Last week we focused on this simple question; do we keep with the status quo of basically designing houses with a 30 year shelf life, or design them to last & be used for generations? While the question might appear “simple,” just how do you design for multi-generations where everyone is comfortable, and one is glad to be home? Last week we covered the exterior of the house & this week we are going to take a look at the inside because it is easier to deal with it up front.
The powers of 3 & 5:
- Just like the exterior, the power of 5 applies inside a home. While a 3’ hallway is wide enough for one, a larger one allows for more people to pass, not bump pictures, thermostats or tripping over a child that tears out of their room.
- 5’ is a nice area to allow one to open a stove & get a hot pan out or in whether you are standing or in a wheelchair
- 3’ is great for doorways & should be the minimum amount of free space allowed in closets, hallways, around all furniture & beds (5’ would be better if you can swing it)
- Living rooms, the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms & the entry way should have a 5’ x 5’ clear space for turning around which also aids in making spaces look larger & not as cluttered
The dreaded stair:
While not an issue with ranch homes, many two story (or split level) homes generally place all the full baths & bedrooms upstairs. As kids this can be fun, but if you twist an ankle or worse the fun is now a nightmare. Make sure you include a full bedroom & bath down stairs.
- Consider making it a master suite, a guest room, or even an office with a drop down Murphy bed.
- A full bath can be great if the kids come in all muddy as you can have them clean off there instead of traipsing through the house, upstairs & all around.
- One other trick is consider stacking closets so that if required it can become an elevator.
- Carpet is out and non-slip rugs are in for those that like “modern” architecture, have allergies, or are using walkers, and wheelchairs. If you are considering carpet, consider using low-density pile with firm pad
- Tile, hardwood, finished concrete & linoleum are all good choices… (Especially with radiant flooring)
- Be careful of using the same materials if there is a step up or down – consider using a different material or changing the pattern at the step & consider the slip resistance of a product
Knobs, Levers, and Pulls:
Your hands are full with groceries, or greasy as all get out, can you get that door open, turn on the sink or open a cabinet without making a mess?
- Skip the regular knobs & go with levers on all doors
- Cabinet drawers and doors – consider “D” shaped handles (fortunately these can be changed out easily if needed, but at $5+ a pop…)
- Single action levers are great for faucets & help prevent accidental scalding (all new faucets generally come with an anti-scalding system built in – we still recommend checking that or better yet turn the water heater down to 120°)
- Personally I like the decorative type switches as they are easier to use & quiet personally look better
- Light switches should be no more that 48” up which works out great when you are doing drywall
- Electrical outlets should be 16” up from the ground which not only makes it easier for someone in a wheelchair, but requires less bending and lowers the chance of a baby trying to put something into it
- While many people now use wireless phones & internet connections consider placing telephone & internet connections in each room. While you may never use them some equipment may require them & with a little forethought you maybe even ready for the next big thing
- Lighting is critical to preventing slips & falls & task lighting makes life go by that much easier
- Thermostats – this can be a tough call because if you place it to low the kids will want to play with it – fortunately this is one I would leave up & consider going with an internet connected or whole house automated version
Entryway & stairs:
- See Exterior article for numerous tips on this
- Is there a countertop, table or bench on the inside to temporarily put items down so you can shut & lock the door?
- Remember the powers of 3 & 5 which should be clear area
- Consider closet organizers with multiple hanging heights & storage areas
- Consider lighting the closet which can use a switch built into the door opening itself
- Be mindful of the doors blocking access
- There is no reason to just throw grab bars in around a toilet, but installing blocking for it later is well worth it.
- Speaking of blocking, for any of us that have had kids make sure it is installed where towel bars, toilet paper holder, & other items will be placed
- It may also be well worth considering a curbless shower with linear drains for the baths which not only looks great but makes cleaning easier
- Consider adjustable &/or handheld showerheads (preferably that have a WaterSense® label)
- Elongated toilets that are ADA compliant (about 2” taller than regular ones) make it easier for most to use it – for kids consider a step stool which will also help them reach the sink to brush their teeth & wash their hands
- Don’t forget to use slip-resistant flooring (which includes in the tub &/or shower)
Kitchen Cabinets & Storage:
- Drawers & roll-out shelves are your friend, especially for blind corners & deep cabinets
- The more storage down lower – the better
- Don’t forget counter top space for dishes & prep adjacent to or opposite all appliances
- Make sure surfaces are easy to maintain & clean
Appliances (Kitchen & Laundry):
- Large displays & text help make doing chores easier and reduce the chance of error
- Elevated front loading washers, dryers, and dishwashers also make chores easier
- Side-by-side refrigerators with water/ice dispensers might not be the most efficient, but the easiest for all to use
- Consider a conduction cook top for an easier time cooking and also to help prevent burns
- Microwave ovens at counter height or in wall are best which will also help eliminate those all-in-one units that do absolutely no good for cooking
As we mentioned above, lighting is important and nothing beats natural light
- “Solatube” style gives one the benefits of a skylight but with a much smaller footprint & allow less heat gain or loss
- Windows are great but choose carefully based on your house & climate
- Make sure all the cords are easy to reach and use but not at a height or an area where a baby could strangle itself
- Laundry chutes in multi-story homes
- Audible and visual strobe light systems for doorbells, telephones, &/or smoke or CO2 detectors are not only great for those hard of hearing but also kids who play the music just a tad to loud
- Whole house automation that can include security, intercom, video, & sound systems along with HVAC and lights that can be controlled not only from special receiver, but TV’s or smart phones
- Home wired for security which can be upgraded for personal panic buttons
- Central vacuum system