Women are from red buildings, men are from grey …

Gender differences used to be all the rage (remember the Mars & Venus series?) and differences between people were frequently attributed to natural inclinations of being either male or female. Now we know gender isn’t binary; that women don’t always prefer wine and men don’t always prefer whiskey.

SO. I was surprised when a Gen X real estate developer took me back to 1989:

Him: Do you like this building façade?

Me: Yes, it’s warm and contemporary.

Him: Are you sure?

Me: Yes, why? (Did I stutter?)

HIM: Women prefer color in their facades.

ME: (WTF?) Yes, I like this façade. It has clean lines, well placed windows, and the wood tones add warmth.

I’ve worked in male-dominated fields for 15 years, first law, then real estate development, and now tech so my initial thought was “what a dope”. But a day later it occurred to me “This guy is making architects design buildings with brightly colored facades because he believes that’s what women want and which apartment they lease. This explains so many terribly designed buildings!” I asked an architect friend who confirmed that adding color to a building’s facade “because that’s what women want” has been directed of her — regardless of her opinion as one of the representative sample. This conversation really sat with me. We all suffer when someone designs and develops a large building the color of Pepto-Bismol.

So I set out to see if women really do prefer a colored facade over neutral.

I did it by surveying 200 of my closest friends and family and asked them to spread the word. I received 233 responses, which is pretty decent. A larger percentage of responders were women (62%), but I view this as a good thing since I’m most interested in whether I’m an outlier among my gender.

Good news is…..I’m not alone! According to the survey, there is no significant statistical difference between male and female building color preferences. The bad news is — literally nobody likes the Pepto-Bismol colored building designed to attract 50% of the population.

We started by asking “Which façade do you prefer?” of two buildings with similar height, flat facades, and first floor retail.

57% of female respondents preferred the neutral façade, whereas 50% of men had the same preference. By the way, same architect designed both buildings. So somebody with development responsibility said “Women paint their nails red! Let’s add red to this building!” I’m paraphrasing.

Just to be safe, we asked again about color preference: Now a Goldilocks-style question: is this building too neutral, too colorful, or just right?

The average was 3.60 — a bit too neutral for most folks. Women thought this façade was too neutral by less than 2% (3.58 to 3.65). Zero difference between genders here.

There’s a litany of research on gender color preferences in general, including by data analytics firm Kissmetrics and by Sherwin Williams who agree that brown and orange are men and women’s least favorite colors. Who knew? Perhaps we will see less orange brick as a result of this survey. Keep in mind these responses are just one thread in understanding complex design preferences. Throughout our research and articles we’ll explore the emotions and motivations behind what places make us happy, what about these spaces postively impact our mood and lives, and are we making the wise decisions to maximize our time in these happy places.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on similar topics to explore! Shoot us an email or leave a comment.