In recent years, several terms have become common in the interior design world that while they describe similar techniques, are actually each distinct design concepts. Accessible design, usable design, and universal design are all concepts that focus on providing products and services that are easier for everyone to use, regardless of age, or ability. These concepts when applied to interior design and construction are growing in popularity as many older homeowners are choosing to age in place.
The beauty of universal design is that it’s a broad concept that when applied to interior design, “works to design products and environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”
In Interior design, universal design principals focus on both form and function. Universal design ensures that you can live in your home safely, throughout your entire lifetime. Here are five universal design ideas that can make your home more accessible for everyone in your family.
1. Think Safety: Limit Stairs
As we age, climbing stairs can become difficult. On the other end of the spectrum, excessive stairs can be dangerous for the littlest family members. If shopping for your forever home, avoid sunken living rooms, split level, multi-story homes and raised entrances.
Accessibility is a key element of universal design. Whether it’s installing a curbless shower or wider door frames, Universal design focuses on making your home accessible for anyone, both indoors and out.
2. Automated Lighting
Home automation has advanced a lot in recent years. The days of automation being your garage door opener and lighting timers are long gone. Today, whole-house systems let you control lighting, heating, security, and much more from your smartphone, or a single wireless device.
A “smart home” system like this allows you to remain safe when entering or leaving your house, turn on lights in the hallway, or bedroom before you get there, and some will even turn on all the lights when your security system is activated.
3. Threshold-Free Showers and Multiple Shower Heads
The greatest number of accidents in the home happen in the bathroom making it the perfect space to apply universal interior design principals. Threshold-free showers eliminate a tripping hazard for older family members.
Incorporating multiple shower heads into the design adds flexibility. For example, with a rain shower head placed in the center, a more traditional showerhead at one end, and a handheld shower near seating, with a separate valve, people with varying levels of mobility can use the same shower.
4. Comfortable, Slip-Resistant Flooring
As we age, a fall can become tragic. Slip-resistant flooring can reduce this risk in many rooms of the home, including the kitchen and the bathroom. Today, there are a few products on the market that can be applied to tile or stone flooring that can prevent slipping without impacting the appearance of the material. Softer materials like cork flooring are non-slippery and look fabulous.
5. Create A Functional, Compact Kitchen Triangle
Placing the sink, stove, and fridge in close proximity, with counter space in between, reduces the number of steps needed to carry heavy trays, prepare, and cook meals. Make sure storage is accessible. Most everyday items should be placed between knee and shoulder level to improve functionality.
As boomer age, and many choose to age in place, the use of universal design principals will continue to grow. Manufacturers are creating products for this growing market, and interior designers are incorporating them into their home designs. Universal design has become a standard in interior design because of its focused on functionality, and accessibility for every family member.