Home Expert: 8 Tips for Including Universal Design in Your Home


By Kathy Passarette of Creative Home Expressions and Buttoned Up’s Home Expert

Universal design is the approach that all spaces, features, and aspects of all things designed be usable by, and marketable to, people of all ages and abilities. Universal design is different from accessible design. Accessible design means products and buildings that are accessible and usable by people with disabilities. Universal design, also called “lifespan” design, recognizes, respects, values and attempts to work for the broadest spectrum of human abilities.

Keep these tips in mind when renovating, or building new construction, to give your home universal design; not just for you, but also for any guests or family that could find these features efficient and comfortable to use when visiting your home. Most of these features involve fairly subtle changes that would only add a small amount of cost to a renovation, and some of them can be put into place in existing homes.

 Use lever-handle knobs instead of round knobs. Besides making it easier and less painful for those with arthritis, levers can open a door with an elbow when your arms are full of groceries.

 Raise electrical outlets. While most electrical outlets are placed fairly close to the floor, this can pose a hazard to children and difficulty for older folks.

 Lower light switches. Moving light switches further down the wall so that children can reach them, and older people don’t have to lift their arms as far.

 Wider hallways and doorways. While aesthetically pleasing, they also allow for more functionality whether for a wheelchair, walker or even maneuvering a large piece of furniture.

 Step-showers, with no lip or tub wall separating them from the rest of the bathroom.

 Stacked closets that could be converted into an elevator, as the need arises.

 Under-counter dishwasher and refrigerator drawers. These appliances provide low physical effort.

 Install good task lighting. Extra lighting can help eyes that are aging, and also make the house feel brighter.

Do you have a decorating question? Send your questions to Kathy Passarette at kathyp@creativehomeexpressions.com and put “Buttoned Up” in the subject line. Kathy will answer your questions right here on Buttoned Up.

Kathy Passarette is an Interior Decorator based on Long Island, New York. For more information please visit www.creativehomeexpressions.com.