If you haven’t heard the phrase “universal design”, or if you have heard it but wondered what it could mean, then hopefully this post will help shed some light on this design model. As was the case with myself, this concept was brought to my attention in the commercial realm, specifically for things like exit signs, and life safety. So, the idea that this also pertained to residential design, at the time was a foreign application because it was presented to me in a way which would be more suited for hospitals or hotels for accessibility (this was many years ago now, LOL!). However, universal design is not only about accessibility, but also how the space will function for the end user, which is what we do as designers!
Many of the design concepts that we, and many others, use by default fall under the umbrella of universal design, because the thought processes behind this includes aging in place, how an injury may affect the way a person lives, etc. Let me elaborate on an example or two. One such design element is lever handles on your interior doors instead of door knobs. As designers, we love the clean lines these can bring to a space and how just this simple change to an interior can offer drastic results to updating the look in your home. However, not only do these look good, using levers instead of knobs is actually an application of universal design because, in order to operate a lever handle, as you know, all you need to do is push up or down (unlike a knob which requires you to grab, apply pressure, and turn which can be very difficult for someone with an injury or other condition).
Another great design concept, that I personally love, is a “zero transition” shower enclosure…i.e. the floor from the bathroom continues right into the shower area without a curb or step. This not only looks fantastic (especially when using clear shower glass!), but it is also quite handy if you happen to be in or need to use a wheel chair. There are, of course, many other great design ideas like these that look amazing and fall into the universal design category.
So, whether you are designing your home to age in place, or conduct a remodel to appeal to a broader spectrum of buyers, implement this design model…it’s good looking as well as functional (and it may fetch a higher price on resale)!
Chic on the Cheap