Contemporary home environment in Jeddah City: women and the design of living spaces
Hareri, Raghda Hassan
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This research entails a close analysis of the contemporary home environment. The study of the home environment and the relationship between domestic spaces and residents is a noteworthy trend in design studies. This opens up the possibility of investigating gender influence on interior design. This study focuses on the role of women in designing living spaces’ interiors, to unveil the women's role and participation in their home environment. The main focus of this study is the design role of women in family living rooms, particularly in the context of Jeddah city, Saudi Arabia. The study articulates how women leave identity footprints on the space they have designed and used. My research indicates that the interior design of any space is more complex than simply shaping the use of space; it also reinforces the woman’s influence. The methodological framework has been structured into two main approaches: a case study approach, which involved in-depth case studies of living spaces, and an ethnographical approach, which involved in-depth interviews with middle-class housewives in their living rooms. The latter approach aimed to seek information about experiences, performances, interactions and values in the home environment, and enables identity presentation in the family living room. In addition, associated methods, such as photographic and video records, coding the living space features and visual observation of the living room were used to document every detail of the living space, to enrich data collection and unpack the environmental meanings. These mixed methods helped to understand the reality of women’s home experiences and provide a compelling portrait of women’s roles and identities within their living spaces. The main theoretical paradigms are Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity and Erving Goffman’s work on the presentation of self in social interaction, to investigate the gender roles and types of performance in the domestic living rooms. The practice of structuring the living room, furnishing and decorating the space interiors and the spatial arrangement illustrate the different circumstances in which women play their roles and have influence in distinct ways in the living rooms’ contexts. How Saudi women use the living space for their private activities and social relationships is examined, to investigate the presentation of Saudi women’s identity and position in the home and beyond. This research has explored Saudi women’s performativity through their design experience and everyday engagement with the interior space and objects within their domestic living rooms; these performances represent their priorities in various roles through which social visibility is assumed. This research has established a new understanding of what goes on behind the closed doors of Jeddah homes. It has been found that Saudi housewives (with no formal interior design education or qualifications) dominate the design of domestic interiors. A new group of designers has been identified, who need to be recognised and acknowledged. In this research context, these Saudi housewives in Jeddah are amateur homemakers and interior designers, designing their home spaces and doing the job like any other professional designers. In this case, they must be acknowledged socially.