The aging-in-place remodeling niche has begun to bloom with creative possibilities. Showcased in the recent National Association of Home Builders’ Homes for Life, Excellence in Aging-in-Place Remodeling Awards, innovative designs such as these Major Space and Single Space winning projects show that universal design can offer clients mental, emotional, and physical security while they safely and independently continue to live in their homes.
Winner of the Major Space remodel category, Susan Bachner sought to provide subtle accessible upgrades for her clients who are still in good health but are planning for their needs as the couple ages. The Lexington, Ky., consultant’s work on this project proves that accessible design need not look institutional or dull. The project is fresh and contemporary.
With the remodel, Bachner’s clients wanted to address concerns of joint and back pain, as well as varying lighting needs (one spouse has cataracts). The redesign converted what had been a two-story home into a fully accessible single-story layout. Steps and narrow spaces, which acted as barriers to access, were removed. The kitchen, where the couple spends a significant amount of time, was updated to serve both seated and standing users.
Bachner’s design called for removing many of the first-floor walls and repurposing the existing rooms. The new kitchen plan eliminates all need for bending, reaching, and grasping by raising the dishwasher 9 inches off the finished floor, providing a lever-handled sink faucet, and creating a microwave drawer and counter that can accommodate a seated chef.
Designer Sandra Rawls Oltmanns, of Naples, Fla., was honored for her Single Space remodel, worked closely with her quadriplegic client and his wife to indulge the client’s passion for cooking. By incorporating universal design elements, including an open and appropriately lowered cooking surface, the client is able to fully enjoy his previously inaccessible kitchen.
Oltmanns added cabinets that open and close with a tap of the finger, along with touch-control receptacles. She replaced each appliance with one that the client could reach while seated in a power chair. Safety measures were also increased via auto-shutoff modules and audible indicators of hot or unattended surfaces. A glass-top table with legs (no apron or pedestal base to block the power wheelchair), makes dining a pleasure.The winners were recognized at the NAHB annual gala, which took place at the Remodeling Show in Baltimore in October.
“These designs use tailored solutions to transform each house into a home for a lifetime,” said NAHB Remodelers chairman Paul Sullivan in a press release issued by the association.