“Universal Design Is Simple”

Each of us is different – in our physical makeup, abilities, and interests – so appealing to family members, guests, and people who may visit us occasionally can be a tall order. This is where universal design can help.

Don’t overthink universal design

Universal design is a very effective design treatment for any age home, although there may be significantly more challenges in implementing some of these treatments in certain homes – those with many steps, narrower doorways, and darker surfaces, for instance.

Nevertheless, universal design is a concept that anyone can embrace and use – even if it’s the entire living space but just part of it.

Universal design is not complicated

While there are seven commonly accepted principles of universal design, there really are just two guiding precepts: (1) does it work for everyone (can anyone use or access the feature, device, or the interior space – or just some people)? and (2) is anyone excluded (is anyone restricted from using it based on their ability)?

A third guideline would be to make sure that the feature in question seems to fit well with its surroundings and does not call attention to itself by its design or appearance – except that it may be noticed for its attractiveness or innovation. It should be functional as well as look good for where it is located and what it does. It should be invisible as far as being perceived as anything oriented toward a specific treatment or need.

Universal design is not a slogan

Often, we see various products, room treatments, and interior design captioned as universal design when they really aren’t. They are pretty, clean, modern, and look good. However, they don’t comply with the commonly accepted guidelines. There is something unsafe, uncomfortable, or generally an issue in using some of these features in a home. Don’t forget the safety aspect of using anything in the home.

Just because a design has some of the attributes of universal design but does not comply in other areas, we should not be describing it as universal design because it really isn’t. However, a home does not need to be completely universal design for it to be done well and to be generally accessible and desirable.

While it may seem to be a tall order to create a totally universally designed living space, we can focus on certain areas of the home, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or entry. Just consider whether anyone who normally would be coming into that space would be able to use all of the features they would encounter without difficulty.

A more appropriate way of describing an interior of a residence might be to express that it contains many universal design treatments or elements, knowing that as comprehensive as we try to be that it’s hard to conceive of everyone’s situation and imagine every use of a design feature.


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