Historically, the search for attractive Universal Design was a long and difficult one, but today there are many examples that feature designs that are as accessible as they are aesthetically pleasing. At the top of the list for design inspiration is Green Mountain Ranch, the home of Cynthia Liebrock, long-time guru of Universal Design (www.agingbeautifully.org). It should come as no surprise that the expected blending of Universal Design and beauty is very well evident there.
Beyond that, flexibility and subtle design concepts make this a lovely place to live and, for designers, a wonderful source of inspiration. My favorite design detail is in the master bath, where glass tiles adjacent to the toilet include one on either side that can be removed by gripping a small decorative hardware on each. When they are removed, drop down grab bars can be dropped in to increase support for a person using the fixture. It’s an effort worthy of attention and I encourage you to visit the Web site and take the tour.
I am learning that the longer one lives, the more one appreciates the importance and value of Universal Design. At the Builders’ Show, I connected with a group called “Homes for Our Troops,” building homes for the many veterans returning from war with changed abilities (www.homesforourtroops.org). In the week prior to the show, I had traveled to Craig Rehab Hospital to visit with my vibrant and healthy niece who has been there for three months, working full time at recovering as much as she can from a sports accident that nearly cost her life. While she recovers, the family is hard at work modifying her home so she will be able to return to life there.
Whether it’s trauma or just natural aging that contributes to the physical changes that occur in our lives, isn’t it just good design to support the variety of needs our kitchens and baths can meet? Thanks to the social and building industry powers that are focusing on improving people-centered design for our homes, we have much more opportunity as we focus on that same people-centered design in our kitchens and baths.