Universal Design – A Trend For The Long Term

Design for all.

It’s more than a statement. Universal design has proven to be a trend with significant and lasting impact on interior design and home renovation, not just for today, but also for the future.

It has become so important, in fact, that the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) has issued an official position on the idea of design for all:

ASID recognizes that designing interior environments that are accessible and enjoyable by any and all occupants and that support their well-being, health, safety and productivity, regardless of age or ability, should be an essential part of the interior designer's professional responsibilities. 

It’s a big statement – and a big responsibility for professionals in the home remodeling industry. So why has universal design become an important consideration in the home remodeling process?  

According to ASID, a first push toward accessible design came with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The goal of this bill was to help create equal access to spaces and services, regardless of a person’s physical or cognitive ability.

In addition to this legislation, ASID reports that the U.S. has seen a significant increase in population of people age 65 and older. Growth in this segment outpaced every other segment of the U.S. population during the 20th century. In fact, this group grew nearly four times as fast as the total U.S. population – a rate expected to continue well into the 21st century. When these homeowners choose to make renovations to their homes, they do so with the goal of staying in their homes.

However, the influence of universal design goes beyond the idea of renovation. In fact, the premise for this concept, known in Europe as “design for all,” is that our home environment needs change not just when we become elderly, but throughout our lives. The purpose of universal design is not only to help us prepare for the future, but also to improve our quality of life today.

This broader perspective is being adopted by professionals in all aspects of the home renovation industry. Michael Thomas, FASID, principal of Florida-based The Design Collective Group and a universal design instructor, says that universal design is not a “specialized design practice.” In other words, it’s not just about improving accessibility for the elderly and disabled. He asserts that instead, this approach is about “finding opportunities that help each client live better.”

Architectural designer and home accessibility renovation consultant, Michael Saunders has found that universal design answers a very real demand in the home design and renovation market. “Designers (myself included) are embracing universal design principles (i.e. design that works for all regardless of age or ability) as a way to address the demand and create more inclusive spaces,” he says.

Yeheskel and David Sharbani of Manhasset, New York-based Elite Kitchen & Bath, agree. “Universal design has become one of the more important concepts to improve home life and increase the value of a home,” they maintain. “Universal

design is not only important for the family who owns the home but for their extended family and friends who visit. Being able to comfortably accommodate everyone takes a great deal of stress off holidays and visits.”

Like other forward-thinking designers and renovation professionals, the Sharbanis have added value to their clients’ projects by incorporating universal design elements. They cite examples including:

  • Expanding lighting to increase visibility and safety
  • Creating open layouts with wider doorways and entryways
  • Installing multi-level countertops in kitchens, to accommodate small children or wheelchair-bound people
  • Choosing cabinet door pulls over knobs for cabinets
  • Replacing door knobs with levers, which require less force to operate
  • Adding first floor bathrooms
  • Replacing tubs with walk-in and/or curb-free showers, and non-slip floors

While accommodations such as these can certainly improve access for people with physical challenges, they can also make life easier for any family member or guest… all while adding to a home’s value.

For clients who appreciate the benefits of universal design, your local ProSource Wholesale Showroom can help you incorporate greater functionality and accessibility into any renovation project. For example, with the help of a ProSource design expert, you can create a kitchen environment using quality cabinetry at any price point, from brands such as Aristokraft to Omega Cabinetry, incorporating universal design-inspired features such as multiple counter heights and pull-out drawer shelving. The addition of stylish cabinet pulls from lines like Top Knobs and Atlas Homewares can make those cabinets easier to access. Thoughtful features such as these can help you create a room that fits not only your clients’ style, but also the needs of everyone who will use it. 

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