(Kitchens / Fixtures / Counters)

(Kitchens / Fixtures / Counters)

Making Your Space Easier To Live

Challenges & Considerations

Designing kitchens with universal principles presents various challenges and considerations. Incorporating accessibility features without compromising aesthetics can be challenging, requiring a delicate balance between functionality and visual appeal. Existing space constraints in older homes may pose difficulties in achieving an optimal layout for diverse user needs. Adapting kitchens to accommodate different abilities, ages, and other preferences requires thoughtful planning and consideration. Additionally, addressing the technological learning curve for users unfamiliar with smart home features poses another hurdle. Despite these challenges, the benefits of creating universally designed kitchens—such as inclusivity, safety, and convenience—underscore the importance of overcoming these obstacles to promote functional and welcoming kitchen spaces for everyone.

Key Elements of Universal Design in Kitchens

Countertop Heights

A main feature of a UD Kitchen is the countertops. Designing varied-height countertops allow for taller and shorter users to cook in comfort. Different levels of fixed counter heights might include standard heights:

  • Bar height – 42 inches
  • Counter height—36 inches
  • Table height – 30 inches

Including at least table and counter, heights allow for an adult and child to have a comfortable workspace. Looking toward the future, any frequenter or member of the home who uses a wheelchair will still have the same experience as any ambulatory person with the inclusion of table-height tops. If space is limited, pull-out work surfaces are an alternative to adding lowered-height areas.

Ample prep space is ideal for any kitchen, but including multiple counter levels is a savvy universal-design solution. Use a combination of heights that provide options for multigenerational activities, like kids rolling out cookie dough with older relatives who are comfortable seated at the kitchen island.

Countertop Surface

Considering the color and style of your new countertop is important, no matter if it’s UD or traditional. Easy-to-care for countertops, like those with antimicrobial properties, will make cleaning quicker and seamless. Crazy patterns look cool but can interfere with depth perception in people with sight impairments. Whichever countertop you choose is your decision, but thinking ahead will save time and money in the future.

Cabinets & Storage

From the countertop, you reach for a pot or pan to make a delicious meal. Deep cabinets create a hassle for everyone, young and old. Especially for those with mobility difficulties, getting down to the floor level and reaching to the back of the cabinet, shuffling heavy pots around to find the right one causes discomfort and may result in difficulties standing back up. Installing pull-out cabinets relieves all that stress. They also help to keep dishware or cookware well organized, alleviating lifting a heavy pot to reveal yet another heavy pot. Lazy Susan’s organize food or dishes. Kitchen drawers with storage components that pull out for kitchen tools.

Lighting

Having a functional, great looking kitchen is wonderful. But it’s useless if you can’t see what you’re working on. Your plan needs to include task lighting alongside way-finding, and if you choose, ambient lighting. Task lighting can be placed under the wall cabinets in a position that reduces shadows. This way, you can see your meal preparation clearly. Redundant lighting also helps reduce the risk of injuries in the kitchen. If one bulb goes out, you don’t need to worry about working in a dark kitchen because there are several other lights still illuminating the area.

Installing layers of lighting is a familiar design suggestion that translates for the task-heavy kitchen. This creates mood lighting for a group of people sitting in one area and provides layered lighting over your cooking-prep area that helps with a task. Pendants, recessed bulbs, and under-cabinet rope lighting create ambience that can help your eyes focus on deboning a chicken with precision or studying a recipe on your tablet.

Benefits of Universal Design in Doorways & Openings

Universal design in kitchens offers a range of benefits, promoting inclusivity, accessibility, and user-friendly environments. These include:

  1. Inclusivity: Universal design ensures that everyone, regardless of age, ability, or mobility, can comfortably use the kitchen. It promotes a sense of inclusivity by catering to a diverse range of users.
  2. Accessibility: The design focuses on creating spaces that are easily accessible for individuals with disabilities or mobility challenges, making the kitchen a more functional and welcoming place.
  3. Age-Friendly: Universal design accommodates the needs of individuals at different life stages, including seniors. This adaptability allows individuals to age in place, reducing the need for major renovations as mobility requirements change.
  4. Safety: Features like slip-resistant flooring, well-placed grab bars, and ergonomic designs enhance kitchen safety, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.
  5. Improved Quality of Life: Universal design contributes to an improved quality of life for individuals with disabilities or limitations. It fosters independence and allows users to engage in kitchen activities without unnecessary barriers.
  6. Positive Environmental Impact: Thoughtful design choices, such as energy-efficient appliances and sustainable materials, contribute to a positive environmental impact, aligning with eco-friendly principles.

Designers and builders can apply the methods of universal design in kitchens to create spaces that are not only accessible but also enhance the overall quality of life for their users.