Paul Morse, owner of Morse Constructions Inc returns today. He is a Universal Design Certified Remodeler and an Aging in Place Specialist as well as an experienced general contractor.
Universal design doesn’t mean institutional bathrooms
When you walk into a beautiful bathroom with a wide entrance, large shower with multiple shower heads, wall mirrors extending all the way to the sinks and adjustable cabinetry, I’m willing to bet that “universal design” is not the description that pops into your head. Most people seem to equate universal design with accommodation for physical disabilities, which, unfortunately, often seems to mean an institutional look to many people.
Myth #1: Universal Design is just for people with physical disabilities or for aging in place.
Universal design is the art of creating environments that are usable by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Universal design concepts are used to create living spaces that work well whether you are short or tall, young or old, healthy or sick. It could mean creating a bathroom where a stool for a child to reach the sink is built toslide out of the way when not in use. It could also mean using adjustable cabinetry so a very tall person doesn’t have to stoop over while washing his or her face.
Myth #2: Universal Design is ugly
When people think of universal design, they often have images of ugly grab bars stuck in their head. In reality, many of the bathrooms that people admire may have subtly incorporated universal design principles. Consider these universal design elements in the bathroom:
• Showers – The trend toward large, luxury showers is right in step with universal design principles. Showers should be at least three feet wide with a curbless entry, a handheld and overhead shower spray, and a seat.
• Adjustable or customizable cabinets – The most versatile bathrooms feature vanities with a removable base or pocket doors to accommodate a wheelchair. Cabinets and counters wall mounted on shelf brackets can be adjusted to the perfect height for the homeowner.
• Wall-mounted sinks – Airy, “floating” sinks and drawers combine a streamlined, contemporary aesthetic with flexibility should a homeowner or visitor need to use a step stool or wheelchair.
• Lever handles on faucets – Smooth, round faucet knobs (especially the single faucets that you pull out to operate) can be difficult for small or arthritic hands to use. Levers are far easier to operate for all people.
• Hanging toilets – Toilets that hang on the wall give a sleek, modern look to the bathroom and can be set at a height that works best for the homeowner. For most adults, a toilet that sits at least 17 inches from the floor puts less strain on your legs, knees and back.
• Lighting – It goes without saying that good lighting is essential for a well-designed bathroom, but often the lighting is focused over a mirror at the vanity. Universal design calls for an additional lighting at the bathroom entry and in the shower.
• Non-slip flooring – Matte-finish tile and honed stone look wonderful and offer superior traction over polished surfaces such as a glazed tile.
When Professional Builder magazine asked people what features they would want in a new home, many asked for the same features in the list above.
Myth #3: I won’t be able to sell my house with a “universal design” bathroom.
Why? Well done bathrooms look great, contain the features that buyers want, and are adaptable to people of all ages, sizes and health. Universal design in the bathroom will only expand your market of potential buyers.
The author is solely responsible for the content.