Kitchens have become more important than ever as the trend is towards eating at home more again. This makes universal kitchen design to suit all stages of life and abilities an important consideration if you are considering a new or updated kitchen.
Universal design makes sense not only for your personal enjoyment, but also for resale value. By 2020 more than 20% of the population will be over 65 years old, and surveys show that the majority of Baby Boomers want to stay in their homes and age in place.
I know from buyers I work with that kitchens are important, regardless of stage in life. Consider these universal kitchen design elements...
- Varying heights... some the standard 36 inches high, but also some 28-32 inches high for seated or shorter users and for use as a chopping or baking center
- Rounded corners... minimize injury to both adults and children
- Matte surfaces... reduce glare
- Undercabinet lighting strips... more evenly distribute light and reduce glare
- Storage systems
- Roll-out shelves... replace shelves in base and pantry cabinets
- Lazy susan or swing-out shelves... for easier access to corner cabinets or smaller items in standard cabinets
- Dividers... for clear accessibility
- Pulls and levers... instead of knobs for easier opening cabinets and doors
- Aisles, doorways and walkways at least 3 1/2 feet... instead of the more standard 3 feet, to make them accessible to walkers and wheelchairs
- Side-by-side refrigerators or bottom freezers... provide easier access to both young and old users
- Separate cooktop and oven... accommodate height differences
- Controls at front... allow easy access
- Touch pad controls rather than knobs... easier to see and use
- Induction cooktops... heat is only generated when a pan is placed on the surface for increased safety for young and old alike... and don't heat up the room for increased energy efficiency
- Microwave oven... within reach and sight of those who will use it, which may be lower rather than high over the range (think children climbing on the stove to get to the microwave!)
- Drawer models... consider drawer model dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers
- Single faucet lever mounted on the side of the sink for easier access without lowering counter height
- Consider basin (or one side of basin) 6 1/2 inches deep or less for easier access for short or seated users
Whether you are a Baby Boomer looking for a home where you can age in place, a family with young children, have friends or family with disabilities, or just want a comfortable home that will accommodate you throughout your life, universal design is something worth serious consideration.