Universal Design

Universal Design is a basic design concept that is widely used to make something easily accessible to everyone without compromising on the aesthetic of it. With products as well as home renovations, this means they design it with everyone in mind including those with a physical handicap, elderly, young, and everyone in between. The three main elements of universal design is that it is safe, stylish, and meant for everyone.

Many features of universal design are very minimal but can significantly impact the way your home works for your family in illness, injury, and the everyday. For example, tiered counters, or counters with multiple heights allows for small children or family members confined to a wheelchair access to everyday kitchen activities. Well lit rooms with task lighting and easy-to-grab door and drawer pulls also keep a kitchen in the universal design game.

Universal Design could also be as minimal as choosing a toilet paper holder or towel rod that is also rated as a grab bar. A few small changes could help keep a person independently living at home years longer. Having door frames that can accommodate a wheelchair or ground level access or a ramp instead of stairs going into the home can be a huge advantage either for everyday physical handicaps or in case of a broken leg. Even the location of a shower nook can be a universal design decision. Keeping the nook at belly button height to prevent overreaching and near a built in shower bench are all universal design decisions.

Universal design can keep a person independent longer and keeps a home functional for everyone. These decisions are also a good thing to consider if you’ll be selling your home in the future. Functionality is never a bad feature to have. The aesthetics of universal design have never been better with so many products and finishes to consider, choosing the right materials is also a universal design decision. You wouldn’t want a wheelchair accessible house with a thick carpet that is difficult to roll over. Cork flooring is a good material for floors in universal design. It is smooth, not too slippery, comes in a variety of colors, and is warm on the feet.

With all the products out there today, universal design is not difficult to achieve. A home you can grow old in comfortably and is safe, stylish, and meant for everybody–that sounds like a new dream home to consider.

Home Remodel: Research

Do your research before jumping headfirst into a remodel! By do you research, I do not mean binge watch HGTV. They’re alright for ideas but they show what the people want to see- finished designs, one or two minor problems, unlimited budgets, and everything completed in the “six week timeline” for a full home renovation. The blood sweat and tears, decision upon decision, meetings with contractors, and budget are some of the areas that are glanced over but never really focused on.

If you’ve been living in your too small kitchen and are seriously considering a remodel put in some legwork and do a bit of research. Prices vary. Sometimes a lot, by region. Someone living in San Francisco would end up paying a higher price for an identical kitchen remodel than someone in say… Iron Mountain, MI. The best way to get a handle on how much this is going to cost is to window shop. Go to local stores (the best contractors buy locally 😉 ) and check out prices on cabinets, hardware, fixtures, flooring, windows/doors, etc. When you realize that cabinets really can be in the area of $XX,XXX it will help with the sticker shock of your complete project.

If you’re like me, and prefer to window shop online, even if it’s just to narrow down style. The Products section on Houzz.com is a great place to browse. They have tons of options for everything from counter tops and back splashes to finishes like cups and plates, bedding, even cookie cutters. My favorite part about their website is that you can narrow down not only by price, but by style as well. I do always recommend purchasing locally whenever possible for your remodel. Print off photos and bring them to your local store. Odds are one of their suppliers has exactly what you’re looking for. When you purchase locally, it makes it easier to correct mistakes that happen (no going through automated voice mail systems!)

If after your initial window shopping you’re still up for a renovation, find out what similar remodels cost in your area. One website that does a fairly good job with this is Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. The report breaks it down. It shows several project options such as Bathroom Addition as well as the Job Cost, Resale Value, and Cost Recouped. The report for your area can help you choose a good investment as well as show you the initial cost of the renovation. I would post a photo here, unfortunately it’s prohibited under Copyright Law. One concern I have with this is if you’re in a rural area like we are in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the nearest town on the map is over a four hour drive away– meaning its going to be inaccurate.

Are you going to DIY that bathroom remodel or hire a professional? Seriously consider both options. Can you be trusted with power tools? Is there a local contractor that you can trust to treat your home with respect? Are the 14 mis-cut pieces of plywood, trip to the ER, and migraine really worth saving the 20% markup on supplies and cost of labor? Are you able to complete the project safely and correctly the first time around? I’m only kind of kidding with these questions… Make sure you know your personal limits.

Do you draw the line at electrical? Call an electrician. Do you want someone to take care of the whole project? Call a general contractor. No matter who you call, be sure they can be trusted with your home. Ask for references from previous clients and subcontractors, architects, and/or design firms that they have worked with. This is your home, you want it done right and to make sure your home is safe.