In the twentieth century, interior design choices were largely the domain of women – which may explain pastel floral couches and mauve carpeting. When guys did have a say, their spaces were predictably clad in sturdy shades of brown or forest green.
Justine Blanda-Wengrod still sees those preferences in her Los Angeles-based residential interior design practice. "Men seem to gravitate to deeper, richer colors. Most women like pale, soft hues."
Joel Sanders, principal of Joel Sanders Architect in New York and Associate Professor of Architecture at Yale University, also sees gender playing a part in color selections. Guys are "a little fearful of colors that are traditionally feminine," such as purple, lavender or pink. But, Sanders cautions, context matters. Centuries ago, pink was considered masculine and popular in men's clothing. Today's metrosexual men have once again embraced pink as a fashionable clothing choice.
But when it comes to interiors, males usually prefer neutral, earth-toned elements, such as sand and stone, Sanders says. Meanwhile, Blanda-Wengrod recalls a female client who looked at 75 paint samples before making a selection, something that has never happened with a male client.
Is there any biological basis for gender color preferences? Perhaps. Research finds that men identify fewer colors than women and are 16 percent more likely to be color-blind. Women not only see, but respond favorably, to a wider range of colors. One University of Texas study found that white, gray and beige offices were depressing to women, while men felt similar negative feelings in orange and purple rooms.
Regardless of their differences, says Blanda-Wengrod, men and women share the same goals for color. With busy lives, both want "comfort and relaxation" – whatever color it comes in.
For more information:
- Color Matters Newsletter Spring 2007
- The Meaning of Color for Gender by Natalia Khouw
- "Workweek productivity, visual complexity and individual environmental sensitivity in three offices of different color interiors," by Nancy Kwallek, Soon Kokyung, Carol M. Lewis, The University of Texas at Austin, School of Architecture, Department of Interior Design.