Togetherness has its place. But sometimes even the most compatible couples need their space.
That age-old reality has been influencing home design for centuries, to greater and lesser degrees. During the Victorian era, most middle- and upper-class houses boasted two parlors: one where the ladies could sew and sip tea, and another where the gentlemen could fire up their cigars and imbibe stronger libations.
Gender equity -- and open floor plans -- brought the sexes back together for a few decades. But there are signs that a room of one's own is regaining its appeal. There's the "man cave" phenomenon, with rec rooms and other guys' spaces getting a heavy shot of testosterone.
For many couples, even sharing a bedroom appears to be too much togetherness. A 2007 survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that 25 percent of new, "upscale" (more than 3,000 square feet) homes had dual master suites.
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"We thought it reflected boomerang children, but it ended up being husbands and wives who wanted separate bedrooms," said Steve Melman, the association's director of economic services. Dueling work schedules and sleep incompatibilities are the driving factors, he said.
There's also more interest in "specialty rooms," designed to accommodate a particular person and a single activity, Melman said. "The demand has increased over the decade. Usually one spouse, or a child, is using the room."
And if you think the faltering economy has nipped that in the bud, think again. "I see his-and-hers rooms happening more. I feel it will be a trend," said Jennie Korsbon, interior designer with RCC Interiors, Minneapolis. The economic downturn is prompting many families to cut back on outside entertaining and spend more time at home, which will lead to more personalization, she predicts. "People will be trying to find comfort and peace at home -- a private little corner where you're not interrupted by your partner or kids."
Jeralyn Mohr, interior designer and mural artist with Full Nest, St. Paul, also has seen an uptick in gender-specific retreats. While newlyweds and young couples often use designers to help them merge their styles after marriage, empty nesters -- a growing category as baby boomers age -- are more interested in his-and-hers rooms.
Couples who work together, in particular, often appreciate separate retreats at home, "especially if they're in a customer-service business and spend a lot of time talking with people," she said.
"They need a restful space where they can be by themselves -- a little separation, a little quiet time, to tune in to their own personalities."