K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Aging in Place

Feb 01 2018

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A Heart for Universal Design

The concept for universal design started in the 1950s, when wounded veterans returning from World War II found their homes uncomfortable and unsafe to live in. This issue continues today, for both aging Vietnam veterans and soldiers returning from conflicts in the Middle East.

John Gallina and Dale Beatty know this problem first hand. After having served on the North Carolina National Guard, the two 25-year-olds went on to join the 1st Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. On Nov. 15, 2004, their unit was on a mission to provide security for an engineer unit that was sweeping for mines. Their vehicle struck two anti-tank mines, leaving Beatty a double amputee below the knees and Gallina with severe back injuries, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.


As both men reintegrated into their communities, they found that their own homes needed to change. Their communities came together to help provide for them and show their support. They decided to pay this kindness forward – recognizing that there are so many other veterans with the same needs they had – and together co-founded Purple Heart Homes.

This nonprofit seeks out veterans in desperate need of home solutions, which range in everything from installing a wheelchair ramp or an ADA-accessible bath to beautifying a kitchen. These projects use a combination of volunteer and paid designers, contractors and builders and take place in most states.

“We provide a bit of comfort and security in the home and a greater connectivity with those in the community,” said Gallina, who explained in an interview with KBB that many volunteers are neighbors or community members. “You feel different after being in a war zone. Having a suitable home makes these veterans feel more comfortable in their community and not so different.”

Beatty also explained that this is particularly impactful for Vietnam veterans, who at the time were often not honored for their service because of the controversial war.


“When we can go into a neighborhood and rally the community around a veteran who never had a parade coming home or got thanked for their services, that has an impact,” he said. “The healing and impact comes from our engagement with them and showing them that there are people that care and understand, and they are probably their neighbors.”

For more information about Purple Heart Homes and to hear more about how to volunteer or donate, visit http://purplehearthomesusa.org.

Oct 11 2017

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Design for Everyone

The National Kitchen & Bath Association recently hosted a webinar titled “Top Tips for Implementing Universal Design Strategies” with Dani Polidor, CKD, CBD, owner of Suite Artistry, in Rochester, N.Y. She is NCIDQ and CAPS certified and has been a Design for a Difference ambassador since 2014.

According to cohousing.org, universal design/build presents a shift in the approach to residential design and construction. Comfort and convenience, regardless of age, stature or ability, is the hallmark of inclusive design.

Why Was CAPS Created? 

  • – Americans prefer to remain in their homes as they age rather than to seek assisted living or other arrangements.
  • – Older consumers want a reliable means to identify the professionals they can trust to remodel their homes. Help facilitate the evolution of the home as needs arise.

Polidor identified the seven principles of universal design:

  • – Flexibility in Use
  • – Simple & Intuitive Use
  • – Equitable Use
  • – Tolerance for Error
  • – Perceptible Information
  • – Low Physical Effort
  • – Size and Space for Approach and Use

And she identified the different groups of people who could benefit from universal design:

  • – People with height restrictions
  • – Those who speak different languages
  • – The elderly
  • – Individuals who are disabled
  • – Even those without disabilities

She also shared real-life examples to identify solutions for designing for clients with various needs.

  • Hearing Impaired. Visual, motion and auditory assistive technology
  • Mobility & Accessibility Issues. Ramps, elevators, chair lifts; lever handles and electronic controls; occupancy sensors and rocker switches; drawers and open shelves; lowered cooking surfaces and drawer-style appliances; wall-mounted lavatories and comfort-height toilets; thermostatic or pressure-balanced shower controls; tubs that fir the size, shape and ability of the user; grab bars and benches in showers
  • Sight Impaired/Sensitive. Window films, remote-controlled shades; contrasting floor patterns and colors; large display screens

Jul 03 2017

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A Design for Everyone

Photo Courtesy of Bestbath

Trends often come and go, but one necessity in the design world is here to stay. Aging parents are moving back in with families with small children, veterans are returning from war, and the Baby Boomer population is growing older. To address this hot topic, KBB hosted the webinar “Making Bathroom Design Work for Multi-Generational Living,” sponsored by Bestbath.

The Q&A at the end of the discussion covered common questions designers have and ways they can encourage clients who would benefit from universal design elements to include them in their baths. These questions were addressed by Julie Schuster of New York City.-based Julie Schuster Design Studio and Barb Mueller, president of Designs Anew Houston LLC.


Is universal design a positive when it comes to resale value?
It is certainly a positive when it comes to multi-generational use. All of these things that you put into a bathroom don’t have to be obvious, but buyers can realize how comfortable, easy and safe elements like a comfort-height toilet and grab bars are without knowing they are universal design elements.

What height is considered to be a low-threshold shower height?
Three inches is the highest. If you can get away with it though, a completely cureless shower is the best.

How do you keep water from escaping a curbless shower?
Use something like the Schluter system, which actually brings the water-proofing membrane outside of the shower. It won’t affect the area outside of the shower. Plus, be sure to still use shower curtains and doors.

What should the minimum tub deck width be?
There isn’t a real standard, but we would say six to eight inches. The very thin decks that are sculpturally beautiful are not exactly feasible for a universally designed bath.

Should there be more contrasting colors in the bath so different areas are easier to see?
Yes, for example, there can be tile around the shower so the homeowner can tell where the shower starts. The client should be able to discern where one thing starts and another stops, like if the countertop is a different color than the cabinetry, someone with failing eyesight can more easily find drawers and sinks.

Is a universally designed bathroom more expensive?
If you’re gutting a bathroom, a universal bathroom is not dramatically more expensive at all. The cost of products like grab bars and different pulls make little small difference in the price.

Other takeaways include:

-A huge portion of the U.S. population is considered morbidly obese. When designing for a larger person, be sure to create more space and include thoughtful elements like a bench in the shower.

-There are several ways to warm up a bathroom for an elderly family member. Heated floors and towel warmers are some options.

-Have the bathroom door swing outward rather than in. That way, if someone inside falls, a family member is able to notice and reach them quickly. 

What are your thoughts on universal design? Let us know on our Facebook page and on Twitter @KBBconnect.

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!