Universal Design – Ageless Homes That Can Be Enjoyed by Everyone

The concept of Universal Design consists of integrating unique features into home plans in an effort to enhance comfort and convenience for today’s lifestyle, combined with the ability to adapt to changing needs in the future without extensive remodeling. The features are virtually invisible and are certainly not obvious, but these homes make life much easier for everyone in the household. Because opening doors with arms full of groceries is as difficult at age 30 as it is at 70, for example, universal design homes use lever-type door handles. There is a long list of universal design features that homeowners can pick and choose from as they design a home that is safe, comfortable, visitable, and easily used by people of almost any age or physical ability.

What makes a home ‘ageless’? It simply means that it was thoughtfully designed considering the comfort and needs of people of all ages and physical characteristics! It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, short or tall, healthy or ill. You might have a disability or be a prize-winning athlete. You may have experienced a recent surgery or sprained an ankle or hurt your back. You may be a personal trainer in perfect health working at a local fitness center. It doesn’t really matter. Because of universal design, people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. And that home will be there for all its inhabitants even when their needs change.

Homebuyers today are searching for homes that are a refuge of safety and comfort. Whether it’s inviting a couple of friends for an intimate dinner or whole gang for a Super Bowl party, most us like to use our homes to entertain. We delight in welcoming guests and making them feel comfortable. Think about the home you live in now. Is it truly hospitable? Is it ‘visitable’ by friends and loved ones regardless of age or physical limitations?

Universal design makes a home so much easier to live and entertain in. Moreover, the features increase the safety and comfort of every occupant. From the day you move in – when the movers maneuver your precious belongings without banging into walls and doorways – you will appreciate the sense of openness. Move furniture, luggage, shopping bags, strollers, even sleeping babies around your home with ease. And as we age, you won’t need to make expensive modifications. They’re already here.

Some of the more common universal design features are:

o No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the homes main rooms. There are no steps going from the garage into the house or out onto the patio, making the home ‘visitable’ by friends and family that may have a physical limitation.
o Even in a 2-story home the kitchen, living room, dining room, a bedroom, and at least one bathroom would be on the main level with minimum barriers.
o Doorways that are 36 inches wide let furniture, luggage, laundry baskets, people, and even wheelchairs pass through freely. Wide doors also make it easier to move big things such as beds, couches, and appliances in and out of the house.
o Hallways should be at least 42 inches wide. Wider hallways allow everyone and everything to move more easily from room to room.
o Open floor plans makes everyone feel less cramped and allows people traffic to flow more smoothly. It also makes the house feel larger, lighter, and brighter.
o Large windows placed strategically allow you take advantage of the views and allows more sunlight to enter the home to help chase away those winter doldrums.
o Cabinet hardware can be chosen that is easily grasped as well as being beautiful.
o Other helpful features can be planned into your home as well, such as a work area in your kitchen where children or grandchildren can help make cookies, or add an instant hot water dispenser for a quicker, safer and more convenient way to heat water for soups and mixes. You could build a desk near your kitchen where kids can do their homework under your watchful eye. You might even identify an area in the home design which could be easily sectioned off as a mother-in-law suite or caregivers retreat in the future.

Features for Comfort
Most universal design features just make good sense. Once you build them into your home, you’ll wonder why every house isn’t built this way. For example:

o Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They’re not just for people who are frail.
o Raised dishwashers minimize bending to load and unload the dishes.
o Good lighting helps people with poor vision. And it helps everyone else see better, too.
o Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with arthritis or poor hand strength. But everyone else likes them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You’ll never go back to round knobs or standard light switches.

Features for Later
Universal design gives you great home features you can enjoy now, but also helps you plan for the future. Good universal design strives to create an attractive, non-institutional looking home that is comfortable and safe for all regardless of age or ability. Done properly, universal design becomes a virtually invisible element, adding to the market appeal and never detracting from the overall design. In fact, many of the features seem so intuitive that most people never even notice them until they are pointed out.

While the concept of designing homes for ease-of-use and life stage enhancement has been around for a few years, it is just now attracting strong interest. The reason? Most everyone agrees that universal designed homes can better keep the young and the mature living safely and comfortably where they prefer to live – in their own homes and neighborhoods.

Universal design homes also offer advantages to caregivers. Many of the design features, such as curbless showers with integral seats and hand held sprayers, better equip the resident to participate in their own care reducing the amount and/or frequency of assistance from caregivers. Bathroom injuries are reduced for all users and maintaining some reasonable degree of self-care can help people retain a sense of well-being and self-determination.

The best opportunity to incorporate universal design is in the design process for new homes. When integrated before construction, universal design can add as little as four percent to the cost of a new home. Most agree that the elimination of just one fall in the home or the reduction of at-home care will more than offset the initial investment. And the increased potential for satisfying independence is priceless.

The possibilities are endless. When choosing a new home or a home plan, look for some universal design elements to insure a more convenient, safer, and more cost effective lifestyle in your new home.

Adding Contemporary and Designer Furniture to Your Springtime Collection

While looking for a theme and color scheme for your room or rooms can be a daunting task, it’s always a great idea to get inspiration from different designer and contemporary furniture sample rooms. Once you have an idea as to the theme you want to use there are a few other considerations that you should take into account. Remember improving the interior of your home is beneficial for you and your guests, so be sure to plan carefully!

Size Matters
Consider the size of the rooms that you want to remodel or add furniture. Research and choose contemporary furniture that is not going to overpower the room and make an already small room cause acute claustrophobia. Or for large areas, wisely consider that you need to fill space, yet still be able to walk around and be comfortable. When at a furniture store, whether virtually or physically, look at the shape of all the furniture, high end and low-cost alike, and be sure that it will create a natural pathway for any size room. A general rule of thumb in determining the size of the furniture is to also think about the purpose of the room. Is this going to be a study? Or is this your living room? If the room is a study, then you might not mind there being a bit more lounge than leg room, however if this is your living room, where multiple activities can take place at a given moment, then you might want to consider leaving a bit more extra space.

Color Considerations
A furniture set can serve as a great way to establish a general color theme for the room. Once you have gone to the furniture store and picked out the set, it’s also good to see the way in which the furniture store used each of the pieces. Now you don’t have to copy (and shouldn’t) the store’s sample room, but use what they have done as a starting point. Also, contemporary furniture pieces are great for rooms of any size however use furniture that is simply well-built. So, you may find contemporary or designer furniture that is well-built, or you may not, whatever you find though, do not be overly-concerned with the trends of the time, but choose timeless pieces that will last you.

In this upcoming fresh spring season, while cleaning the clutter and refreshing that space, focus on decorating with better items that can also be used for storage. When accessories, DVDs, remotes and the like are tucked out of site in decorative bins, it gives your space an invigorating and original new look.

Designing Your Home Theater With Bean Bag Sofas

There are many things that need to be thought about when designing your home theater. There’s the lighting, the equipment, the setting, and the furniture. When it comes to furniture, you’ll probably have the most flexibility. There are many expensive choices out there but if you’re looking for a laid back feel that’s light on your wallet, you should consider a bean bag sofa or a beanbag couch.

You’re probably already familiar with bean bags. They are soft bags filled with light foam that cushions your whole body. Many people use a beanbag couch or bean bag sofa because they can just lie down and relax. You don’t have to remain in a sitting position and you can always jump on to the bean bags knowing they’re going to offer you full support.

The reason why bean bag sofas and a beanbag couch can be a great addition to your home theater is because of the comfort it provides. You can always opt to go with the traditional option of getting a regular sofa but sofas can be quite expensive. To get a comfortable set, it would set you back hundreds even thousands of dollars.

A bean bag couch also provides a laid back feel. They go great for anything in your home theater from lying down to play some video games, taking a nap while listening to your favorite music, watching a movie, and even having a small gathering. Your family and guests will love sitting on them in your room.

So how can you design your home theater with a beanbag couch? You can get a set (anywhere from 4-10) bean bag sacs around a coffee table. Another option is to get a wider bean bag couch to accommodate multiple people. The couches can be 6 feet wide and can sit 3-4 people. The couch is cheaper than the individual sacs so you may want to mix in a combination of sacs and couches.

There are bigger beanbag sofas as well. They can be 7 or even 8 feet wide. This can be a great addition to a home theater as well as a room for entertaining. These sofas really bring a unique feel and you can decorate your room so that it stands out. You can create an ambient feel, a fun environment, a laid back vibe depending on how you design your room.

The bean bag couch and beanbag sofa can also be used to lie down with your partner and enjoy a nice romantic movie. You won’t toss and turn and your body will be fully supported. The great thing is that you can always adjust the beans inside so that you get a nice fluff or the texture you are looking for.

The bean bag couch and beanbag sofa comes in many different colors rooms from chocolate, olive, celery, lipstick, navy, indigo, peach, and so much more. That means that you can buy them to match the color and design of your room. There is one drawback to beanbags though that you have to think about.

Over time, the beans break down and flatten so you have to replace the bag. Fortunately, you can buy a beanbag sofa that uses shredded polyurethane foam. This material is commonly used in memory foam beds and pillows. These foams last for many years and do not flatten with excessive use like traditional bean bags.

In addition, they are more comfortable than regular beanbag chairs. You will feel a huge difference if you compare the two. In some cases, traditional styrofoam beanbag chairs can hurt your back with extended use. The polyurethane foam really does feel like you’re lying down on a cloud. It is the better choice if you’re looking forward to long term use.

In conclusion, a bean bag sofa is perfect for your home theater. They can set a nice mood for a romantic evening, make it fun for the kids, and really impress your guests. You may want to get a combination of individual sacs and couches for design purposes as well as being economical.

Again, when compared to regular high quality or leather sofas, the beanbag sofa is much more affordable. You will probably be saving hundreds of dollars which is important if you want to set aside more of your budget for equipment and lighting in your home theater. So take some time and check out different bean bag options to design your room.