McNeil, as a cultural historian of design discussed the role of gender in design and space.
As the first woman in interior design, Elsi Woolf brought light, synthetics and reflections into design - “a man will forever be a quest in his own home”Women design input creates comfort and a sense of belonging in a space - its more than just being decorative or innovative with space.
David Halperin said "To practice stylistics of the self ultimately means to cultivate that part of oneself that leads beyond oneself", meaning we push the limits of our style in order to stand out from the crowd, to be unique. This is a timeless quote as despite the change in fashionable style of time, our influences of style have forever remained the same. We are all driven by trends/popular culture, our own self esteem, class and status. expectations from others and ourselves, the people we admire and look up to, the people who surround us and the person we are trying to be.
The emergence of homosexual networks coincident with the emergence of ideas about personal freedom and mobile social relations in which each person can make a space for themselves. The exploration gender relations as a person choice, self identity and an individual preference reflects the way design of a space evolves. motivated by personal preference in order to communicate an idea or style and ultimately relate ones self to a space - creating a space as an identity.
Can interior design be seen as extensions of other forms such as Gothic literature or masquerade dressing? Like styles, theories and philosophies, even words, interiors are changeable, modifiable to an idea. They can transmit an idea, an opinion, a certain moment in time. Spaces can be dressed up or dressed down for an occasion - creating a mask of the actual space. Fashion and interiors often matched during time periods - such as periods of war when necessity trumps want. Only the bare minimum was acceptable with food and material rationing. Fashions during the war were basics, to be worn until rags, as were spaces - ships pulled apart for metal for machinery - kitchens filled with just enough food for each occupant per week.
Today, contemporary issues such as pollution and sustainability can be seen in current architecture and interiors. Designs are becoming more rationalised, economical and organised. Things are built to last a lifetime and with no wasted materials. The price of sustainability and being environmentally friendly are high yet justified as necessary, not just novelty.
Overtime, spaces have changed to acknowledge gender within space. Household kitchens which once remained hidden are now more focused on, often creating a social area in a house, joint with living and dining spaces. Perhaps this is due to evolutions in design functionality, gender roles (woman as domestics) or the evolution or class (when kitchens were once occupied with cooks and servants).
Share houses are often dominated by one gender, showing how we negotiate within a space and find comfort with others in space.
Female design and interaction of space is often seen to be avoidable of elaborate spaces. Minimalist spaces allowed the lose gender stereotypes. Reflecting on women over time they appear as objects of man’s wealth and power in society. by isolating themselves women can establish themselves as independent - creating their own sense of power and mark their presence as a individual, as an independent woman in society- just as it was acceptable for men to be on their own, so it was for them. Men often dominated the more public, open spaces, if women could create their own equivalent spaces, they too could be of equal social status
Today gendered spaces are still identifiable but not as prominent as they have been in the past. These space are however more private spaces, such as bathrooms, change rooms and spas. While associations with gender relations can be associated with space, what really defines a space is our perspective of that space, rather than its physical being.
The use of space by people, no matter gender or intended design use however, can never be fully predicted during design.