K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Aging in Place

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!

May 19 2016

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Five Tech Trends in K&B Design


During ICFF, the 2016 NKBA K+B Insiders were on a panel to discuss designing for the modern lifestyle, which was specifically focused on the intersection of tech and design in the kitchen and bath.

Here are the five tech trends they discussed:

1. Tech Facilitates Function. “Tech is no longer an afterthought of the design process,” said New York City-based interior designer and NKBA K+B Insider Young Huh. Just as technology has a major influence on how we live in our homes, it’s starting to have a bigger and bigger impact on how designers approach their work as well. “We are now working with a whole generation of clients who never knew the world before the Internet, and that has a huge influence on the way we work,” he added.

2. Smart Kitchens Designed to Support Multi-Tasking. Regardless of age, we have all become multi-taskers. “It’s our job as designers to find ways to support this habit by integrating features such as charging stations, under-cabinet power strips and more into kitchen design,” said Atlanta-based interior designer, national TV personality and NKBA K+B Insider Brian Patrick Flynn.

Two manufacturers helping lead this trend include DuPont and Legrand; the DuPont Corian Charging Surface charges smart devices wirelessly, and the adorne by Legrand Under-Cabinet Lighting & Power System can be completely customized to accommodate smart devices while keeping the counter tidy and backsplash free of outlets. It’s all about accommodating without cluttering.

3. Integration Is King. For today’s homeowner, functionality is just as important as aesthetic in the kitchen or bath, or as New-York City based interior designer and NKBA K+B Insider Alberto Villalobos calls it, high-tech yet hidden; a practice that comes from floor plans becoming more open.

“In more urban markets, spaces must serve more than one function, so the ability to build appliances into the wall, allowing it to be discretely hidden but still compliment the rest of the space, is huge,” he said.

For example, Minotticucine recently introduced the Atelier Collection; the countertop of a simple base cabinet pulled back to reveal a cooktop underneath, a kitchen sink and a pop-up faucet. Cabinet doors also conceal under-counter refrigeration; a great example of seamless integration and smart use of space.

4. High-Tech Influences on Universal Design. Just as much as tech offers streamlined convenience in the kitchen and bath, there’s something to be said for how tech serves universal design and the aging-in-place demographic. Patricia Davis Brown, CKD, CBD, ASID, NCIDQ, an NKBA K+B Insider based in Vero Beach, Fla., says that beyond aging in place, its important to recognize how much more we’re asking of a house that serves a multi-generational family.

“Both in the kitchen and bath, I think we’ll continue to see greater advancements made in terms of voice control and automation and how that customizes the user experience for each person,” she said. “Lighting could be integrated with voice command, for example, to bring lights to the appropriate and safe level for food prep for a grandparent – without the hassle of light controls. We could even take it a step further to have wall-mounted vanities that adjust to the user’s height when he or she enters the bath. With the introduction of Siri and Alexa – its not that far off.”

5. From Smart Homes to a Smarter Society. Technological advancements have and will continue to have a huge influence on sustainable design. According to Los Angeles-based master builder and NKBA K+B Insider, Karl Champley, the bathroom consumes the largest amount of water in the household, and water is our most precious resource. In response to this, it is important to incorporate products that do the thinking for us.

“Many manufacturers produce products that help the consumer conserve. For example, Kohler’s .8 gallon flush toilets or GROHE’s bathroom faucets and shower systems that promise to reduce water consumption by up to 50 percent,” she said. “As Title 24 energy standards continue to gain awareness nationwide, it’s our responsibility as designers to educate the consumer on products that cut waste. Looking to the future of sustainability in K&B tech, the integration of water-recycling tubs and sinks are a must.”

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.