Mars vs Venus Design

Will men ever appreciate the function of a toss pillow? Will women understand the appeal of a chair with built-in cup holders? Can we all just get along?

 There was a time when design decisions were “woman’s work.” No more! I’m finding that when my design client is a couple, the man has just as much to say about style as his partner. What changed? Women are now an integral part of the workplace and men are discovering their sensitive side. Couples are inspired by watching HGTV together. Time is at a premium for both and that makes sharing the design decisions a togetherness activity.
Vanguard’s V298-S sofa has two toned java and chocolate brown leather for that manly look, while the curved English arm and rolled camel back provide feminine appeal. Detailed with brass nailheads, it’s manly, yes, but she’ll like it too.


As a designer, one of my biggest challenges is acting as counselor and negotiator between the male and female of the household. The difficulty is classic Mars vs. Venus. In general, men are driven by function and practicality. Women are driven by emotional reaction and beauty.  In todays economy both want value, but judge it in different terms.

Most men look at furniture and think, “What does it do?” Women, on the other hand, want the room to feel good. Understanding the priorities of each will help you help them create the perfect space.

Historically, masculine design is interpreted as large scale, straight lines, bold structure and materials with inherent interest, such as wood graining or an exotic place of origin. Feminine is recognizable by curved lines, delicate proportions, embellished detailing and lusious fabrics. Both want high quality and good value, but each weighs the importance differently.

Paulette and Perceval are companion tables from Italmond that demonstrate how a piece can be adapted for a masculine or feminine character. The galaxy granite top and antique gold leaf finish are gender neutral, so we can rely on the base for definition.


The most successful solutions find common ground, with a touch of compromise. Furniture and rooms with favorite elements for each individual will satisfy both. One key to success is careful attention to the scale of the furniture. His bold leather sofa does not go next to her delicate tea table.

Another successful approach is to place her color, such as a robins egg blue, on a  sturdy piece, like a Chippendale secretary.  The result is a gender-neutral piece. Take a look at the typical hot buttons for each sex,  add your  personal preferences and you have a mix-and-match list for building your personal style.

Hot buttons for men
Clean, straight lines
Leather and firm fabrics
Bold patterns or solids
High quality
Easy access
Details inherrent in material

Hot buttons for women
Romantic, curved lines
Silk and touchable fabrics
Delicate patterns and sheen
Good value
Hidden function
Embellished applied details

Juxtaposition of masculine and feminine features will bring a room into balance and creates a wonderful relationship, for both the room and the people living in it. With a little give and take, everyone can live happily ever after.

One thought on “Mars vs Venus Design

  1. Interesting Mars/Venus. As you may not know most of our furniture was designed by men and you hit the nail on the head. Great insight.

    Also, thanks for the follow in Twitter.

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