Universal Design Bathrooms

Use universal design concepts to create safe, stylish bathrooms in your home.
By: Miranda Hitti

Want to make your bathroom more comfortable? Try using ideas from universal design, which seeks to make rooms, environments and products convenient and effective for people of all ages and abilities.

Universal design is intended to benefit everyone, not just the elderly or people with physical disabilities. "Good design is universal," says Mary Jo Peterson, CKD , CBD, a universal design specialist and author of Universal Kitchen and Bathroom Planning and Gracious Spaces: Universal Interiors by Design (both published by McGraw-Hill). "You could use it at age 18 or at age 80."

Don't worry — universal design does not require devices that look like they belong in a hospital. "It doesn't have to look medical," says Sally Haile, information specialist with the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University.

Here are some universal design tips for your bathroom:

  • Maximize floor space. Bathrooms built with universal design in mind are usually more spacious than traditional bathrooms, providing room to maneuver. From wider doorways to a 5-foot radius around the toilet, space is essential for people who use wheelchairs or walkers. Wall-mounted or pedestal sinks can help. Another option is a recessed wall-mounted toilet called the Tessera, made by Geberit. The tank is placed inside the wall, with the seat extending out from the wall. "You gain about seven to nine inches of maneuvering space," says Philip Dommer, president of The Philip Stephens Companies and founder of UDHomes.com and universaldesignhomes.com.

  • Simplify bathing. Consider installing a transfer bench in the bathtub or creating a roll-in shower. Grab bars are handy for everyone and come in fashionable finishes such as brass and stainless steel.

  • Choose floors that help prevent slips. "Marble is the worst," Sally says, because it is extremely hard--not very forgiving if you fall on it. Vinyl or small tiles with a matte finish might be preferable,Sally says. The higher the gloss, the more slippery the tile can be. And smaller tiles create better footing , Haile says, because they require a lot of grout and trim that could help stop slips . If you already have tiles on your floor, you may want to look for anti-slip products that use substances like grit and resin to coat your existing tiles, giving them extra slip resistance.

  • Create an easy-to-use bathroom on your home's main level. If your house has more than one floor, make sure an accommodating bathroom is located on the main level . That way, family members or guests who might not be able to handle stairs will have access to a comfortable bathroom, making your home more welcoming for everyone.
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