8 Elements of a Universal Design Kitchen

A popular trend in home and kitchen remodeling is universal design. As a large population eases into retirement, they are looking for homes and kitchens that can change easily for their needs as they age. They want a house and kitchen that will adjust as changes occur. Many of those changes include lowering upper cabinets and having a variety of countertop heights, drawer and cabinet pull-outs, and task lighting.

If you are considering universal design for your kitchen remodel, today’s blog will cover what you need to know to make the best choice. 

Eight universal design elements for the kitchen:

Space To Move

cabinet-express-L-Shaped-Kitchen-Table-and-Hearth-1As we age, many have to use a walker for stability or a wheelchair. A kitchen will need the space to maneuver in front of appliances, workspaces, and light switches. Often you’ll need an area that is 30 inches X 47 inches for clearance in front of countertops but an overall minimum of 59 inches X 59 inches for the room itself. Some scooters or powerchairs require space up to 71 inches X 71 inches. In these instances, a lower cabinet at the end of an existing cabinet run can add storage and countertop space at the right height without impeding on space.

Cabinets and Drawers

Consider more drawers and pull-outs for lower cabinets in the universal design kitchen. A pantry full of pull-outs or cabinet rollouts is ideal. Pull-outs and rollouts create easy access to the items inside from a variety of heights. Consider installing upper cabinets, with a bottom edge 16 inches above the countertop instead of the regular 18 inches. With those extra two inches closer to the countertop, it is within reach for someone seated in a chair or walker. Glass cabinet fronts will help with visibility. Cabinet pulls are also easier to grab and hold than knobs. Switching them will make the kitchen more functional and less frustrating.

Multi-level Countertops

multi-level counter topIt is handy to have a kitchen with countertops at a variety of heights. Base cabinets come in a standard height of 34.5 inches, but you can add accessories to create a desk or lower prep area. Table legs can be added to match the current cabinets and be partial support for a lower countertop. This area can be adjusted to be of use by those in a wheelchair, child’s high chair, or kitchen chair. You may want to consider a countertop with a subtle design or solid color that compliments the original countertop. If you have space, a pull-out countertop can be an excellent addition under a wall oven. 

Multiple Food Prep Areas

Consider adding at least one pull-out shelf for food prep areas. You could also install a pull-out chopping board from a drawer, with a hole for waste that is directly over your pull-out trash can. You’ll want to add task lighting to the underside of your upper cabinets to give you the best light for prep work.

Sink Area

cabinet-express-cabinetcorp-kitchen101_Kitchen-IslandIf possible, consider having two sink locations in the kitchen. You could add an extra sink to the kitchen island. Also, you may want to consider a motion sensor faucet and a pull-out hose with a spray nozzle. This will provide you with the convenience of not having to reach the handles if you need to stay seated or your hands are covered with food. Universal design is all about accessibility. 

 

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting

Task lighting will make your life a lot easier. By installing task lighting that is adjustable and over key work areas and the island can be a huge help in keeping the area functional. Where you can take advantage of natural light from windows, lighting inside the pantry and upper and lower cabinets can be beneficial for finding the items stored there.

Universal Design Flooring

5-flooring-options-CabinetExpress-HardwoodYou want flooring that is durable, easy to clean, and slip-resistant in a universal designed kitchen. There are many types of vinyl tiles and sheets that are low maintenance. Ceramic tile is a hard surface for easy mobility and is also easy to clean and low maintenance. Both are good for a walker or wheelchair. If you are concerned about falling or dropping kitchen items, you could look at cushioned vinyl or cork for a softer flooring option. 

Easy Controls and Switches

When it comes to the controls and switches for lighting, electrical, and appliances, you want to think about low and manageable. Consider installing electrical outlets in front of counters for easy access. You can install lower switches for the range hood and light. All switches should be easily operated with one hand or motion sensor if appropriate.

These universal design elements can be incorporated into almost any kitchen design where space is available. We hope this has helped you prepare for the future of your kitchen. If you’re in the market for wholesale cabinets, we’d love to talk with you. Visit our contact us page to learn more.