Bill Owens likes to paint this little picture for his clients when they are planning a remodel: "Imagine your kid standing on the kitchen counter deciding what cereal he wants," Owens said during his presentation on universal design for the kitchen at the 2013 Remodeling Show. Cute as it might seem, any number of disasters could happen in that scenario, to which Owens points out, "Kids can benefit from universal design too, by having things at a more reasonable height off the floor."

Owens, president of Owens Construction, in Powell, Ohio, gave a lengthy explanation of how universal design—which can help people of all ages and abilities—differs from aging-in-place or accessible design, which aims to specifically help older homeowners or those with mobility challenges. From there, he outlined a range of universal design improvements that can be made across a variety of areas of the kitchen. "Kitchens should support a variety of users and activities," he says. "Consider your clients' needs and priorities," and add these considerations to your universal design checklist.

Credit: Steve Cash

Cabinet Accessories

If drawers aren't an option, adding pull-out shelving to base cabinets or pull-down fixtures to uppers could help little Billy get to his Saturday morning breakfast a bit easier. During the design phase, consider:

  • How the existing footprint limits the kitchen layout and where adjustments could be made.
  • Clients' preferences for what types of items will need to be stored, and where.
  • The amount of interior space that will be created by adding cabinet accessories.

Owens says that the design trend of kitchen drawers and full-extension cabinet shelving gives a "beautiful look" and is available at just about every price point. Other cabinetry accessories to think about for easier access include pull-out spice racks, appliance lifts, and backsplash rail systems for utensils.
Photo: Hafele SmartCab storage system. Read more.