Turn Your Kitchen into a Universal Design

Amstead Kitchen Cabinets - Parr Cabinet Design Center

If you are interested in learning about Universal Design or considering the concept for your custom home or remodel project, Parr Cabinet Design Center is an ideal resource. We can explain the products and concepts that make Universal Design an efficient, affordable, and long-term benefit for your next construction venture.

Universal Design was introduced in 1963 by architect Ronald Mace to describe the model of designing all products in a home to be appealing and usable by everyone regardless of age, ability, or status in life. As life expectancy increases, there is a growing interest in Universal Design as a solution for aging in place. As people age, they want to continue to be independent and live in their own homes as long as they can while making sure their homes are still functional and welcoming to all. According to an AARP survey of current baby boomers, “79% of those who responded said they want to stay in their current home as they get older.”

Universal Design, however, is not only for aging, elderly, or disabled household members. It is also for individuals who want to improve the long-term efficiency and functionality of a residential structure. The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University offers the following seven principles as guidelines for making design decisions:

  • Equitable Use
    The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities
  • Flexibility in Use
    The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities
  • Simple and Intuitive Use
    Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level
  • Perceptible Information
    The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user regardless of walking ability or the user’s sight and hearing abilities
  • Tolerance for Error
    The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions
  • Low Physical Effort
    The design can be used efficiently and comfortably with a minimum of fatigue
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use
    Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility

When incorporating these principles, construction techniques, and the following products, homeowners can significantly improve the efficiency of a home, make the home safer, and eliminate or reduce the need for changes later in life. Here are just a few product suggestions, construction techniques, and design improvements from Parr that can help you integrate Universal Design into your project.

Add Windows for Lighting
Natural light is always best. Ensuring that the kitchen has at least one large window to welcome sunlight is beneficial. Installing new vinyl windows is an inexpensive and energy efficient option. Wood clad windows, although a little more expensive, increase the color and design options compared to vinyl windows while delivering the same superior energy efficiency and natural light advantages.

Cabinet Design
Kitchen and cabinet design are significant contributors to the overall Universal Design concept. Larger appliances can now be built into spaces, seamlessly blending into the cabinetry and making it easier to access items. Glass-front doors and open shelving make it easy to spot items and add a decorative element. Pullout storage can make it easier to access hard to reach items and can be maneuvered by people of all abilities. Varying the heights of the countertops, such as elevating or lowering one side a few inches, ensures people of all ages, sizes, and abilities have a place to work. Storage laden islands are excellent additions to any kitchen and can be used to conveniently locate appliances, such as microwaves. Hardware is also a key element. The larger the handle, the easier it is to use for people with mobility issues. D-shaped door and drawer pulls are the most convenient for a wide range of people.

Flooring Options
One of the biggest things to consider in Universal Design is flooring. Non-carpeted surfaces are generally favored because they offer little resistance and are generally easy to clean. Three top options are tile, hardwood, and cork. Tile is most often chosen because it is inexpensive, slip-resistant, and comes in a variety of styles and colors. Hardwood floors are very popular, enhance mobility, and are very durable. Though it is slightly softer than tile or hardwoods, cork is eco-friendly and retains heat, making it an energy efficient choice.

Utilizing the Universal Design concepts can result in a beautiful, efficient home that will improve longevity, independence, safety, and convenience of all household members for years to come. Visit a neighborhood Parr Cabinet Design Center today for more tips and products that can turn your dream universal.

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