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Home DesignMasterful Bath Design Reckognizes Aging Isn't an Option, It's a Priviledge

A gentleman attending my Universal Design class which is geared towards helping people understand our changing needs as we age and how our homes can be designed to respond to these needs in beautiful ways had a problem.  He and his wife had done their homework and had planned ahead.  They bought a single level patio home in a newer development that was intended to be used by seniors or others with accessibility concerns.  The only problem was that the master bathroom was designed just like every other bathroom of it's time - large garden tub, tiny dark shower, cramped water closet, low vanity cabinet, cold tile floor and harsh overhead lighting.  He wanted to know what I could do to help make the bathroom work for them now and in the future.
Existing Shower

Existing Tub

So we embarked on a journey to develop a design that would accept and respond to a person's changing physical, cognitive and emotional needs that result from the privilege of aging.  I first identified many areas of concern such as the need for multiple area rugs (huge tripping/slipping hazard), a dark inaccessible shower, a deep soaking tub with no grab bars and a large window that can cause serious injury if someone slips in the tub and falls against it, a tight water closet with a narrow door and more.  After a series of meetings and design reviews, we came away with a wonderful plan.

New Luxury Shower Full of Stylish Safety Elements
The tub was removed because it was rarely used and the guest bath still had a tub.  The shower was enlarged and made much safer and more accessible.  We incorporated all of these elements in the new shower:

         Wide door for easy maneuvering
         Slip resistant tiles and grab bars
         Recessed niches to keep soap and shampoo off the floor where it can spill and cause slipping
         Exhaust fan with a heater to minimize the discomfort of drafts associated with large open showers
         Overhead, waterproof lighting to prevent corrosion and bursting of the light bulb
         Two shower heads including one hand held device
         Open floor space for a removable bench or shower seat

Best of all, though, the shower is now luxurious and beautiful.

New Watercloset with Wide Pocket Door
Existing Watercloset


The watercloset was too narrow with a slender door opening that would make the space inaccessible if a walker or wheelchair were ever needed.  To make the space functional, yet still private we used these solutions:

 �         Enlarged the size of the water closet
         Made the door a wide pocket door
         Added grab bars, a comfort height toilet, and better lighting
         Used removable furniture for storage that can be removed if a wheelchair is needed in the future

Existing Vanity Cabinet
The existing vanity was too low, outdated and had hard to use fixtures and hardware.  We custom designed vanities with the following design solutions:

         Raised heights to allow for  more comfortable reach and reduced back strain
         Faucets with lever handle controls for ease of use
         Extra tall toe kick to allow for temporary use of a wheelchair
          D-shaped cabinet pulls for ease of use
New Vanity Cabinets

The plant shelf allows the clients to enjoy their irises and provides a discreet place for the hamper without the expense of a built-in hamper cabinet.  The new sconces provide better lighting and an updated feel.

Lastly, to get rid of the area rugs and mats, we installed electric radiant heating elements beneath the new tile flooring to allow for warm floors and no tripping hazards.  The programmable thermostat allows the clients to control the temperature and set times for the floor to be heated or unheated.  Waking up to a warm bathroom floor is a small comfort that makes a big difference.

By making these changes to their master bathroom, my clients have insured that they will be able to live in their home longer and more safely.  They have made an invaluable investment, not only in their home, but more importantly in their independence.

To learn more about the effects that aging has on the way we live in our homes and ways we can accommodate this inevitable change and wonderful privilege with practical universal design strategies, contact our office for your personal design consultation or attend one of my universal design classes.


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