If you’ve ever planned a home remodel, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard the term universal design. This concept, which has been around for decades, is design that makes the environment accessible to all people regardless of disability, age and other factors. Recently, remodeling for accessibility has evolved into a trend that is popular among homeowners hoping to age in place, and it seems now that universal design is here to stay.Everyone can benefit from a space that is universally designed to maximize comfort, convenience and accessibility. Think back to a time when you were running late and had your hands full. Using your elbow to push down on a lever-style door handle would have been much more convenient than setting down everything and twisting a door knob. We’ve all been there.
Often, universal design elements are not requested in home construction unless the client has a disability or a condition that requires special accommodation. More homeowners would request these special features if only they realized how beneficial universal design can be. In this post, we'll talk about five common universal design elements found in modern homes. These features can help you live more easily and comfortably.
1. Lever-Style Door Handles
Circular door knobs can be difficult to turn. These types of doorknobs, which are standard in most homes, can present a special challenge for people who have problems with their grip or arthritis. Door knobs can also be difficult for people to operate from a wheel chair.
For ultimate convenience, install lever-style doorknobs. You can do this on your own, even if you're not planning to remodel your house. If you are planning to remodel, your contractor can do the work for you. When choosing lever-style door knobs, consider the following:
- Finish. Choose a doorknob finish that matches the colors in the room.
- Lock or no lock. Many lever-style door handles have locks, but if a lock is important, read the manufacturer specifications to ensure that the handle you choose has a lock included.
- Handle direction. The direction of the handle must point in the direction of the hinges. Note the location of the hinges on the door before choosing a lock that works for you. If the hinges are on the right, select a door handle that points to the right. If hinges are on the left, select a door handle that points to the left.
Like the classic look of a circular door knob, but want the ease of use that comes from a lever? Opt for an oval-shaped knob, which is easier to hold and less likely to slip through your hand as you turn.
2. Pull-Out Drawers
Pull-out drawers are drawers that stand in place of shelves. They're usually found behind cabinet doors, but sometimes are used in pantries and larders. Pull-out drawers typically hold all the same things that would be held by shelves, including dishes, pots and pans, spices and more. Still, pull-out drawers have some conveniences that shelves just don't have.
For example, reaching the back of a shelf can be a challenge, especially if that shelf is near the ground or way up high. Pull-out drawers make it easier to reach things that have been put away in the rear of your cabinets. Other advantages include:
- Improved organization. Pull-out drawers are much easier to organize, because you can easily put the things at the back that you don't use as often.
- Better value overall. Are you planning to sell your home sometime soon? Installation of pull-out drawers can impress buyers. Smart organizational features can improve your home's value, which can help the home sale process.
- Better accessibility for people with physical challenges. Pull-out drawers are easier for elderly people and people with disabilities to use.
- Easy storage for miscellaneous items. Maybe you have too many oven mitts or serving spoons to keep organized. Use your pull-out drawers to keep the mess contained.
If you're planning to install pull-out drawers in your cabinets at home, talk to a contractor to ensure installation is done correctly. Your contractor can help you choose custom or semi-custom cabinets that work for your needs, and can also perform installation.
3. Motion Sensor Faucets
Motion sensor faucets are typically found in commercial buildings, but that doesn't mean that they can't be found in your home. Motion sensor faucets make it easy to use your sink without touching handles, which helps prevent the spread germs. Motion sensor faucets are also easier for most seniors and people in wheel chairs. In fact, if you have a little one at home, your little one may find your motion sensor faucet easier to use, as handles on standard faucets can be difficult for small children to reach.
It's best to have a contractor install your motion sensor faucet for you, as your contractor can ensure that the plumbing and wiring is done properly. Like the lever-style door handles, match the finish of the faucet to the room and other fixtures in the vicinity. Look to the shower head and bathtub faucet for inspiration. If you don't like the finish of those other fixtures, work with your contractor to have all faucets and fixtures in your bathroom replaced.
Like touchless faucets, but want the ability to turn the faucet on and off manually? Some faucets have an override setting, which enables you to use your touchless faucet like a more traditional faucet, with a manually controlled handle.
4. Curbless Showers
Curbless showers have been very popular for the last several years, and not just because they're elegant and stylish. Curbless showers are safe and functional.
Stepping into and out of a shower with a bump along the perimeter can be dangerous, especially for people who weak legs, trouble with eyesight or poor physical coordination. Curbless showers have no bump at all between the bathroom floor and the shower floor. Once in the shower, the floors are slightly slanted to ensure that the water will make its way to the drain.
Work with a contractor to have your curbless shower properly installed. Shower installation that is not done well could lead to leaks, drainage problems and even accidents from overflowing water.
5. Slip Resistant Tile
Slip resistant tile prevents accidents from occurring in the bathroom, kitchen and other high moisture places. We recommend that all flooring tile should be non-slip, including tile found at the entrances and exits to the home, and in exterior environments like the back and front porch.
Slip resistant tile can come in a variety of colors and even textures. Shop around for the right tile in the right color for you. Looking for something unusual? Try tiles in a strange shape, or large format tiles. Large format tiles can make your small bathroom appear slightly larger, by introducing longer lines to the space. Some ceramic tiles can be made to mimic other materials, like wood planks. For the look of natural wood but the durability of clay or stone, look for tiles that look like natural wood planks.
Why Choose a Design/Build Firm for Universal Design
When it comes to custom bathrooms, it’s best to work with an experienced design/build firm. In the Sarasota area, homeowners can turn to Gilbert Design Build. Our talented team will handle all aspects of your project from start to finish. Plus, if you’re unsure about what’s needed for your bathroom remodel, there’s no need to stress – as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, we have the expertise needed to design an accessible bathroom that meets your unique needs and goals.
At Gilbert Design Build, we help homeowners like you to plan and implement their home remodel. We use the principles of universal design to help homeowners make their homes safer, more convenient and more accessible. If you're planning a home remodel in 2020, contact us today for a consultation. We'll be happy to recommend design-build elements that can help you age in place and accommodate people of all ages and abilities.