To most, the phrase dream home brings to mind a home filled with fantasy amenities, custom trims, top-of-the-line appliances, the latest in home technology, swimming pools, and much, much more. For smart homeowners, it now means a home that you can live in forever! A home that can accommodate you and your young family, through a hectic mid-life, and finally to coping with the physical limitations that can sometimes accompany getting older.
Universal design, sometimes called lifespan design, is a term used to describe this type of home design. This design combines the best of accessible, ergonomic, and green design. It creates spaces that can be used by everyone and are also appealing to all. It doesn’t stigmatize any particular group of users. Let’s take a closer look at some of the specifics of universal design, breaking it down by rooms in your home.
Entry and General Living spaces
- A 3’-wide gently sloping, no-step entry – allows entry for wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, etc.
- Lever-handled Front Door – easier to grip and open
- No changes in floor levels through main area of the home – increases safety, eliminates tripping
- Pocket doors where possible – Provides privacy and gives sense of extra space
- Handrails on both sides of staircases
- Open, spacious floor plan with 5 ½’ hallways (4 ½ ft. standard)
- Rocker panel light switches are easier to “flip”
Bedrooms / Baths
- One bedroom and full bath located on main floor – Can serve as a study or office until later in life
- Mirrors – placed to been seen from sitting or standing positions
- No-slip flooring material in bathrooms
- Curb-less shower prevents tripping and allows wheelchair access
- Securely anchored grab bars in shower ensure safe mobility, can double as towel bars
- Molded shower seat looks attractive, can be handy for children and seniors
Kitchen / Utility Room
- Paddle-handle faucet – easier and more convenient to use
- Pull-out work boards at varying heights to accommodate standing or sitting positions
- Main floor laundry room
- Small rolling cart for workspace and to eliminate unnecessary walking
- D-shaped drawer pulls are easier to grasp and pull open
- Keyless locks use a remote control or keypad that is user-friendly
- Smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide alarms that provide both audible and visual signals
- Circuit breaker panel on the main floor rather than basement or garage is easier to access
- Universally designed appliance controls with obvious symbols and colors to help clarify written instructions
- Switches and controls are placed at easy-to-use heights, more convenient to more people
Consider these design ideas when you are contemplating building a new home or buying your dream home, or even if you choose to remodel your current home. A few simple design choices now can make life a lot easier later; for you, your children, aging parents, even house guests.