to create spaces that work well for both of them.

Men have a tendency to like everything straightforward and to have a purpose. Quite often men follow the budget carefully—they don’t mind spending money as long as it’s going toward something practical. Men tend to want high-quality appliances so they won’t have to worry about maintenance in the near future—and the bigger the appliance, the better. This is a place men want to spend money so they’ll have a product that will last.

Men want their kitchens to be a place where they enjoy spending time. Male clients requested a huge range positioned to take in the water views. Other guys have asked for computer stations with data ports. And don’t forget the comfy seating! One husband tried out several chairs during construction so he could envision himself sitting in the most comfortable seat while drinking his morning coffee and reading the paper.

For women, having a family hub comes first. Moms want a place where they can keep an eye on young kids. This is typically worked into a large island. Also important are beverage stations where kids can grab a juice box without opening the refrigerator door. And in lieu of the computer station, busy moms seem to gravitate more toward a calendar to keep track of dance recitals, dentist appointments and soccer matches. Why not incorporate several chalkboard walls to act as command central?

Women tend to concentrate more on the details that finish off a kitchen, such as hardware and faucets. These items are like jewelry for the kitchen, and can really give the space its personality. Women also gravitate to more nooks in the kitchen—places of visual interest such as a place to display pottery or antique china. And when it comes to media, sound systems are at the top of the list—women could live without the TV, but cooking to their favorite tunes is a must.

The biggest differences our designers noted weren’t between men and women, but between singles and couples. Both men and women want sexier kitchens when they are single. Single guys seem to take more risks in the design, requesting edgier designs and materials, such as concrete, stainless steel and glass. Single women do want a sexy, modern spin on their kitchens, but they also want warmth in the space.

Ultimately, kitchen design preferences come down to who is doing the cooking, and, of course, not everyone fits typical gender roles. Universal design is the most important aspect of creating a harmonious kitchen for a couple. What good are those upper cabinet shelves if the 5-foot-tall wife can’t reach them? And there are plenty of items that both genders seem to want, like water dispensers, warming drawers and built-in espresso stations.