Small bathrooms and universal design

picture of a free standing bathtub with a shower behind in teh cornerHome design magazines now feature larger bathrooms with larger fittings, such as freestanding bathtubs. The room has gone from being a purely functional space to one of relaxation and wellbeing. Consequently, the design of small bathrooms is somewhat ignored.

Designing for Small Bathrooms by Sivertsen and Berg, of Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences, Norway, seeks to address this. Their research question was how to achieve the same sense of wellbeing in small bathrooms using universal design principles. It’s an open access article.

Note that the image does not indicate universal design features. A free-standing bath becomes unusable if grab bar support is needed in the future. The shower cubicle is small and not step free. 


This paper will focus on how to design a series of bathroom products that work well for small bathrooms using the principles of universal design. In home culture research, Quitzau and Rřpke has studied bathroom transformation from hygiene to well-being.

Bathrooms are one of the rooms in apartments that do not have good solutions for small spaces. This is unfortunate since it is the bathroom that has the least amount of space in urban apartments. This leads many people to have too little bathroom space due to furniture, toilets, showers, etc.

In today’s society, the bathroom is no longer just a purpose room. It is used for relaxation and wellness. This has led to a trend where large furniture, such as freestanding bathtubs, dominate today’s market. This in turn allows the few solutions that exist for small bathrooms to remain poorly conceived.

The research question was therefore how to create solutions for small bathrooms to get the same sense of well-being as in larger bathrooms through universal design principals. The study used the principles of universal design, observations and in-depth interviews.

This study can help to create a greater understanding of how to design small bathrooms. It will be relevant in a cross disciplinary field, including for professionals in plumbing, product design and technical solutions. This will also increase the well-being of users of the bathroom.

Analysis of kitchen design to include universal design

Stylised drawing of a kitchen, somewhat 1950s style with pink and blue colours. Analysis of kitchen design to include UD features.Australian developers claim apartment living is the top choice for downsizing to a home with level entry. However, level entry into the home is only one universal design feature. When it’s time to upgrade the kitchen, this this is also the time to include universal design features. 

While apartments usually provide a level entry, the internal design of the dwelling may not support people as they age. Apartment kitchen design is an important consideration and is tackled in an article from Korea. Wheelchair circulation spaces are the key element which means the designs suit other mobility devices. 

The title of the article is, Application of Universal Design in the Design of Apartment Kitchens. The article includes several drawings of different sized kitchen layouts based on the analysis of user reach range and other capabilities. Technical specifications are included. 

The authors note specialised housing designs for people with specific limitations are still needed. A better alternative is to make mainstream housing more usable and universal for the highest number of people.

From the abstract

The purpose of this study is to suggest designs for apartment kitchens without major redesign for older people and people with disability. According to the concept of universal design, 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 modification of the locations of the refrigerator, sink, and range was mainly required for appropriate clear floor space, work triangle, and countertops. Alternatives to five unit types were suggested without the need to increase the current kitchen size.

A Useable Kitchen

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 that help make any kitchen more functional regardless of level of capability to open, grasp, or carry things. Drawers instead of cupboards are now standard in kitchen design, but storing items logically and tidily is another matter.

How to make your kitchen more usable covers workspaces and cabinetry, flooring, colour contrasting, taps and handles.



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