Who listens to what working women want most in a home? A New Jersey builder, the Scarborough Corporation, for one. A year ago the company invited 15 professional women in the area to define what for them would be ``the Working Woman's Dream House.'' Company officials met with the women in two evening sessions.
Gary Schall, vice-president of Scarborough, recalls, ``Surveys told us that over 70 percent of home buyers today are two-career couples. It was obvious to us that working women had much less time to shop, clean house, and entertain. So we were eager to learn what these women wanted that we were not giving them.''
They got an earful. The women ranged from a municipal judge to a disc jockey, and included a social worker, a lab technician, an economic forecaster, and a secretary - all of whom said they wanted the design of any ``ideal'' home to be sensitive to their professional lives.
They all agreed, too, that ``there is no such thing as too much lighting, or too much storage space.'' They didn't want either the kitchen or the family room to be the first thing anyone saw when he walked through the front door. They all wanted a dream house that would yield more privacy and easier maintenance and that would simplify entertaining.
Some said they would like an exercise center included. A number desired an at-home office. Computer consultant Susan Milstein declared, ``My office has to be away from the bustle of the rest of the house. Somehow everyone in the family ends up doing some work at home, and I need a separate place to do mine.''
The women all seconded a statement by teaching assistant Christine Montesanti: ``I need a walk-in pantry for food storage. Before I started working, I used to shop several times a week, but now I go twice a month.'' And they agreed with the observation from Maxine Hirschel, an advertising executive: ``My ideal house would have a giant kitchen, because it's such a popular meeting area, and there always seems to be a comfortable casual rapport there.''
The real house that eventually evolved from all the comment and discussion is now open as a display model at the Beagle Club, a single-family housing development in Voorhees, N.J. The four-bedroom, 3,028-square-foot house, designed by John DiNisio of Sullivan Associates in Philadelphia, was planned to meet the needs of a working father and mother and two school-age children.
Since surveys showed that two-career couples among Scarborough's buyers were now purchasing more-expensive, upscale homes in the $150,000-to-$200,000 range, the house was designed as a move-up home that would combine both function and luxury.
The working women whose advice was sought got what they asked for - from the secluded study in the front of the house next to the living room, to the communication desk center between the kitchen and dining room, with its handy telephone, intercom, file drawers, message station, cubbyholes, and so forth.
The big kitchen, with its two sinks and walk-in pantry, is large enough for several people to take part in preparing meals. Since the women had complained about the ordeal of seasonal changes of wardrobe in their closets, the dream house has a rotating closet in the master bedroom suite, which makes both summer and winter wardrobes available at the flick of a switch.
For comfort and convenience, the dream house also has walk-in closets for both husband and wife, as well as two well-lighted vanities with wash basins.
The family room becomes the ``family suite,'' and it opens into the oversize kitchen, which adjoins a spacious and sunny breakfast nook. The laundry area can be on the ground floor or second floor, as the family prefers. The master bedroom is spacious and private. The fourth, or guest, bedroom was equipped with a fold-up Murphy bed, clearing floor space for exercise pad or equipment.
All the women who took part in the panel were invited to the opening of the model. All nodded approval as they noted how their suggestions had been incorporated into the plan of the house.
``I thought it was wonderful,'' said Martha Karasick, another of the women who participated in the initial discussion, ``because the house really did implement our ideas. It was an excellent project, because it gave working women an input into house design. And who better could make many of these suggestions?''