BY MARY JO PETERSON

Now, as more than half of our country’s 8 million boomers have turned 50, we have all joined the aging-in-place design team. Rather than look at the basics, I’d like to comment on some of the top trends—those being requested by clients, not just those suggested by designers.

Open Plans

First off, people are looking at ways to create a level entry and generally more open plans with more clear floor space for easier maneuvering. The newest residential code allows for the change in level from garage to home to occur without a step, so in many cases this can be the level entry. In a current project, my office is working on a renovation that includes installation of a ramp from garage to kitchen to make transport of groceries easier, as requested by the client.

One Floor Living

The ability to live on one floor is frequently cited as a reason to move from an existing home or to remodel. While many regional vernaculars include two-story designs, people are asking for plans that include a master suite on the main floor, so “upstairs” becomes guest or other flex space. This does impact the space available for, and the orientation of, the kitchen and the master bath, when all of this is being fitted onto one floor.

Ease of Maintenance

Easy maintenance is cited as a top priority. However, it becomes a stronger trend when cited as a main reason for moving from an existing home (57%, according to an Aging in Place Survey). After outdoor upkeep, the kitchen and the bath are the two areas most mentioned when looking for improvements. Antibacterial materials and finishes, cleaner lines, appliances that report trouble back to the manufacturer, self-regulating ventilation or lighting—all the ways we can streamline the care of our spaces—become tipping points for our clients.

Convenience Kitchen

In the kitchen, fewer wall cabinets are key. Fortunately, design trends toward more open spaces and generous daylight have forced us to use fewer wall cabinets and the response is tremendous. At 5’5”, I can reach no further than the front of the second shelf on a typical-height wall cabinet. With today’s accessories for drawer storage of those items traditionally stored in wall cabinets, plus the use of furniture pieces in the kitchen, people are foregoing wall cabinets in exchange for storage within easy reach.

Easy Access Appliances

I used to be a lonely voice encouraging splitting double ovens so each might be placed at a more accessible height. But today, more clients are asking for placing appliances at comfortable heights. It’s interesting to note that while the original reasoning behind a raised dishwasher or right-height oven was for use by a person in a wheelchair, today it is more often a benefit to a standing person who would choose not to bend.

No Strain Drawers

Drawers could be called the great equalizer. All of us benefit from bringing things closer to us without straining. Even most moderately priced cabinetry offers drawers. Today’s drawer appliances – dishwashers, microwave ovens, refrigerators, to name a few – are in demand from people, and particularly those in the Boomer segment.

Accessible Doors

In both the kitchen and the bath, not only drawers, but doors that go away are a strong trend. Whether they fold to the side, swing up, recess in or otherwise open, getting them out of the way while one is accessing what’s behind them is good. Hardware has been created and improved so that there have never been more options.

Bathrooms

In the bath, let’s start with the vanity area and talk knee spaces. People are requesting designs that include the option of sitting for at least some of the tasks at hand. Today’s lavatory designs invite an open knee space and they are, at last, a strong trend.

Variable Height Toilets

Have you ever seen more choices in toilets? The trend is definitely to comfort- or right-height seats and, given the choice, I plan more than one height, to accommodate changing needs and varied user heights, when doing a whole house. Although this trend is still designer-instigated, clients are responding strongly to the many additional options becoming available, including heated and self-closing seats, personal hygiene, dual-flush, etc.

No-threshold showers

No-threshold showers have begun to take hold with not just designers, but with builders and consumers, as well. When containment of water is planned carefully based on the size, position, direction and amount of water flowing, the extent of waterproof layer, the slope of floor, type and location of drains, and the plan for doors, curtains or open entries, this is a wonderful choice.

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