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5 Design Elements to Help You Age in Place

November 3, 2021
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The key to a successful home remodel is first identifying a clear purpose—the “why” behind deciding to tear your house apart and redo various aspects. That gives you a direction as you’re making design decisions, choosing how much to invest, and making a myriad of other decisions along the way.

There are numerous reasons for home remodeling, as varied the individuals who decide to take on these projects. In the Florida Gulf Coast, for example, a popular objective for renovating a residence is to give it a universal design that enhances its function and makes it a suitable living environment for homeowners of all ages.

What Are the Seven Principles of Universal Design?

Universal design, as a concept, has been around for decades. In short, it refers to a style of design that is intended to make a residential environment accessible to all people—regardless of age, ability, and other factors. Recently, remodeling for accessibility has evolved into a trend that is popular among homeowners in Florida that are hoping to age in place. However, everyone can benefit from a space that is universally designed to maximize comfort, convenience and accessibility. Think back to a time when you were running late and had your hands full. Using your elbow to push down on a lever-style door handle would have been much more convenient than setting everything down and twisting a doorknob.

In general, there are seven core principles of universal design: equitable use; flexibility in use; simple and intuitive use; perceptible information; tolerance for error; low physical effort; and size and space for approach and use.

While these principles don’t all apply equally in the world of residential remodeling, they can collectively provide a useful guide as you seek to create a universal design home. Often, universal design elements are not integrated into home construction or remodeling in Sarasota, Florida, unless specifically requested by the homeowner.

What Are Popular Universal Design Features?

It’s helpful to think about the seven principles of universal design when planning and executing your upcoming home remodel in Florida. However, it’s even more helpful to have specific ideas about what features will assist you in achieving a universal design and, subsequently, living more easily and comfortably for years to come. Here are a few to consider:

1. Lever-Style Door Handles

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Circular doorknobs, which are standard in most homes, can be difficult to turn. They present a special challenge for people who have problems with their grip or arthritis, or for individuals who must operate them from a wheelchair.

That’s why lever-style doorknobs are considered one of the most basic universal design products. You can install them throughout your home in Sarasota, even if you’re not planning a major renovation. When choosing lever-style doorknobs, consider the following:

  • Finish. Choose a doorknob finish that matches the color scheme in the space.
  • Lock or no lock. Many lever-style door handles do not include locks. However, if a lock is important, read the manufacturer specifications to ensure the handle you choose for your remodel includes this feature.
  • Handle direction. The direction of the handle must point in the direction of the hinges. Note the location of the hinges on the door before choosing a lock that works for you. If the hinges are on the right, select a door handle that points to the right. If hinges are on the left, select a door handle that points to the left.

Do you like the classic look of a circular doorknob, but want the ease of use that comes from a lever? Opt for an oval-shaped knob, which is easier to hold and less likely to slip through your hand as you turn.

2. Pull-Out Drawers

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Pull-out drawers are another feature to consider when universal design remodeling. This style of drawer is often used as an alternative to shelving. It is usually found behind cabinet doors but also in pantries and larders. Pull-out drawers typically hold all the same things that would be held by shelves, including dishes; pots and pans; spices; and more. Yet pull-out drawers include some conveniences that shelves just don’t have.

For example, reaching the back of a shelf can be a challenge, especially if that shelf is near the ground or way up high. Pull-out drawers make it easier to reach things that have been put away in the rear of your cabinets. Other advantages include:

  • Improved organization. Pull-out drawers are much easier to organize because you can easily put the things at the back that you don’t use as often.
  • Better value overall. Are you planning to sell your home on the Florida Gulf Coast sometime soon? Pull-out drawers and other smart organization solutions improve your home’s value and appeal to prospective homebuyers.
  • Better accessibility for people with physical challenges. Pull-out drawers are easier for elderly people and people with disabilities to use.
  • Easy storage for miscellaneous items. Maybe you have too many oven mitts or serving spoons to keep organized. Use your pull-out drawers to keep the mess contained.

If you want to install pull-out drawers in your cabinets at home, talk to your remodeling contractor about how they’ll fit into your overarching universal design concept. They can also help you choose the right custom or semi-custom cabinets to suit your needs.

3. Motion-Sensor Faucets

man washing his hands using motion sensor faucet

Motion-sensor faucets are typically found in commercial buildings, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be found in your home, especially if you’re emphasizing universal design ideas. Motion-sensor faucets limit the spread of germs, and they are also easier to use if you struggle with mobility. However, that doesn’t just apply to seniors. If you have a little one at home, they may find your automatic faucet easier to use than a standard version.

It’s best to have your Sarasota contractor install your motion-sensor faucet during your bathroom makeover, as they can ensure the plumbing and wiring are done properly.

As with lever-style door handles, match the finish of the faucet to other design elements in the vicinity. Look to the showerhead and bathtub faucet for inspiration. If you don’t like the finish of those other fixtures, work with your contractor to have all faucets and fixtures in your bathroom replaced.

If you like touchless faucets, but want the ability to turn the faucet on and off manually, you can have it all. Some faucets have an override setting, which enables you to use your touchless faucet like a more traditional faucet with a manually controlled handle.

4. Curbless Showers

walk in shower handicap bathroom remodel

Curbless showers have been very popular for the last several years, and not just because they’re elegant and stylish. Curbless showers are also safe and functional, making them the core of a universal bathroom design in Sarasota.

Stepping in and out of a shower with a raised ledge along the perimeter can be dangerous, especially for people who have weak legs, trouble with eyesight, or poor physical coordination. Curbless showers have no bump at all between the bathroom floor and the shower floor. Once in the shower, the floors are slightly slanted to ensure that the water will make its way to the drain.

Work with a contractor to have your curbless shower properly installed. Shower installation that is not done well could lead to leaks, drainage problems, and even accidents from overflowing water.

5. Slip-Resistant Tile

slip resistant tile for shower bathroom remodel
Universal home designs also tend to incorporate slip-resistant tile into the kitchen, bathroom, or other spaces that are prone to moisture and spills. Slip-resistant tile flooring comes in a variety of colors and even textures, and your remodeler can introduce you to numerous options.

Looking for something unusual? Try large-format tiles or those that have a unique shape. Some ceramic tiles can be made to mimic other materials. For the look of natural wood but the durability of clay or stone, choose tiles that resemble natural wood planks.

Another popular flooring option for universal design home plans is cork. It is eco-friendly and slightly softer than hardwood or tile. If properly maintained, it can withstand long-term wear and tear, and it retains more heat than other common flooring options.

Choosing a Florida Design-Build Firm for Universal Design Remodeling

When it comes to customizing residential spaces with a remodel in Sarasota or Bradenton, there are benefits to working with a full-service firm, such as Gilbert Design Build. We use the principles of universal design to help homeowners make their homes safer, more convenient, and more accessible. Plus, if you’re unsure about what’s needed for your bathroom or kitchen remodel, there’s no need to stress — as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, we have the expertise needed to design an accessible space that meets your unique needs and goals.