Everyone knows mom rules the household, and there is actual data to back up this conventional wisdom. In his 2001 study Women Roar, author Tom Peters asserted that American women dictate 83 percent of consumer spending and have controlling influence over the selection of 91 percent of all new homes. Yet the majority of dwellings, designed and built mostly by men, don't adequately meet the needs of this powerful bloc, according to a focus group we convened—a dozen suburban women ranging in age from 30-something to 50-something. Mostly moms, some working and some stay-at-home, they helped plan our latest showhouse, in Westport, Connecticut. And, to give the 7,200-square-foot, 5-bedroom project a female-oriented charitable component, we teamed with the local chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure: The proceeds from the house tours were donated to help continue the fight against breast cancer. Click here to see the full photo gallery.
The first level is divided into two basic zones - one dedicated to formal living, and the other to informal. The mudroom, kids' playroom - homework area, main laundary room, kitchen, butler's pantry, eating area, and family room span the rear of the house; the entryway, living room, and dining room face the front.
Upstairs, the master suite is in a separate wing from the children's bedrooms and bathrooms. At the request of our focus group, we included a secondary laundary room and a side staircase that leads down to the mudroom area. A suite for a nanny (or in-laws) occupies the area over the three-car garage.
- CABINETS Essex with custom charcoal glaze over Nordic White finish. Wood-Mode; 877-635-7500, .
- COUNTERTOPS Honed quartz in Black Onyx with a decorative ogee edge. CaesarStone; 800-666-8201, .
- FLOORING Walnut with Coffee Bean stain. Carlisle Wide Plank Flooring; 800-595-9663, .
- REFRIGERATORS Architect Series II bottom-mount models. KitchenAid; 800-422-1230, .
- SINKS Culinaire undermount double bowl (main sink) and undermount island model. American Standard; 800-422-1902, .
- WINDOWS Wood with custom storm hybrid exterior and simulated divided light. Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors; 800-535-3936, .
We asked the panel what they loved and hated about their current houses, and what they'd do if they could just order up the home of their dreams. They said that while they spend most of their time in the family room and kitchen, these spaces don't comfortably accommodate all the activities that go on there. The participants agreed they wanted an open plan with lots of natural light, but beyond that, their wish lists teemed with ideas aimed at storage and other practical matters: for example, where to put the mail; where to wash the dog; and how to stay connected to the family while cooking, paying bills, and doing myriad other chores.
We enlisted local architect Robert Storm and building firm Coastal Construction to craft a home that would be traditional on the outside and full of modern amenities within—just what the women requested. The Colonial-style abode, on a 2.2-acre lot, has classic proportions and finishes such as wide-plank walnut floors and white-painted molding and millwork.
The layout is free flowing, so the rooms' decors had to blend well. Thematically, "there's something about the house that makes you feel like you're near the water," says interior designer Skye Kirby of Norwalk, Connecticut–based Lillian August Home Furnishings & Interior Design. She wove the nautical features of a beach house with contemporary threads. "I wanted the interiors to be fashion forward," she says, "so I integrated hot patterns, such as zebra, in a couple of areas." Greenwich, Connecticut–based kitchen designer Karen Berkemeyer of Ceramic Design kept the large cooking and eating space simple and elegant. "It's a cottage look reminiscent of the 1920s," she says of the creamy recessed-panel cabinets and ceramic subway tile backsplash. "It will never go out of style."
Build for a cure
October 2007 marks the 23rd annual observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month—a fitting moment to note that, although much progress has been made, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 178,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the United States this year.
Get what you need — and give what you can — at , the website of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, our partner in this Westport, Connecticut, project, through which we raised $40,000 for this vital cause. Information about early detection, the latest screening methods, and support groups for patients and survivors is also available through this online resource.