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Archive for Universal Design

Jul 07 2016

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Designing for Athletes

We talk a lot about universal design and aging-in-place, but what about the busy, hyper-scheduled millennial client? Working with one of us is probably frustrating- we’re all over the place, we won’t have time for meetings and we usually know exactly what we want, and you can’t do much about it.

One aspect of our generation that designers – particularly ones trained for aging-in-place designs – can speak to is our concentrated (not always, of course) focus on fitness and health. Some of the design requirements for aging-in-place clients can actually help protect us and help us stay healthier longer.

I know I’m in the extreme range of this group. I wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. most weekdays to train for two or three hours before work, either running up and down Buckhead or cycling and swimming indoors. I run trial half-marathons usually twice a week. As I’ve gotten into my late twenties, I have to keep doing more to keep myself from getting hurt, and that’s where my bathtub comes in.

10623374_10202288078899649_912448506195404287_o                                         My mom and I before a recent race

For any type of athlete, hydrotherapy is one major part of recovery. The horrible ice bath after a hard workout decreases swelling and pain, and then a hot bath later on increases circulation and promotes healing. It also decreases tension in the muscles and joints.

And of course, getting in and out of my tub I’ve had to grab at the wall a couple of times to keep myself from falling – hence the universal need for grab bars.

Even if the client isn’t athletic, we as a generation are stressed. That’s where the growing trend for an in-home sauna comes in. Saunas promote sweating, which flushes out toxins. It increases blood flow, like the hot tub, helping tired, stressed bodies recover faster. Plus, apparently saunas improve blood flow to skin and keep us looking younger longer.

So as designers, you can help make our lives less stressed with suggestions like these, and hopefully we won’t stress you out with our tricky schedules!

Feb 08 2016

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KBB’s Editorial Advisory Board Talks Favorite Products and Trends at KBIS

Opening Photos

Kitchen & Bath Business’ Editorial Advisory Board walked the KBIS 2016 floor in search of creativity, sustainability and innovation. See what impressed them, and be sure and check out our upcoming February/March issue for even more of their findings and photos.


Dekton Aura Bookmatch

Amy Ahearn, CKD, CAPS, Ahearn Cabinetry Designs, Bernardsville, N.J.

Consentino has remarkably done what the market demanded: create engineered natural material surface slabs that are bookmatched to each other, heretofore the exclusive domain of natural stone, specifically marble. Other properties include high resistance to heat (you can torch your crème brûlée right on the countertop), non-porous and not subject to thermal shock, which can affect traditional quartz tops. Dekton is not new (it debuted in late 2012), but it did have a great presence at the show. Not limited to countertops, Dekton – dubbed the “ultra-compact surface” – can be used for cladding, flooring and interior and exterior surfaces. A unique blend and proprietary recipe comprised of porcelain, glass and quartz, the realistic veining and bookmatching of the slabs might even have fooled Michelangelo himself!


Nar Bustamante, Nar Fine Carpentry, Carmichael & El Dorado Hills, Calif.

This Kallista shower fixture (above) brought the feeling of classy yet something I could probably pick up at a plumbing supply store in Mexico City in the 50s. I loved the timeless simplicity and commanding elegance of this piece

Chemetal (below) has come a long way with some awesome finishes for its products. This line will do very well with the modern market. They had some great metal patinas and a variety of eye-catching, multicolored concepts.


Paula Kennedy, CMKBD, CAPS, Timeless Kitchen Design, Seattle

Paula noted several trends at the show, including:

– Transitional is more widespread
– Growing confidence in color
– Desire to simplify lives and reduce footprint
– Healthy home, healthy living
– Wireless controls in the bath & appliances
– Appliances to fit “smaller living”
– Auto, tech & fashion-driven design
– Gun metal, mirrored and brass finishes
– Industrial chic growing/deepening


From top left clockwise, Paula’s favorites from KBIS include ROHL’s new Mink finish, Flash Freeze & Blast Chill by Irinox and GE’s Monogram Pizza oven.


American Standard’s Coastal tub

Michelle Henderson, Banner Plumbing Supply, Buffalo Grove, Ill.

There is a demand for freestanding tubs, but in most cases the tub is either a solid surface like material and a higher price point, or the more competitive tubs tend to be a double-walled acrylic. Because of the nature of acrylic and the backing required, the tub walls are thick and therefore have very small interiors. Somehow American Standard has made these tubs of cast acrylic, but they are only slightly thicker than their solid surface competitors. And here is the kicker… they’ve managed to offer a reasonable price point.


American Standard’s Sedona tub

The Coastal (oval) is $2,799, and the Sedona (rectangle) is $2,599. Both of these tubs have integrated drains that consist of a finished slotted overflow and a toe tap closure. Many of my clients are ripping out their oversized built-in tubs they never use so they can expand the shower to a more luxurious size. When they do so, they want to keep a tub in the bathroom for resale, and the freestanding tubs are a perfect solution. The only catch is that price is very often a consideration because they never used the original tub, and this new one is just for show. The price point of this tub is perfect for that client, and the product looks great.

*Fairmont Designs

Fairmont Designs’ Belle Fleur

The simple yet elegant design of this vanity makes it a perfect fit for a formal powder room or a girl’s bath. Bow front, Queen Anne legs and glass knobs typically scream old world, but this piece is the perfect example of how something very traditional can be simplified and lend itself to a more transitional palate. The vanity features fully concealed soft-close hinges, as well as a hidden soft-close drawer perfect for a blow dryers or tissues. There is a coordinating blizzard white quartz top available and a very complementary white oval mirror.

Christopher Grubb, Arch-Interiors Design Group, Beverly Hills, Calif.

I’m seeing a lot of gold. Some manufacturers even said they showed a few pieces last year and because of demand and expanded the finish into other products they have for a more complete collection.

Last year I saw several items with or in black (faucets etc.) This year feel it was universal from a lot of manufacturers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see black cabinetry in both contemporary and traditional styles making a resurgence.

Gray continues as a popular finish; like the shiny gray on appliances for those who are suffering from “stainless fatigue.”


From controlling your appliances to Wifi switching in the home, technology continues to expand in unheard of ways. Legrand (above) has Wifi switching, and what I like is this is transitional in look so it will fit in more design projects.

*Laundry Vignette

Rachel Roberts, Kitchen & Bath Galleries of North Hills, Raleigh, N.C.

I loved all the laundry vignettes. Often it seems to be an overlooked area for displays, so it was great to get some inspiration for designs for these spaces –whether as a separate room or part of a closet.

Toni Sabatino, Toni Sabatino Style, New York


Left, clockwise: Richelieu has done great cabinetry inserts, as well as surfaces and hardware. Emmevi Rubinetterie, Italy, featured a Pinnochio faucet with water coming out of his nose when you move his arms. Thompson Traders’ Artisanal sinks and accessories – this is really stunning handwork.



Dec 16 2015

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Universal Design for Health and Longevity


Häfele’s easy-to-access drawers

It’s hard to deny that on the whole we are living longer, healthier lives. Especially when one considers the wealth of information at our fingertips (WebMD anyone?) combined with constant advances in modern medicine. As we strive toward aging gracefully and comfortably well into our retirement years, it seems only natural to want to safely enjoy the homes we’ve spent a good chunk of our lives creating.

On December 10, designer Mary Jo Peterson was invited to speak on the topic of Universal Kitchen & Bath Design for Health and Longevity at the Häfele USA Showroom in NYC. The event was organized by the AIANY Design for Aging Committee. Jerry Maltz, founder and co-chair of the DAC, and Karen Kraskow, member, expressed their gratitude to Peterson for coming out to speak about designs that help make negotiating surroundings friendlier for people of all ages.

Peterson, an award-winning designer and author who has earned a long list of accolades in her field, including induction into the NKBA Hall of Fame in 2009, is president of her Connecticut-based design firm Mary Jo Peterson, Inc., and feels strongly that universal design should be an inherent part of all residential projects, particularly regarding the aging process. Her firm focuses on residential projects and provides design support to major homebuilders and product manufacturers nationwide, and over the last 25 years her contributions to the designs for kitchens and bathrooms have impacted thousands.


Mary Jo Peterson

During her presentation, Peterson talked about technological advances that were once thought as high end are now commonly found in kitchens, such as the indications for red/hot and blue/cold on faucets or the clear toaster that curbs fire hazards from burnt toast. Also, snazzy LED lighting used inside floor panels that acts as a pathway for midnight trips from bed to the toilet are just plain practical.

Peterson brought up a number of fun, interesting and practical trends, including the increasingly popular biophile design, which is when outdoor spaces are created inside. Not only are they lovely to look at, they are known to reduce stress and enhance creativity. More common trends she mentioned in universal design included putting more emphasis on drawers; moving parts such as slide-out countertops and sliding doors; and open spaces to reduce potential injury while entering or exiting showers, baths and vanities.

“I’ve always said tubs are hard to make completely safe,” she said, “but there certainly are ways to make improvements. You can install a seat to hold up to 300 pounds. There are tubs with doors. They even make grab bars attractive now.”

Karen Kraskow

Above, Karen Kraskow is checking out some innovative countertop designs that could work well with clients with limited reach.
The white pullout counter top (to her left) instantly adds space to any kitchen, and the highly functional drawers include key LED lighting for optimal accessibility.

Enhanced toilets are also trending that come equipped with lighting, remote flush, bidet/washlet, automatic open/close and an MP3 player. Peterson mentioned that toilets with these kinds of accoutrements aren’t cheap, but they have come down about $1K in recent years.

Earlier on in her presentation she mentioned that being practical doesn’t have to mean being dull. “Design can inspire, not simply fix a problem,” she said. “Design can be both beautiful and practical.”

Peterson is certified in kitchen, bath and aging in place and is an active adult housing CLIPS (certified living-in-place specialist). She has also authored three books on the subject of universal design, including her most recent release in 2014 called Bath Planning: Guidelines, Codes, Standards.

– Carrie Farley

Oct 21 2015

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A Practical, “Middle America” Showroom


APR acquired Sage Supply in Johnson City N.Y. in May, and the purchase was a smart investment. The building was large with long-term renters and had multiple loading docks, a large warehouse and a showroom. It was in a small market but with untapped potential. Best of all, there were strong and knowledgeable staff dedicated and determined to make this new opportunity work.

Out with the Old
A lot of our acquisitions come with outdated facilities. This is part of the challenge: to create an attractive showroom on a very low budget with hopes of a fast ROI. In some ways the showroom was perfect. It had a long, fully windowed wall facing a busy street – perfect for displaying interesting product and signage to draw in the public. And because nearly everything was outdated or discontinued, we didn’t need to spend much time evaluating individual displays. But the vignettes were on hazardous platforms, and a lot of full-height walls blocked the area and made the displays feel cramped. The floor was badly stained from years of use, and there was even carpeting on the walls. We would have to be aggressive and start from scratch.

I was fortunate enough to have Brenda Higgins on board, who is the best salesperson in the market. She was a member of the Sage Supply team and stayed on with us during the acquisition. Higgins played a critical role in understanding the market and was instrumental in pointing us in the right direction. The population, income and demographics all pointed to the design of a very practical showroom with a strong emphasis on aging-in-place product. She described the market as traditional with the bulk of work being renovations of older homes and suggested items such as multi-piece shower units and traditional-style cabinets to reflect this need.


In with the New
We partnered with our preferred vendors to create a 3,500 sq.-ft. showroom, which boasts more than 12 tub shower displays, several handicap-accessible showers and a wide range of cabinet options for the bath and kitchen. Only four faucet lines are displayed, which was a change from our usual eight or more. We felt we could make a bigger impact by tailoring our product mix to the individual market rather than displaying items unlikely to sell in the area. Because 3,500 square feet can fill up fast, we wanted to make every inch count.

Allison Lorelli, business development manager for our showrooms, assisted in the overall layout and design. She has a new and unique role at APR and works outside the showroom developing relationships with other kitchen and bath shops, builders and contractors to drive business to our showrooms.


Challenges and Solutions
Although the work was to be a complete gut, there were challenges to the layout. Unlike the previous floor plan, we wanted to have clear sight lines from one end of the showroom to the other, creating a feeling of abundance and spaciousness. Lorelli emphasized the need for planned “empty areas” for freestanding displays and towers.

In our other showrooms, lack of clear and open floor space can become a real challenge. More vendors are producing and shipping merchandising and display vignettes that are self-contained – including their message and marketing – and we struggle to fit these in when too much of our showroom is permanently designed. Knowing this and wanting to be able to update frequently in the future with little investment, our layout had an open concept. We were very thoughtful in where we would build permanent walls and exactly what we would display there. It was also critical that our customers could see our offerings easily and understand what we we’re all about.


“Making sure our showrooms look and act like an extension of our customers’ business is important to us,” said Lorelli. “We had to make it simple, cost effective and yet still show product that gets people excited to buy.”

Early on, we decided to improve upon what Sage Supply started; they only had bathroom products. We added kitchens in the design, with a mid-price-point cabinet line. We are also adding tile and some lighting to provide our customers with a one-stop shop, and our other showrooms already embrace this approach.

“We don’t want a builder to send clients to three showrooms,” said Lorelli. “If we are making the investment, let’s save the customer time, money and energy and offer the complete package.”


Easy Access
Another concern was adding handicap accessibility to the showroom. When we purchased the company, it was virtually impossible to have wheelchair access to the showroom, as the main entrance is located at the top of a large hill with no nearby parking. If we are going to display aging-in-place product, we have to allow everyone a chance to visit the showroom, so we are adding new parking outside the showroom entrance. However, winter in Johnson City is quickly approaching, stalling this part of the construction until next year.

It’s all in the Displays
When working on the design, we were concerned about the total cost but knew that with plumbing products, working displays are critical. We had to ensure that our customers could see water moving through our product to allow them the opportunity to experience and evaluate their purchase. We opted to install working “wet rooms” with multiple showerheads, handhelds and body sprays in each. The working displays are inside two of our largest and popular shower layouts – one a popular Terestone custom shower with a large bench and the other the Aquabrass “Aquazone” shower/tub combination. We installed beautiful Roda frameless shower doors to finish off the space. Utilizing actual shower layouts in creating these wet areas maximized our selling opportunity.


Hits and Highlights
Another interesting design highlight of this location is the use of dyed and polished concrete floors. We selected a dark charcoal color – polished to a rich luster. Concrete gives the showroom a cohesive base by utilizing it for the entire floor, but because the material has natural cracking and variation in color, the floor is dynamic and interesting. We expect it to be relatively maintenance free, and staining is no longer an issue. It is also handicapped accessible; it is firm underfoot, easy to roll on and has no transition points – eliminating tipping hazards.


We also painted the entire showroom a vibrant aqua, which gives the showroom a cohesive look and allows the displays to stand out. Having one color allows the mind to focus on the product and avoids overloading customers with too much visual “noise.” It will also make it easy to change vignettes in the future; if we want to take something out that is funky and modern and put something completely traditional in its space, we don’t have to try to match the wall color or repaint.


Part of the Community

Throughout this process, we got to work with many Johnson City locals, including Testa Plumbing and Kraig Brigham contracting. When accessorizing the showroom, Brenda was able to display some gorgeous original artwork by her daughter. We are running promotions with our new neighbors, Olum’s, and a local radio station. We hope to be able to continue to work with local companies and become a fixture in the Johnson City community.

The showroom is now complete, and we are simply thrilled with the results. It was a long, hard process, but we succeeded at our goals and maintained our original budget. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive; customers are delighted by our product selection, service and expertise. This showroom was designed with our growth and the future in mind; we designed an extra work area for future staff.

– Jeff MacDowell is vice president of marketing and emerging markets for APR Supply Company. Allison Lorelli, business development manager for the company’s showrooms, also contributed to this post.