After years of working in their family’s various construction companies, it was time for Charlotte Smarr and her daughters, Riley Smarr and Morgan Smarr...
By the end of May, potential home buyers in mid-Missouri will be able to tour the first woman-centric model home built in Columbia. Local builder Dan Kliethermes, of Kliethermes Homes and Remodeling Inc., is putting the finishing touches on a model home that incorporates features aimed at making homes more livable and usable for women.
Woman-centric, according to Kliethermes, is an approach to home design, building and the customer experience. “The construction industry is dominated by men, but 91 percent of the decisions about the home are made by women,” he said. “This approach recognizes that.”
The woman-centric home doesn’t just incorporate visible features that distinguish it from other new homes, but it also includes a series of steps that engage women in the planning process.
“This approach is designed to focus on asking questions, listening to the needs, understanding those needs and designing around that,” Kliethermes said.
Kliethermes, a Columbia homebuilder for 30 years, first learned of the woman-centric approach at a national homebuilders’ conference.
Kliethermes has been a frequent attendee of seminars and conferences that focus on women homebuyers, but the woman-centric approach was the first to put all the components together, including marketing the strategy. Kliethermes became designated as a woman-centric builder in November 2008 by Design Builders of Omaha, which sells the product.
“It’s not a franchise really,” Kliethermes said. “There is some money involved. They don’t do it for free.” The agreement between Kliethermes and Design Builders, one of the largest sellers of home plans in the United States, guarantees Kliethermes exclusive territory in Boone and the surrounding counties. The program also provided training for Kliethermes’ staff and the tradespeople he employs.
Kliethermes has yet to build a woman-centric home for a client, as most of his current projects were already beyond the design phase. However, he has incorporated the woman-centric approach into several remodeling jobs.
Robert and Melba Hall hired Kliethermes to build their custom home in 1999 and recently hired the firm again for a major remodeling job, just completed in April. The Halls and Kliethermes found ways to make the best use of existing space, focusing on increasing convenience for how the Hall family functions.
“Most of us use the back door 1,000 times a year, but may only use the front door 10 times, so we focus on that rear entry to make it more usable and convenient,” Kliethermes said.
Melba Hall agrees. Before the remodeling job, she said guests would come in through the laundry room and see piles of laundry, vacuum cleaners, a litter box, dog food dishes and cluttered open shelving.
“We are extremely happy with the remodel,” Melba Hall says. “You look into the room now and it’s neat with functional cabinetry and shelves and an area for folding laundry that also hides the pet center.”
Kliethermes also reconfigured the Halls’ kitchen cabinets and pantry. “He made suggestions, so I no longer had to get on my hands and knees to dig through shelves that were too low, and in the pantry we no longer have bugs because there’s been an open box of cereal hidden somewhere in the back for a year,” Melba Hall says.
The woman-centric home plans also make it easier for home buyers to visualize the finished product. A color-coded floor plan, called “Livability At A Glance,” identifies four lifestyle zones by color, including areas designated as flexible living, entertaining, abundant storage and de-stressing. For example, the storage areas are colored yellow to easily identify how many there are and where they are located throughout the house.
Flexible living areas include versatile rooms that can evolve as a family’s situation changes and can be used as an office, exercise room, craft area, den, playroom, study or in-law suite. De-stressing areas include the master suite area, pet showers in the basement, oversized walk-in showers and optional screened-in decks. Nearly all the woman-centric home plans feature open living spaces connected to one another and the kitchen.
The Kliethermes woman-centric model home, located at 2310 Redmond Court in the Cascades Subdivision, features amenities to make peoples’ lives easier, according to Kliethermes. “We have maintenance-free railings and composite products on the decks,” he says. “We have walk-in showers, so there’s no glass doors to clean. In the kitchen, the microwave is lower, and the dishwasher is a little higher – all to make it easier for the homeowner.”
Kliethermes does not think his woman-centric approach will upset men. “Will we alienate a man here or there? I don’t think so. Let me tell ‘ya, when you have a great house plan that works well, the resell is much quicker. They will get a better return on their investment, so I’m not concerned.”