In America today, women make the vast majority of all purchasing decisions and hold a substantial amount of financial clout in marketing, according to Faith Popcorn in her new best-seller, “EVEolution: The Eight Truths of Marketing to Women,” co-authored by Lys Marigold. For many years forecasters have been telling companies to focus more of their marketing efforts on women and their daughters because of their matured ability to purchase without anyone’s approval. They have assets of their own and have control over those assets and how they spend them.
This article focuses on interiors that have a particular appeal to women.
In this new millennium, and in our world culture, we are more frankly
open-minded about reality. Many women and men have learned to accept their
differences without apology. Women have certain characteristics that remain
constant. These include the following facts:
• Nearly all women think of home and family as an anchor in their
lives. Their complex, demanding lives orbit around their homes and their
loved ones. Their needs and wants, and those of their families, are never
off stage no matter where women are or what they are doing.
• Even women with busy careers never lose touch with their families
or their friends. Women network actively to stay in touch and stay connected.
They willingly share their opinions and their recommendations with other
women—close friends and family as well as professional or casual
• Women are multi-linear thinkers who can manage many tasks simultaneously
while still keenly observing in their periphery items that can make their
lives more beautiful, meaningful or convenient.
• Women are profoundly aware of integrity in products, in marketing
and in service and often demand the best a company has to offer.
They also want more facts before making decisions. They are less willing
to accept excuses for shoddy workmanship or inferior performance.
• Mothers are the important influencers in the purchasing decisions
of their daughters. “Like mother, like daughter” still holds
when it comes to quality and integrity, proven worth and even open-mindedness
about new products and styles.
Mothers and daughters alike are furnishing their interiors with their
own individuality in mind, respecting the differences in one another’s
style preferences. Daughters are respecting the intelligence and wisdom
of their mothers, and often will choose the brands their mothers prefer,
even if the styles are different.
• Women more openly express their femininity. If a style appeals
to them, they will likely accomplish the look for themselves with less
concern for pleasing their male counterparts than in the mid-century years
and earlier when women were expected to please their man first and to
obtain his approval for each purchase.
I like to give my introductory interior design classes the following advice,
“Men, if she wants flowers in the bedroom (or anywhere), let her
have them! If she feels more like a woman, then you can feel more like
a man!” That is not to say that every woman needs flowers, but then
what woman doesn’t appreciate them? Men no longer need to feel threatened
by an interior that isn’t masculine, because women who feel and appreciate
their own femininity can also appreciate a man’s masculinity. There
need be no conflict.
• Most of the startup businesses in America are owned by women. They
have realized that in corporate America the glass ceiling is still a reality,
and they have decided to buck the system and become their own corporate
presidents. Right from the start, women-owned businesses establish flex-time
and schedule time for family and friends while not diminishing the quality
of work accomplished. These businesses often employ others on a part-time
or full-time basis.
Women have become empowered and are a force to deal with in every sense
of the word. Women are smart, savvy and educated. They are as likely as
men to know where their retirement funds and insurance protection stands,
where their resources are and how to invest and to disperse them. They
plan for the future, and they know what they want in their homes and offices.
THE SAME AND DIFFERENT
Women of all ages (mothers and daughters) are finding their own styles.
While they are the same in demanding quality and in looking at the options
in new products and materials, there are decided differences in style.
Many mature women find more satisfaction in rich, traditional European-inspired,
upscale furnishings with more than a touch of lavishness. Younger women
tend to the cleaner look of Pottery Barn, with an early- to mid-20th-century
honesty in line and material.
For the more financially endowed mature women, frankly feminine interiors
are seen as a reward for their hard work and excellent money managing.
Some of the looks that might be preferred by women are as follows.
According to Creative Director Suzanne Houlès of Houlès
Worldwide, Europe’s largest trimmings manufacturer, “I’ve
noticed a new trend toward a more dressed-up, feminine look in interior
design. It’s more complicated, romantic and pretty. This interior
reflects the softer, more colorful direction design is now taking.”
From the clean mid-century modern to the mixture of old and new, this
direction is one of casual elegance and good quality, coupled with finds
of whimsical, feminine, romantic or quirky accessories.
At the window, both precision and imperfection are seen happily side by
side, such as alternative window blinds and shades that control light
and assure privacy while side panels (either operable or non-operable)
hang limply and in a slightly disheveled manner, casual but somehow classy.
The trick is to get the look carefully balanced, to achieve a fresh and
uncontrived look while enjoying the best that technology has to offer.
The casualness and individuality are a screen or foil for that technology.
This look is clean, simple and even naïve—a romantic glance
backward to the ’50s with embroidery, butterflies and daisies, gingham
and a farm-fresh approach. It is very casual and is often uncluttered.
Natural woods and painted wood furniture are honest and even cute. It
is a look that is often budget yet fun with some items of top-notch quality.
It is fun and perky, delightful and youthful.
SIMPLE, CONTEMPORARY TRADITIONAL
With so many women in the workforce pursuing careers as diverse as any
male population has ever known, many women prefer a look that is clean,
tailored, uncluttered, simple, but also traditional, which is a style
that will not date quickly.
Fewer women have the time to shop, to dream about what else they would
do with that already decorated room. They want styles that will stand
the test of time, that will be just as functional and lovely in five years
as they are today. In the midst of this upsurge is contemporary traditional:
clean updates of historic classics, sometimes over-scaled to fit the newer,
cleanly styled, large scaled interiors.
One more direction that has developed among women is a Style of My Own
in which the woman—young, mid-age or mature—says, “I’ll
do it my way.” The colors that are personally preferred; the objects
that are held most dear, no matter how eclectic; and the furnishings that
reflect a life of artistic independence are the bylaws of this direction.
When working with a woman who insists on selecting items and coordinating
furnishings that are out-of-the-ordinary, remember that she is looking
for support from you, the design professional. To the extent that you
can assist her in making her interior right for her personally, you will
find your own success in selling products that will meet her needs.
Be open-minded in working with women; they have a lot of clout in the
world of sales, and their voices must be respected if you wish to be successful.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design
at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and
has authored several books including Window Treatments, Understanding
Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent
for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion,
education and merchandising.