When you invest in a home you want to be confident that your investment will be practical for years to come. However, it can be so easy to get caught up with small design details and your family’s current needs that you forget about long term living in your home. As much as we would like to avoid it, we are all going to age and our needs are going to change. That is where universal design thinking comes in. Universal design is not just a type of building, but a way of thinking that provides ease of use for people of all ages and mobility. When you incorporate universal design into your home, you are insuring that your home will work for you at all stages of your life.
Some of the main components of universal design incorporate the concept of aging in place or generational living. Features that a universal design might incorporate include single story properties, wider hallways that will easily accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, lower light switches, and blocking for grab bars around showers and bathtubs. While these are just a few examples of incorporating universal design, there is no need to feel overwhelmed. With the right builder, universal design friendly options will be readily available, and if done correctly, should not add significantly to the cost of your home.
A key to successfully incorporating universal design into your home is the right team. Here at Strobel Design Build, we have a Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP) on staff, and our Vice President holds a Masters Degree in Aging and Dementia related diseases research. No other firm in the area can design and build/remodel a space with more understanding for the needs of individuals requiring greater accessibility.
This Universal Design appointed bathroom completed by Strobel Design Build was directed by the wishes of the client to have accessibility, with easy adaptation for a wheelchair in the future. Some of the universal design features in this bathroom include:
- Slip resistant mosaic basket-weave marble tile.
- Removable lower vanity cabinet section that can allow a wheelchair to access the sink with ease.
- ZERO-barrier shower entrance.
- Dual shower faucets, one with adjustable height hand shower.
- Integrated waterfall-edge shower bench seat and easily accessible shower niche to keep soaps and shampoo off the bench, causing a potential slip hazard.
- Not seen, but easily added are grab-bars matched to the style of the elegant Italian-crafted Rohl shower fixtures. These can attach anywhere in the shower because of the thick-mudset walls Strobel Design Build specified. We prefer to not use any organic materials (wood, drywall) behind a shower area to prevent moisture damage.
- Finally, lighting is the least considered, but in our opinion one of the most important parts of Universal Design. All lights in the suite are connected via radio-frequency (Lutron Clear Connect™) and can be operated from a remote control or smartphone app. Lights can be turned on at night to light a path to the bathroom, or all off remotely.
Whether you require greater accessibility now or will in the future, universal design based thinking and building is never a bad idea. From a homeowner standpoint, incorporating universal design before you need it allows you to seamlessly stay in the same home as you age. From a value standpoint, more and more buyers are looking for homes with these features, or with the potential for these features, making universal design a great investment.
When done properly, universal design elements will flow seamlessly through every area of your home. Starting from a stair-free entry with a lever handle instead of a doorknob, changes can be made in every room, big or small. For the kitchen, utilizing a multi-level island, touch faucets, and open knee spaces under cabinets and sinks keep the area accessible for everyone. General changes throughout the home can include higher electrical outlets, sturdy stair railings, wider doorways and lower light switches. If you are interested in universal design but do not currently require these accessible features, you can easily plan ahead for your future needs. Spaces such as pantries and closets can be planned as where an elevator could be installed later down the road.
Of course, these modifications do not mean a sacrifice of style. Each of these modifications can still be made with your choice of materials and design elements. Companies are increasingly producing beautiful products that align with universal design needs and many small modifications can be made that will not effect your design choices.
If universal design feels like the right option for you and your home, the experts at Strobel Design Build are here to help every step of the way. For any questions, give us a call at 727-321-5588 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.