Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Kitchen for Every Body: Universal Design and Kitchen Appliances.


 A universally designed kitchen functions well for every type of body whether young or old. Let us take a look at choosing appliances that work for every body.


  • A wall oven that opens from the side makes it easier for someone who has balance or bending issues, as well as for someone in a wheelchair.
  • It is also good for families members that are cooking and baking at the same time to have a separate cooktop and oven.


  • A front-control cooktop with recessed space underneath makes it easier for someone in a wheelchair to use. 
  • An induction cooktop lowers the risk of fire and getting burned because the only thing it heats up is the pot and its contents.


  • A side by side refrigerator / freezer model makes it possible for people of all heights and abilities to access contents inside.
  • Drawer model refrigerator and freezers provide another alternative to the standard refrigerator.



  • Raise the dishwasher 6 to 16 inches above the floor for easier access from a seated position as well as for the elderly who have difficulty bending. 
  • If you don't care for the look consider installing dish washing drawers instead.


  • Place the microwave oven near the refrigerator at either counter level or below for easy access. 
  • A hidden panel door prevents little children from playing with the microwave.

Kitchen Sink

  • A kitchen sink without cabinetry below it that is 3 or 4 inches deep with the drain hole offset at the back instead of the center provides knee clearance for someone in a wheelchair.
  • Another important consideration is to have the pipe be flexible or installed against a wall rather then jutting out to prevent burns for those in a wheelchair. Since many have no sensation in their legs it is easy for them to get accidentally burned. If you don't like the look be aware that sinks come with a panel to hide the view of the pipe this also further protects the legs from burns.
  • Choose an ADA faucet with one large lever for ease of use for everyone in the household whether a child, adult or elderly person with grip or vision issues. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Universal Design for the Victims of the Boston Marathon: because life can change in a heartbeat.

Our lives can change in a heart beat, as victims of the Boston Marathon found out. Many have lost limbs, had their vision or their hearing permanently affected. They never imagined that one day they would become disabled. Many will have to move to a new residence or significantly alter their home environment in to regain the independence they once had. 

 Most people take on a home renovation in their 30's or 40's in good health. Little thought is given to the possibility of becoming disabled or less functional than one is now. This does not always have to be the case if one incorporates Universal Design into the design of your home, apartment or condo.

Universal Design is good design. It takes into consideration the many ways in which a space can be designed to accommodate as seamlessly as possible the many different abilities of its inhabitants and visitors whether children, elderly or the disabled without making a place look institutional. It is my wish and sincere hope that builders will incorporate more of the principles of universal design into the construction of their buildings as doing so benefits everyone.

Go and talk to an elderly relative and friend and ask them what they find hard to do. Spend a day with them assisting them in their home. It is an eye opening experience.

 Getting into the Building

1. Have walkways paths wide enough to accompany a wheelchair and a person walking along side them.

2. A no step entry is essential to help those in wheelchairs roll right into the home. It is also helpful for the elderly and children. It is a feature that is hardly noticeable but greatly benefits all.

3. Install railings on both side of your walkway with bars at two different heights for children and adults. This will enable the elderly, those with balance issues to walk safely to your front door. It will also prevent you from falling on the ice in the winter.

4. Install dawn to dusk solar lighting along the path of the walkway to enable those with vision issues to clearly see their way.

6. Once at the door a doorbell low enough for someone in a wheelchair or a child to reach.

7. A small sturdy bench next to the door will enable the elderly as well as those who easily fatigue to sit and wait for the door to be answered. It will also enable you a place to put down packages while you unlock the door.

8. A lever type door handle will make it easier to open the door for everyone.

Once in the Building

1. Single Floor Living: Having a potential bedroom with a door and a closet along with a kitchen, full bathroom with at least five feet of maneuvering room, as well as a living and or dining room on the first floor provides the greatest amount of flexibility.

2. Wide Hallways or No Hallways:
For the greatest ease of movement through a space hallways should be between 36-42 inches wide without obstructions into the space. This will make moving easier for someone in a wheelchair as well someone using a walker, crutches or movers moving furniture in and out of a space. An open floor plan with low or no thresholds also works well.

3. Reachable controls and switches: light switches that are from 42 to 48 inches above the floor, thermostats no higher then 48 inches off the floor and easy to read, electrical outlets 18-24 inches off the floor. This will make it easier for everyone especially those in a wheelchair, the elderly to reach switches and outlets easily. It also helps if the light switches glow and it is a rocker style switch to enable those with low vision and arthritic hands.

4. Easy-to-use handles and switches: Lever door handles and single handle faucets. as well as rocker style light switches, make opening doors, turning on water, and lighting a room easier for everyone and no one really notices the design as being anything out of the ordinary.

5. Built-in Storage: In the form or bookcases, banquettes, dressers and media centers reduces clutter and frees up floor space making it easier for individuals to walk or roll into the space without knocking into something or tripping. It also helps individuals with low vision by keeping hazards to a minimum. As a side benefit it helps make things easier to clean and keep clean because it prevents family members from setting things down where they don't belong.

Universal design allows you to hope and work for the best but plan for the worst.

Check out my Tenant Proof pinterest boards on universal designed kitchens and bathrooms.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shining A Light on Light Fixtures for Ease of Cleaning

We all need light. We don't need extra house cleaning chores. Before falling head over heels in love with the design of a light fixture, step back and look at it carefully. Does this light fixture take standard bulbs? How will I change the bulbs? How do I clean this light fixture? Will I need to dismantle it in order to clean it? What room of the home am I thinking of putting this in? Is this a room such as a kitchen or bathroom that gets dirty easily? How much time are you willing to spend cleaning it so it looks good, two hours a week, a month, a year? If  its too much work you will grow to hate it. If you choose only based on looks, it may be equivalent of purchasing a race horse to plow your fields. It may look good but it is not very practical.  Examine these two fixtures .
A chandelier requires disassembling in order to clean it. Once a month you will need to remove all the crystals and wash them one by one, so as to not break them. This will take an hour or two of cleaning, then you will need to dry them and then reassembling the chandelier.

A school house light will require dusting with an extendable Swiffer type wand or climbing on a ladder with a dust cloth. Overall it will take less than 5 minutes to clean. Choose a light fixtures that you like with full awareness of the time and effort it will take to clean and maintain it. Sometimes in our quest to have an easy to clean home we must make compromises between what is easy to clean and what is attractive to us. I love old homes and while I am willing to compromise on many things to make my home easier to clean I am not willing to replace my vintage 5 panel doors with slab doors even though they are easier to clean. It is the same for lighting, you must chose what appeals to you, with the full knowledge of what it will cost you in terms of cleaning and maintenance.As Don Aslet and his daughter Laura suggest in Make Your House do the Housework.  Some tips for light fixture buying include taking a cloth with you and run it over the light fixture as if you were cleaning it to see where it snags. Here are some additional tips:

Choose fixtures whose globe is either completely closed or if open point downward.
      1. This will prevent dust and dead insects from collecting inside. 
      2. A glass or metal globe or shade instead of one made of fabric simplifies cleaning.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Faucet Design for Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

Choosing the Right Faucet Can Save Hours of Cleaning 

Graff Faucet
When looking at faucets to purchase imagine cleaning the faucet with a sponge. Keep in mind that every curve, bend and little band is one more place for crud to collect on the faucet. For a faucet that is easy to clean choose a single-lever faucet that can easily be wiped down and has few nooks and crannies. Which of the two faucets would you rather clean?
Kohler Faucet
Keep in mind the new technology such as washerless faucets, fewer parts to break, as well as finishes that don't show water marks. Also keep in mind choosing faucets that are ADA compatible making it easier for folks of all abilities to turn the faucet on and off. For more examples of easy to clean faucets check out my pinterest page Tenant Proof.

Tenant Proof Design Basics for Easy to Clean and Maintain Homes

From Apartment
A beautiful, comfortable, home that you love and is also easy to clean is possible. You can do it with just a little awareness. Suddenly magazines, shows and websites with their beautiful images of perfectly organized and color-coordinated rooms with all the latest "it" items will be seen for what they really are--- the drug dealers of the design world. Decorators don't care how much of your time it will take to clean and maintain the look.They are business people trying to fill their bank account. Spoon feeding the newest "it" thing to sell you:, sun mirrors, ceramic antlers, poufs and garden stools,anyone? Everyone?  Suddenly these things are every where. You start to look at your place, it doesn't look like that, you start feeling it looks dated, inadequate, inferior and some how lacking, you need it the latest thing. This is done so subtly and with such beautiful images that you think I want instead of critically examining the cost, stress and time that will be needed to clean and maintain .

Using Don Aslett and Laura Aslett Simons book Make Your House Do The Housework published in 1986 as a guide I offer updated and timeless design solutions that significantly reduce cleaning, maintenance and replacement costs on your home and rental properties.

The Basic Principles of Maintenance Freedom  According to Don Aslett and Laura Aslett Simons are:
  1. Start by simplifying
  2. Avoid high-maintenance materials
  3. Multiple surfaces multiply the work
  4. Camouflage wherever you can
  5. Concentrate the cleaning
  6. Take convenience into account.
  7. Keep things compatible

Simplifying means taking out what is extra and unnecessary for you. For me, this means no more than two framed pieces of art hung on a wall in a room as opposed to twenty framed pieces of art. I am not willing to spend any more time dusting framed art work. I know the trend is a wall of framed artwork from magazines and websites but I am not willing to spend my time maintaining the look.

Avoid high-maintenance materials especially in kitchens and bathrooms where most of the cleaning is required. Things in these rooms have to durable and easy to clean and maintain. For me, this means solid surface instead of marble or granite countertops.

Multiple surfaces multiply the work in kitchens and bathroom especially with different surfaces abutting up against one another such as tile floors, wood baseboards, tile half walls and painted sheet rock. Multiple surfaces not only adds to cleaning costs and time it also adds to visual clutter making things appear dirty even when they are not.

Camouflage wherever you can to improve the appearance of things until you can get to clean them and to prevent wear and tear from being as obvious. Examples of this include choosing carpets or curtains with a colorful random pattern instead of a solid color.

Concentrate the cleaning so the mess is concentrated in one area instead of little areas all over a room or home. Coats, boots and bags are a good example of how you can concentrate cleaning. If you provide one area for folks to remove and store their coats, boots and bags it means they won't be dropped all over the house.

Take convenience into account when trying to concentrate the cleaning. People will put things down anywhere that is convenient not necessarily where you wish them to. So it you have an antique table in your entryway that you don't want people to put things down on you should find another place for it.

Keep things compatible to ease your cleaning and maintenance. Choose light fixtures that use the same type of light bulb base throughout your home so you only need to buy one type of bulb. Choose the same faucets for all your bathrooms, the same door knobs and locks for your doors.

    Friday, March 8, 2013

    Why You Should Not Install an Island With Seating

    From This Old House Web Article
    It seems to be the trend these days to install islands with seating, personally I don't like them. I hate eating at them because I can't see the people I am eating with and it doesn't facilitate conversation. I feel like an animal at a feeding trough.  Even if I put aside my own particular prejudices against islands and the seating around them their are still many reasons to dislike islands. For example young children find it very difficult to climb up to island height chairs regardless of whether they are counter height or bar height as do women wearing the typical skirted business suits, the elderly,as well as those in wheelchairs or using crutches.

    A better and more useful solution to the island is a large table that you sit at that functions as a work space and seating for guests so that you can chat with them as you work. This is an old fashioned concept but one that works with all individuals despite their height, age and mobility. A highchair can be brought up to the table, a wheelchair rolled up to the table, an individual with a cane or balance issues can easily get in and out of chairs and be part of the conversation.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    Tenant Proof Bath Tub and Shower Design

    For a tenant proof  bath tub/ shower area, tile the entire wall including the ceilings. This will prevent water damage to the shower ceiling from broken shower nozzles or aggressive shower cleaning. If you can afford to do so I recommend also tiling the ceiling a foot or two past the shower ceiling or even better the whole bathroom ceiling.

    Tiling the ceiling wall of the shower or even the entire bathroom ceiling was typically done in 1930's bathroom such as the one pictured above. Later on this very practical tiling practice was abandoned, most likely due to builder costs. Leaving homeowners with the odious task of repainting and replacing the shower ceiling every few years. If have your very own pink and green 1930's vintage shower as pictured above be sure to keep it. You can of course create your own 30's inspired shower using black and white subway tile with gray grout. This color scheme will appeal to the greatest number of tenants. The initial cost will be more but you won't need to ever paint or repair the walls due to a broken shower nozzle. I also recommend taking the opportunity to add a support bar attached to the stud walls at this time.

     Here is another tiled shower/tub combinations.