Universal Design for Kitchens

An open kitchen drawer showing stored crockery and a coffee pot.Better Homes and Gardens magazine from the US has a feature on universal design and kitchens.  Some of the key points are:

    • Choose smart surfaces 
    • Install adequate lighting
    • Consider flooring options
    • Opt for a single-lever tap 
    • Embrace contrast
    • Install open shelving or glass front cabinets (find things easier)
    • Include pull out storage (drawers)
    • Install a wall oven

There’s more links on this section of the Better Homes and Gardens website and links to advertised products. Good to see universal design included even if it is presented as different type of design. The information is interrupted by advertisements, so keep scrolling to access the information.

 

Latest bathroom trends include UD

Bathroom study front coverRenovations are an important part of the home building industry and it seems older people in the US might finally be realising that they need to choose designs that will allow them to stay put as they age. But are builders on board with this? It’s no good waiting until a client actually needs the features because by then, they will often not have the wherewithal to organise it. So it could be institutional care or a restricted lifestyle from there on. The 2018 Houzz Bathroom Trends Study is a comprehensive report that has some interesting statistics about the age at which people might start thinking of their future needs and doing something about it. It also shows what they are actually doing in terms of renovation design. An interesting and easy to read study which supports the idea that these features should be designed into the home in the first place. 

The future of kitchens

A kitchen with white cabinetry and a bar extension showing two place settings and chairsIt is often quoted that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and that part probably won’t change in the future. But what people might doing in the kitchen could change significantly. A blog on a product website lists five key design features trending for the future: connectivity, sustainability, ease of use for all, the rise of professional products, and the kitchen is more than just cooking. Below is a video where researchers and designers from around the world were asked how they thought kitchens will evolve. Their ideas on the future are worth looking at. There are some neat ideas at the end of the video. One of the designers, Patricia Moore, says, 

“We must be able to choose at all times what suits us. Some people have to work sitting down or in a wheelchair. A small child should be able to help Mom and Dad prepare food. And our grandparents, who will experience reductions and have less physical strength and mental capacity, should be able to prepare a meal with comfort and safety.” 

Look here: Kitchen lighting refocused

A modern kitchen with a bowl of fruit in the foreground and a stove and microwave in the backgroundDoug Walter writes in ProRemodeller magazine about new research in kitchen lighting. He says, “Most kitchens are woefully underlit. Lighting is often an afterthought, yet even when it’s carefully planned, designers and lighting experts often don’t agree on which lamps work best in particular fixtures and where those fixtures should be located.” It seems housing standards aren’t much help and it is left up to the kitchen designer or the homeowner to work it out for themselves. The article offers practical and technical advice about lighting the kitchen so you can see what you are doing, safely and conveniently. 

Lighting is of particular importance to anyone with low vision – even people who wear glasses need good light to make sure the work-space and benches are hygienic and safe. And more light isn’t always better if it produces glare.  

Useable kitchens

View of a kitchen showing white drawers with D handles, an oven at waist height and a small breakfasr barA useable kitchen is a must and it is often the details of the design that make the difference. Once the overall working space has been thought through, the fittings become the focus. Lifemark in New Zealand has partnered with Blum kitchen products and fittings that help make any kitchen more functional regardless of level of capability to open, grasp, or carry things. Drawers instead of cupboards are now almost standard in kitchen design, but storing items logically and tidily is another matter. Lifemark’s article covers all this and more. Go to the link to see How to make your kitchen more useable.

Neat ideas for the kitchen

This item from a Todd Brickhouse Associates newsletter includes some good kitchen design ideas. Scrolling down the page, you can see a picture of a pull-out table that nests neatly under the kitchen bench and over the storage drawers when not in use. Colour contrast is mentioned as an important feature. Another idea is a dual height island bench which has multi functional use. The newsletter includes other items that are probably more specific to north America and also some disability specific items.

Editor’s note: I included a pull-out workboard in my kitchen. It is at a height for sitting to prepare food, for a child to make a sandwich, and for stirring a large mixing bowl at a more convenient height for my arms and shoulders than the bench.

Analysis of kitchen design to include UD

Stylised drawing of a kitchen, somewhat 1950s style with pink and blue coloursSeveral Australian developers are claiming that apartment living is now the top choice for older Australians who want to either downsize or have a home with level access in the front door. However, it’s arguably no real choice if all you have to choose from is a retirement village or an apartment. While apartments usually provide a level entry, the internal design of the dwelling may not in fact support people as they age. Apartment kitchen design is an important consideration and is tackled in an article from Korea. Although many older people will not need to use a wheelchair at home, the design parameters are geared around wheelchair circulation spaces. The article includes several drawings of different sized kitchen layouts based on the analysis of user reach range and other capabilities.  

They conclude that there will still need to be specialised housing designs for people with specific limitations: “But a better alternative is to make common housing more accessible, usable, and universal for the highest number of people with varied capabilities…”.

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to suggest designs for apartment kitchens without major redesign for the elderly or the disabled, who are a fast growing population in Korea. According to the concept of universal design and the need to support various users as much as possible, five criteria for analysis were developed based on research on the mobility of wheelchair users: clear floor space, work flow, universal reach range, area for later use, and safety. Using the criteria developed, the accessibility and usability of five kitchen subtypes were investigated through the analysis of architectural documents. The result shows that kitchen layouts in Korean apartments are typically difficult to navigate for wheelchair users. Modification of the locations of the refrigerator, sink, and range was mainly required for appropriate clear floor space, work triangle, and countertops. Moreover, alternatives to five unit types were suggested without the need to increase the current kitchen size. For application of universal design to kitchen design, considerations for not only the size, the shape of the kitchen and its appliances but also for clear floor space, work triangle, countertop, reach range, and knee clearance formed by the location of each appliance are required.

KY Kang, KH Lee, Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering.