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Universal Design Trends and Upgrades for Home Owners

By Edited Feb 10, 2015 3 0

With the collapse of the real estate market in 2008 and the flood of foreclosures, more and more people are either stuck in their homes because they are underwater on their mortgage or simply do not want to sell, and then get burned buying another home. More people are staying where they are and adapting their homes to their needs.

As the population of the United States gets older, a popular trend in home ownership is something called universal design. That is just another way of saying that the spaces that people live in should be designed for all phases of their lives so that as they age, their homes do not become impediments to living a normal life. Think of it as an "aging in place" design.

More and more new homes are being constructed with this mind by including things like the master bedroom on the main floor of a two story house, or replacing levers on drawers or doors with knobs so they are easier to grab.

Replacing Bathtubs with Big Showers

The most common type of home renovation projects is usually the bathroom because it tends to return the most bang for the buck in terms or resale value.

Nationally, a mid-range priced bathroom remodel costing $16,128 recouped 72.5% of its cost at resale in 2014.[1] 

As the population ages, many home owners are remodeling their homes to make them more accessible.  In homes with multiple bathrooms, some home owners may opt to remove one of the bath tubs and replace it with a larger shower for easier access.

This allows for more options such as more hand rails, seats or benches  and multiple shower

Universal Design Trends and Upgrades for Home Owners
heads. A larger shower area can be constructed so that there is no need for a threshold to step over which is an issue for elderly people.  Some areas can be created so that a glass partition is not needed so there is no maintenance involved.

If you do plan on selling your home in the future, make sure you have at least one bathtub in your home before attempting this type of remodel. Also, be aware that realtors will list your house based on the types of bathroom you have based on the following definitions:

  • Full bathroom - a toilet, sink and bathtub
  • ¾ bathroom - a toilet, a sink and a shower
  • ½ bathroom – a toilet and sink[2]

Whatever you do, I would not recommend removing the bath tub from the master bathroom. 

Hidden Microwaves

Over-the-range microwaves are not as popular as they used to be for several reasons. Some people do not like them over the stove because it places them too high for shorter people or children to use.

And if you have someone in your home that is disabled, or uses a wheel chair to get around, they are completely inaccessible at that height.

There is also the aesthetic appeal of a nice stainless steel or glass range hood that adds to the look of any kitchen.

If you do not like the idea of accessing the microwave while something is cooking on the stove top, you might consider relocating it to another part of the counter.

If counter space is an issue, a new trend is to place microwaves in hidden drawers under countertops or within cabinets themselves.

Quartz Countertops

Granite is still the king of countertops but quartz is gaining ground because it requires almost no maintenance and as people age, this becomes a big deal whether in the home, or outside in the yard.

Unlike granite, quartz is a non-porous material so it does not stain easily or need sealing. It has the same look and feel as granite but it is more durable because it resists cracking and chipping However, there are a couple of things to understand if you are considering quartz in your kitchen.

Granite comes in many colors, but quartz is pretty basic and does not have as many color variations. In addition to that, it will cost a little more than granite.

Touchless Faucets

Universal Design Trends and Upgrades for Home Owners
Credit: mjpyro

Touch-less faucets started to appear about 5 years ago and have become more and more popular because of their practicality. Everyone has had their hands on raw meat or crack a few eggs and didn’t want to touch the faucet handle to turn the water on.

With these types of faucets, you just tap the side of it anywhere with your forearm or whatever, and the water turns on.

Most of these types of faucets are water savers also because they have automatic shutoffs.

Open Concept

Universal Design Trends and Upgrades for Home Owners
Credit: mjpyro

Open concept is not new, but it is becoming more and more popular. In fact, I would even say it is standard in new homes.

People spend a lot of time in their kitchens so the trend has been to include that in the main area of the home rather than putting it off away from the family room. With most newer homes, kitchens actually lead into the living or family room. Since people are staying in their homes longer in retirement, the shift has been more toward entertaining and universal design to appeal to all ages of one’s life.

If you are planning on renovating your home to include an open concept design, you will need to hire a contractor to verify that you have the right type of layout and support structure to allow for the removal of certain walls to open things up.

Also, if you are looking for a seamless look from one area to another, appliance makers are altering their models to fit in better with these types of kitchen lead-ins to the family room.

LED Lighting

Some people do not like LED lights no matter how much they save on electric bills. I understand that sentiment; however some of those opinions are based on the earlier versions of those types of bulbs.

Over the years, energy-efficient LED light bulbs have gotten brighter and warmer in many different colors making them more appealing in living room and kitchen settings.

If you want a way to incorporate more LED lights in your home, perhaps you could put some recessed light under your cabinets in the kitchen. If you do not like to work with electricity, you will need to hire an electrician so with that, and the initial cost of the bulbs will make for high upfront costs, but this is a simple upgrade that can have a dramatic effect on the mood of your kitchen and your light bills.

Another option for LED lighting is in the ceilings, particularly if you have a vaulted ceiling in your living room.

Outdoor Living Spaces

Universal Design Trends and Upgrades for Home Owners
Credit: Opensource

Landscaping improvements can turn an ordinary home into a vacation resort experience. Adding an outdoor space such as a fire pit or an outdoor kitchen is an easy way to add more usable square footage to your home without all of the additional cost of a room addition.

Whether a screened-in back porch, a hardscape design or even adding a small pool or water feature, these types of upgrades can pay for themselves by making your home seem larger and more resort-like for entertaining or just enjoying a fire by the pool.

And they just might save you some money by cutting out travel because you have such a relaxing area every day.

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Summary

Those are just a few suggestions to get more out of your home. Small changes can have a large effect whether on your electric or light bill, or just on your quality of life.

As we all age and live longer, most of us will have to address the accessibility and functionality of our homes at some point. Upgrading it to include a universal design that incorporates a living space that lends itself to all of your families’ needs is the trend that will continue as baby boomers retire and stay in their homes.

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Bibliography

  1. "Cost vs Value." Remodeling. 23/04/2014 <Web >
  2. "Topics." Realtor. 23/04/2014 <Web >

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