front of house
Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

What is Universal Design?

The concept of Universal Design originated in the health-care community and is fast becoming the standard in home building and interior design. Whether you have children, an aging parent, or someone with limited mobility in your house, everyone will feel comfortable when you apply Universal Design principles at home.

Universal Design involves smart and intuitive planning, which proves a little thought and small changes will create a home where everyone could live comfortably for years to come.

Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

Deliberate and Discreet

If you have any preconceived notions of what Universal Design may look like, think again.

Interior designer Jennifer Ussleman of Intersect Design takes the practical, functional principles of Universal Design and cleverly disguise them.

Upon first look, a well-designed Universal space won't appear modified. It is the things you might not notice that really make the difference.

See more of the Universal Designed kitchen.

Take a virtual tour of this kitchen.

exterior ramp
Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

Limit Stairs

Instead of climbing stairs to reach the front or back door, have a gradually inclined ramp. Ramps create easy access for wheelchairs and strollers and are more comfortable when walking.

Learn how to establish a sense of place in your home.

Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

Widen Doorways

The standard doorframe is 28 to 30 inches, but just by slightly widening it (to 32 or 36 inches) you open up access for those with wheelchairs or walkers.

Also consider painting the trim around the doorframe in a high-contrast color. This will make it easier to be seen.

Learn more about the 2008 Cooking Light FitHouse.

Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

Fixtures and Handles

Just by switching out plumbing fixtures and cabinet hardware--think “D” or “U” in design--you’ll make it much easier for someone with arthritis (or just full hands) to turn on faucets and open cabinets.

See more of this master bath.

Take a virtual tour of the master bathroom.

dining room
Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

On the Bench

Mix up your seating options at the dining table by adding a bench. Its versatility is more than just adding a causal aesthetic. Adding a bench allows easy access to the table for anyone in a wheelchair. Or, simply slide it over some so that a highchair will easily fit.

Learn more about this dining room with the designer.

Take a virtual tour of the dining room.

Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

On the Down Low

By lowering the counter height in the kitchen from 36 inches to 34 inches, you instantly give better access to counter-level appliances such as the cooktop and ADA-approved prep sink, shown here in the Cooking Light FitHouse The designer also added a lower counter for comfortable dining (You can just pull up standard-height chairs!).

Take a tour of the Cooking Light 2008 FitHouse Universal Designed kitchen.

kitchen drawers
Kim Cross

Smart Shelving

When it comes to storage, lower cabinets and open shelving are key in keeping towels, dishes, and even pantry items at an easily accessible level for the entire family.

Take a virtual tour of this kitchen.

Kim Cross

Switch It Up

Reconsider where you locate electrical switches and outlets. Raising electrical to 27 inches above the floor requires less bending down. And light switches--best if they are dimmers--can be located at 40 inches above the floor for easy access.

floor transitions
Kim Cross

Smooth Sailing

Minimize the number of flooring transitions (hardwood to tile) and the use of carpet. This reduces tripping hazards and makes it easier for anyone with limited mobility.

Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

Showering Made Easy

It's easy to incorporate Universal Design principles in the bathroom. Adding a built-in seat, a curbless shower, and a hand-held showerhead will make it more comfortable to use.

Take a tour of a Universally Designed bathroom.

Cooking Light, Tria Giovan

Smart Appliances

Be smart when choosing your appliances. A French door-style refrigerator is easier to access from a wheelchair because the freezer is on the bottom.
A smooth induction cooktop, with controls close to the front, makes cooking safer (the burners on an induction cooktop remain cool to the touch).
Lowering wall ovens a few inches and installing a drawer dishwasher are also key components to consider.

>Take a tour of the Cooking Light 2008 FitHouse Universal Design kitchen.

Check These Out
> 2008 Southern Living Idea House
> Learn more about the FitHouse
> 2007 Cooking Light FitHouse

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