What women want (and men, too, but not as vehemently) is a more organized house. That was the key finding of a two-year, 10,000 home buyer study conducted by Beazer Homes USA.
The surveys looked at the emotions that surround home organization and found that, while men as well as women value an organized home, women are filled with negative emotions if their home is disorganized. "When it comes to feeling overwhelmed, obsessive, or stressed out [about disorganization], more women than men feel that way ? It impacts us at a greater and deeper level than men."
These findings come at a particularly opportune moment, as many production home builders have sent their designers and architects back to the drawing board to develop floor plans and elevations that are both more magnetically appealing and less expensive to build. Less square footage enables production crews to save on materials and labor, while an overall smaller footprint can allow for new elevation and organizational solutions that will capture a distinctive edge in a market saturated with me-too inventory.
Since women make most home buying decisions, Beazer decided it made good sense to figure out a way to turn negative feelings into positive ones by rolling out a suite of home organization options in a program called SMARTDESIGN. Recently launched in Charlotte, N.C., it's too early to tell the results, but Whitler is optimistic it will become a point of differentiation between Beazer and other builders.
Whitler, whose background is in retail, has spearheaded efforts to use consumer research to create product. "It's pretty unusual in the home building industry," she says. "The reality is builders have been a little slow to keep pace. They believed, 'If we build it, they will come,' not, 'If we build it better, we can bring them into the community.' Most private builders have no resources, staff, or experience to be consumer-centric."
In addition to surveying 10,000 home buyers to reveal their needs, desires, habits, attitudes, and lifestyles, Beazer also consulted "experts" including interior designers, colorist, texturists, professional chefs, moms, manufacturers, and magazine editors. It also created an exclusive relationship with organizing expert Monica Ricci to design homes around how people live.
As a result, the company created a proprietary model to help predict home buyer preferences for different designs. "What this allows us to do is predict by target profile the floor plan preferences of homes," Whitler explains. "It allows us to get much clearer and much better at designing the home upfront. The result of all this is homes that are better designed to not just look good, but we are really talking about making sure that the home lives great, that it actually works."
Instead of the "traditional" nuclear family, today's families include more single parents–and more singles in general. People are also making more demands of their homes.
People are working longer than they did 20 years ago, so when they come home, they have a greater need to relax. "There are more stressed, more fragmented households who want their homes to do a lot more for them," Whitler says.
More people are working from home and need space for that. Families are staying at home to watch movies. Kids are spending less time outside and more time in the house. While there are fewer people in the typical household today, they have more stuff and no good places to store it. Additionally, home design hasn't really evolved to deal with the technological innovations seen in recent years. Forget the need for computer networking, a bigger problem is finding a place to plug in all the chargers for our personal electronic devices.
Our clutter and storage problems are so severe that, on average, the survey respondents said they spend 10 minutes a day looking for things they have misplaced. That's 60 hours per year.
The options Beazer has developed to address home storage challenges include:
- A home management center with a built-in desk centrally located in a loft or hallway, maximizing useful space. The center has built-in cabinets as well as open shelves and various sized drawers for storing office, homework, or computer supplies. It's wired for electronics. Because the work area is visible from the hub of the house, it makes it easier for parents to keep an eye on their children's computer use.
- An activity center that could be used as a home office or a craft-hobby room. There is built-in cabinetry that can hold office supplies, while rods installed under the shelves can be used to hold wrapping paper, newspapers, or magazines. There's also a built-in work surface and lighting both under the shelving and over the large central desk.
- A "chef's dream kitchen" that includes a center island with multiple-height countertops and cabinets designed to take advantage of every bit of space underneath the island. There are cutlery drawers with dividers for easy at-a-glance access, a dedicated spice rack cabinet, cabinets with pull-out shelves and custom peg dividers to better organize pots and pans, a pull out cabinet for garbage and recycling pans, and a pantry with adjustable shelves, wire racks on the back of the door for added storage, and drawer bins that allow easy access and visibility.