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Man's turf
Guys are having a greater say in the kitchen

By MATT SCHROEDER

 

You know what they say about men. Big feet, big Ö under-cabinet toe space?

Of course thatís what they say. "They" being kitchen remodelers who are slowly but steadily seeing menís growing influence on the cooking spaces they now design.

When the American suburbs erupted beginning in the 1950s, kitchens belonged exclusively to women ó women who, on average, were about 5-foot-3-inches.

Todayís average man is about 5-foot-9. Heís also much more likely to at least participate in cooking, serving and cleaning than Ward Cleaver and Ozzie Nelson were. All the testosterone-driven food shows out there ó think "Iron Chef" ó are proof of that. So set aside the moment a manís natural inclination toward larger, faster and more powerful appliances and electronics ó the first trend in male-inspired kitchen remodels is a more accommodating workspace.

"Everything in the kitchen was basically designed for a woman," says Ed Miller of E. Miller and Associates in Cedarburg. Kitchens for men might start with countertops at 37-1/2 or even 38 inches, as opposed to the normal 36. Exhaust hoods are raised. The aforementioned toe space beneath cabinets increases. Sinks and prep areas grow. Molly Madsen of AB&K in Greenfield and Mequon points out that even the cabinet hardware ó normally not friendly to bigger, meatier male hands ó comes under scrutiny.

Once a man fits in the kitchen, however, itís not yet a manís kitchen. Next up are the appliances.

"Every man that walks into our showroom likes our 48-inch-wide fridge," Madsen says. Simply put, kitchens are great places for gadgets.

Madsen says her husband thinks their undercounter icemaker is probably the coolest gadget in the entire house. Another favorite is the dishwasher with a removable grate. It can be filled with ice so you can chill beverages there. You have your party with ice-cold beer and soda, and when the event is finished, just run the rinse cycle and your "cooler" is clean.

Miller finds that men are partial to high-end appliances, such as Sub-Zero and Viking brands, and feel the same way about cookware. "Itís a tool in the kitchen, and men can never have enough tools," Miller says.

Guys also get interested in the guts of the work being done in their homes. Power tools tend to do that. "Men do get into the finishes of things, and the construction," says Laree Allen of Allen Kitchen and Bath. "Men tend to look at the construction side ó what the underlay under the ceramic tile floor is going to be, or what the finish on the cabinets is going to be."

Other considerations tend to get a manís attention in a remodel. First, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, is the bar.

"Men get very involved in the bar," Madsen says. "If anybody is doing a lower-level remodel, thatís the one thing you get a lot of feedback on from the guys."

Televisions and other audio-visual conveniences are also very important, because itís hard to make chili when youíre constantly having to go into the next room to see whether or not the Packers were able to finish off that drive. "Lighting is surprisingly important," Madsen says. "I have men that seem to get involved in that part of it. It surprises me ó a lot of people overlook that part of it."

But while men dream big and design big in their kitchens, they tend to sidestep other details. Miller and Madsen ó who did not collude beforehand ó point that out.

"What we hear from females is, he loves to cook but he makes a huge mess," Madsen says.

"When guys cook, they donít think about the mess theyíre going to make," Miller says.

The obvious solution there is the easy-to-clean range top. Flat, ceramic tops seem the clear choice, yet an electric countertop just doesnít sing the same siren call as a stainless steel gas range firing off 18,000 BTU with five burners and 6.0 cubic foot of convection oven space (add Tim Allen-style barking here). Madsen, however, says there are now such range tops that also lend themselves to easy cleaning.

Another mess-busting trend is the two-dishwasher kitchen. Miller says both kitchens he did just for men had two dishwashers.

Overall, men bring a very functional approach to kitchen remodeling. What can be done in the kitchen and how convenient is it going to be to do are the questions men want answered by their kitchen designers and contractors. M