Incorporating Universal Design Is A Great Investment For Homeowners

Universal Design creates an environment accessible by all people, creating a home that functions seamlessly for all family members regardless of age or physical limitations. It makes a home more “visitable” and allows homeowners to age in place rather than move elsewhere to meet a changing physical need. The Harrell Design + Build team can incorporate Universal Design features as part of a complete home remodel, or one room at a time. Explore our gallery for inspiration on how Universal Design works beautifully in residential homes.

Universal Design is a broad description that really means “human-centered” design, calling attention to the importance of supporting a homeowner’s unique surroundings, activities, and lifestyle in a functional, comfortable and visually attractive way.

One way to think about universal design theory is to imagine a front door that has a tall brick wall in front of the opening. Sure, some people might be able to scale the wall and easily enter the house, but the vast majority of people would find it challenging. Now, imagine the wall has a door placed in the center to allow an easier access. Even better, imagine the door opens automatically for maximum accessibility and ease. This is the spirit surrounding universal design.

According to remodeling professionals, the concept of universal design continues to grow in popularity among homeowners, remodelers and designers, and will be a major element in the remodeling world as the population ages.

Genie Nowicki is a senior designer at San Francisco Bay Area-based Harrell Design + Build, and a 20-year expert in the study and application of universal design practices. She explained the value and importance of universal design cannot be overstated in today’s American home.

Universal design is really about how we make homes universally safe, comfortable, and useable for everyone.

“Universal design is really about how we make homes universally safe, comfortable, and useable for everyone. This could mean Magic Johnson who is seven feet tall and his wife who is five feet tall, and how to address this challenge when designing a kitchen. Or it could be that we have an extended family living in a home and grandma would love to help with the dishes or baking cookies, but she needs to sit down while doing these things and the counter tops are too tall for her. Universal design layouts can also addresses physical challenges like the teenager who broke his foot playing basketball and can’t get up the stairs to the only shower in the house. Or aunt Susie can’t visit because she uses a walker and there are six stairs from the carport to the house. These are real life situations I see on a regular basis,” said Genie.

Obviously universal design should be a major consideration for homeowner contemplating remodeling a living room, kitchen, or bathroom. However, Genie explained making a home more comfortable and universally accessible does not necessarily have to involve remodeling. It can incorporate really simple things like replacing hardware.

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