Stay in the home you love. Love the home you’re in.
Your home is more than four walls and a roof.Filled with the people and things you love, it tells the story of your life. No wonder most people age 45+ say they want to stay in their current homes for as long as possible.
The design of your home is key to fulfilling that goal. And remodeling is the perfect opportunity to integrate design ideas that will allow you to live comfortably in your home for a lifetime.
Universal Design, also referred to as Livable Design or Better Design, means creating an environment that’s easy for everyone to use— regardless of age, size or ability. It emphasizes convenience, simplicity, flexibility and adaptability. And it goes beyond accessibility to include style at its very core.
By incorporating this type of design into remodeling projects for two of the most important rooms of your house—your kitchen and bathroom— you will help ensure that you can live safely and independently even as your needs change.
This guide provides smart ideas and solutions to help you incorporate Universal Design into your kitchen and bathroom when you remodel—and live comfortably and independently in the home you love
3 Things to Know About Universal Design
It’s good for everyone : Typical homes are designed to fit “average” families. Yet some of their features don’t fit anyone at all. Deep kitchen cabinets with fixed shelves, for example, are difficult regardless of your age or size. Universally designed cabinets, which include pull-out drawers and easy-to-grab handles, are convenient for most everyone. A universally designed home works well for all.
It’s especially important as we age : While most of us remain healthy and active as we age, we may still experience changes in strength, flexibility, balance and reach. Universal Design features make it easier for us to adjust to these changes; our living environment accommodates the changes rather than creating barriers. And if we do have age-related health conditions, these features are even more important to allow us
to live conveniently, comfortably, and safely at home for a lifetime.
It’s easy to incorporate into your home : A kitchen or bathroom remodel is a great time to incorporate Universal Design features. Not remodeling now? Some changes, like updating faucets and handles, can be made at any time. You’ll be amazed at the positive impact even simple changes can make—and how stylish and attractive your “home for a lifetime” can be.
Remodeling Ideas for the Kitchen
- When selecting flooring such as linoleum, vinyl, wood, or ceramic tiles, choose materials that are slip-resistant, even-surfaced, low-glare, durable and easy to maintain.
- Creating plenty of open floor space makes it easy to maneuver around the kitchen. Allow at least 3 feet to 4 feet around appliances and cabinets.
- To ease movement between the kitchen and adjacent rooms, lower thresholds to ¼ inch to ½ inch, add angled wedges, or—even better— eliminate thresholds altogether.
- Consider installing rocker switches, which can be turned on and off with the back of your hand or elbow if hands are full. Some rocker switches have a back-lit feature that makes them visible in the dark.
- Lighting controls can be easier to reach by making small adjustments in their location. Mount switches 42 inches to 48 inches above the floor and outlets 18 inches to 24 inches above the floor.
- Supplement natural light with lighting from multiple sources. These may include under-cabinet lights, track lighting, recessed lighting or pendants that hang from the ceiling.
- Add glare-free task lighting over the sink, stove, countertops, and island work areas.
- Consider a wall oven, which can reduce the need to bend with hot or heavy items.
- Of the many types of refrigerators available, a side-by-side, bottom-freezer or drawer model can allow for easy reach of otherwise hard-to-get items.
- Select easy-to-grasp D- or U-shaped pulls, rather than round knobs, for cabinet doors and drawers.
- Soft auto-close hardware allows doors and drawers to open and close with just a touch.
Cabinets and Cupboards
- A pull-out shelf installed directly below or next to a wall oven or microwave will make it safer to remove hot foods.
- It’s easier to access storage space in base cabinets if you install pullout drawers rather than fixed shelving.
- Consider adjustable-height shelving and lazy susans in corner cupboards.
- Creating countertop areas at differing heights will provide work options for people of various heights, ages and abilities.
- As an alternative, install pull-out cabinetry or removable cabinet doors and shelves so you can work while seated.
Sinks and Faucets
- For the simplest operation of your faucets, select single-lever handles rather than two separate knobs or handles.
- Install pressure-balanced faucets (which help regulate temperature during changes in water pressure), and keep the temperature at 120 degrees or lower to avoid burns or scalding.