Universal Design Kitchen Essentials
When we started this blog, one of our first posts explained Universal Design and its gaining popularity with homeowners. We focused primarily on the bathroom because that is the most dangerous room in the home. Roughly 80% of all falls happen there. But what room follows the bathroom remodel? Simply, the kitchen.
Heart of the Home: The Kitchen
The kitchen is typically the most popular room in the house. This is where we cook, bake, eat and socialize. We forge connections with our loved ones, learning secret family recipes and hearing stories of their life. Therefore, a broad age group congregates in this room to complete varying tasks, each having unique needs of their own. So, how do we accomplish a Universal Design Kitchen that the entire family can enjoy?
A significant feature of a UD Kitchen is the countertops. Designing varied-height countertops allow for taller and shorter users to cook in comfort. Different levels of fixed counter heights might include standard heights:
- Bar height – 42 inches
- Counter height—36 inches
- Table height – 30 inches
Including at least table and counter, heights allow for an adult and child to have a comfortable workspace. Looking toward the future, any frequenter or member of the home who uses a wheelchair will still have the same experience as any ambulatory person with the inclusion of table-height tops. If space is limited, pull-out work surfaces are an alternative to adding lowered-height areas.
Considering the color and style of your new countertop is important, no matter if it’s UD or traditional. Easy-to-care for countertops, like those with antimicrobial properties, will make cleaning quicker and seamless. Crazy patterns look cool but can interfere with depth perception in people with sight impairments. Whichever countertop you choose is your decision, but thinking ahead will save time and money in the future.
Universal Design Kitchen Cabinets and Storage
From the countertop, you reach for a pot or pan to make a delicious meal. Deep cabinets create a hassle for everyone, young and old. Especially for those with mobility difficulties, getting down to the floor level and reaching to the back of the cabinet, shuffling heavy pots around to find the right one causes discomfort and may result in difficulties standing back up. Installing pull-out cabinets relieves all that stress. They also help to keep dishware or cookware well organized, alleviating lifting a heavy pot to reveal yet another heavy pot. Lazy Susans organize food or dishes very similarly – it spins instead of sliding.
Appliance lifts are a great addition to your cabinet menagerie. A heavy mixer becomes light as a feather, creating easier travel between the cabinet and countertop. And you are less likely to drop it, saving toes with every baking adventure.
Lighting Your Universal Design Kitchen
Having a functional, great looking kitchen is wonderful. But it’s useless if you can’t see what you’re working on. Your plan needs to include task lighting alongside way-finding, and if you choose, ambient lighting. Task lighting can be placed under the wall cabinets in a position that reduces shadows. This way, you can see your meal preparation clearly. Redundant lighting also helps reduce the risk of injuries in the kitchen. If one bulb goes out, you don’t need to worry about working in a dark kitchen because there are several other lights still illuminating the area.
As simple as they sound, faucets come in various styles and helpful technology. Mainstream brands like Kohler and Delta offer voice control faucets. You tell it how much water you want in your pot and it fills it up to the exact measurement. If you’re not keen on carrying heavy pots full of water from the sink to the stove, pot fillers are your answer. The faucet’s long arm swings out from the wall and over your pot, sitting directly on the stove. Voice-control or hand-control, your faucet should have levers instead of knobs. Levers are easier to turn on and off if your hands are full or if you have achy hands.
A Few Last Tips
Toss Those Throw Rugs
We always recommend getting rid of any throw rugs in the kitchen. They are a tripping hazard for all ages. We all shuffle our feet at times. Catching one of those rugs the wrong way will send you flying into the next room, or worse. If you need extra traction, consider installing non-slip flooring. It’s not the old hospital floor design anymore. Non-slip flooring comes in endless styles, including hardwood looks.
Dark and Light for Contrast
Also, remember to include contrasting colors. Universal Design’s whole purpose for everyone, no matter their ability level, is to be able to use the room comfortably. As we age, our eyes become weaker. Light objects against dark colors, or the other way around, help them stand out.
Building Your Universal Design Kitchen
Including even a few of these Universal Design concepts in your kitchen will enable it to adapt with you as you progress through life. Whether that’s cooking and baking comfortably as you begin to feel the effects of aging; continuing to cook with an aging parent; teaching your children how to cook and bake; or baking with a friend who has mobility limitations, you’re creating a kitchen that everyone will enjoy comfortably and independently.