As I mentioned in my last entry, since I will be doing a presentation at the National SDP Conference, I have been doing tons of research on Accessibility in Decor and Design- not just for the handicapped but for everyone. One of the things I am noticing in the design and architectural field is the emphasis on designing for the Individual, not the mass population.
What the heck does that mean you ask? That means making the space fit to the person or people who are living there. For instance, in the area where I live I noticed a trend of a few things at last years Parade of Homes here in my little home town of Pocatello… Can you say brown? A lot of the walls were painted brown or dark taupe. There was very little deviation from this trend. As you age, your eyes also don’t see as well as they used to making things seem darker add to that an already dark space and you have a recipe for disaster and even depression. Older eyes require more light to see things clearly, the dark walls will absorb the light creating an even darker space. Did you know that as you get older your tired eyes see more yellowed colors?
Another thing I noticed where very shiny wood floors and lots of ceramic tile, even marble or very slick tile in the bathrooms and showers. I have to say, they all looked great but what about the slip factor?
Another thing I saw was the granite, everywhere there was granite. I realize granite is a status symbol to many people but is someone who is on a limited income in there 60’s and 70’s going to want to be sealing it once a year or more and how about the fumes and the energy required by the person to seal it? You may be saying you aren’t in your 60’s or 70’s but chances are quite good that you will eventually be there. Our population is aging and the Baby-Boomers are already in their 50’s and even older. If you like the look of granite, I highly recommend a quartz product like Silestone quartz: it never needs sealed, it is extremely strong and it is not porous. Regular laminate countertops are very easy care and are great for the budget minded like those on a limited income. There are some beautiful patterns now that simulate the look of granite- just don’t go shiny- they scratch and can’t be repaired.
There is also a prevalence of very tall cabinets in the kitchens- looks very pretty but how does a woman in her sixties who has a touch of Arthritis get to things on the top shelf? There are so many products now that allow you customize your areas. Pull-outs and varying heights of workspaces are great ways to help the inhabitants of the space. How about kids? They could benefit from varying the heights too.
What about that pretty, very shiny, sleek stainless steel refrigerator? A person with restricted movement is going to have a hard time wiping fingerprints off. The textured stainless steel look gives you the look without so many finger prints.
Consider the microwave and its placement; it is very unsafe for a child or anyone who is shorter lifting down a hot dish from an over the range microwave. The NKBA recommends placing the microwave controls below 48” (that is 4’). Your countertop is actually a great location as long as you have a space beside it to place the hot items when you take them out.
Simple things and some pre-planning can go a long way to making living safer and easier. The hippest, hottest trends may look really cool but will they stand the test of time- your time? If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. Thanks for reading.