Our kitchens have evolved as the heart of the home and are often a renovation priority. Whether you love to cook and entertain, or more often use the space as a hub for the family, kitchen design has changed in ways that are both useful and exciting. We all come in different shapes and sizes, range in age from infants to seniors and have ever-changing abilities and skills. While the focus will always be on design and functionality, you should also consider the longevity of your design for safety and comfort. The successful design of a universally accessible kitchen starts with identifying potential users and anticipating their needs. The objective of design is to make life easier and beautiful.
Cabinets and counters
To achieve a kitchen, which is both comfortable and safe for all family members, your first consideration is to allow strollers, wheelchairs or walkers to move easily in and out of the prep areas. This is achieved by allotting 42- to 48-in. clearance between the cabinets on a minimum of two sides. Consider creating a lowered workspace by adding a 28-in. table height extension to an island or peninsula, when you have differently abled helpers (young or older) in the kitchen.
Designing for minimal effort is an important principle of universal kitchen design. On trend but also in line with accessible design, is the installation of pullout pantries rather than upper cabinetry. Pantries provide additional storage space and much greater usability and accessibility. Adding LED lighting will provide greater illumination and help you see what is hiding on the back shelf. However, if horizontal uppers are part of your current kitchen design, add a motorized servo driver to assist in opening the cabinetry, as well as closing them with one push of a button.
Fixtures & appliances
An efficient kitchen that maximizes independence and convenience is the cornerstone of good design. Traditionally, kitchen designers have focused on a compact work triangle formed by the sink, stove and refrigerator; but we must expand the triangle to include all work areas: a separate cooktop and wall oven, garbage disposal and dishwasher. To design a kitchen with a work triangle that meets your needs, imagine the items and appliances you reach for when prepping your meal or cleaning up. The thoughtful placement of your fixtures and appliances make them both accessible and safe by avoiding trip hazards.
If you’re looking to maximize your kitchen footprint while lowering your environmental one, a double-drawer dishwasher is the answer. While traditional dishwasher doors open out, often a challenge for both space and accessibility, a dishwasher drawer solves both issues. Additionally, using just one drawer saves water and time, but also eliminates a tripping hazard when loading and unloading.
Your sink is one of the most used elements in the kitchen. Here, we suggest a mix of technology and design for ease of use. Consider installing a sink with a depth of only nine in., this helps mitigate back pain by eliminating the need to hunch over your sink. Top off the re-design with a voice-controlled faucet, which can dispense measured amounts of water, or a touch-controlled faucet, which makes it easy to use for hands of any size and ability.
Sound & vision
A universal approach to lighting design addresses the needs of people as they age. Look for a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting that works in harmony with the users of the space. For example, installing a motion detector to activate the lights, which slowly brighten so as not to overwhelm, is helpful for a kitchen visit in the middle of the night.
Where possible, take advantage of opportunities to maximize natural lighting. In any kitchen design or renovation, homeowners should also consider their finishes for both design and functionality. We don’t often think about it until it’s bothersome, but highly reflective surfaces can be problematic for those who are challenged by their vision. Instead, choose matte finishes. Similarly, opting to include elements which absorb sounds, such as wood, will minimize noise that can radiate through the adjoining rooms, or eliminate an echo in the kitchen itself.
With the pervasiveness of smartphones, smart appliances are increasingly commonplace in kitchens; being able to control your appliance via an app on your phone – anything from your oven to your tea kettle – is not only novel but convenient. Being able to turn on the lights in your kitchen with one tap, versus walking through the room, can mean a world of difference to someone less body-able.
Your kitchen is such a key feature to the home, and a room that should be welcoming to family and guests of any age or ability. Consider the tips above with a trusted design partner and make the most of your kitchen for many years to come.*
Over the course of Yasmine Goodwin’s 16-year career, she developed My Design Studio, the top independent decor finishing centre servicing the residential construction industry in Southern Ontario. As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designer, Yasmine comes full circle on her passion for beautiful and sustainable design with My LiveABLE Design & Renovations.
For more information, visit my-designstudio.com
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