Le Corbusier, one of the most influential architects of the 20th century wrote:
“The home should be the treasure chest for living.”
He also wrote:
“A house is a machine for living in.”
While not referring to Universal Design, the two comments are quite apropos for the subject. Universally designed homes can easily be likened to a fine tuned machine or a treasure chest of features to remove barriers in our lives. These are well-planned spaces that allow people of various ages, and physical challenges to live more comfortably.
On more than one occasion over the last 20 years, I have experienced limited mobility due to injury or surgery. On one occasion I had to wear a patch on one eye, and other times I have temporarily used a wheelchair, walker, or crutches. While annoying at the time, each of these situations gave me a new perspective on the barriers that many people face each day.
Until I experienced these things firsthand, I didn’t realize how prevalent these barriers are in our homes and commercial areas. Now, as a designer who has (at least temporarily) “walked the walk,” I am committed to helping clients make their homes more accommodating to changing physical limitations.
Universal Design is not limited to the aging or disabled. Accidents, arthritis, being very short or tall, or having impaired vision can impact anyone and rob us of the full enjoyment of our living space. Our home should compliment our lifestyle, not hinder it.
There are numerous ways to make a living space more comfortable and accessible to everyone and make the spaces adaptable to future mobility or health issues the occupants may face. Contrary to popular belief, these changes do not have to look institutional.
You can start the process by rethinking your existing space and how you use it. Modify at least one entry point into your home. Consider enlarging door and window openings for better light and flow. Rework baths and kitchens to accommodate walkers, wheelchairs, arthritic joints and visual impairments. Consult a design professional about removing walls to create more open space and improve movement throughout.
Don’t worry if the budget won’t allow construction projects. Even small, changes can make a big difference. Rearrange furniture to create better flow. Change the door handles to the lever type and the kitchen cabinet and drawer pulls to the C or D-shaped variety.
Install a single lever faucet or a higher toilet. Turn a room on the main floor into a potential bedroom. Install grab bars in the bathroom or handrails on each side of the stairs. Replace thick carpeting with a firmer variety or a hard surface flooring material.
There are many beautiful products and ideas designed to make your home a safer and more comfortable space whatever your situation. Duluth Patch readers are encouraged to consult a designer and discuss other ways that your home can become “a treasure chest for living.”