Design for All: Creating a Home That Works for Everyone

Kerrie Kelly

Universal design is the idea that all design—technology, products, and the built environment—should serve the broadest range of people. For a home, this means that the design should serve the needs of the homeowners, even as they age and their needs change. And in no room is this more important than the kitchen.

When thinking about renovating your kitchen, or even just sprinkling in a few more convenient touches, it’s important to ask yourself what problems the new space should solve. Are the cabinets too high? Is the back of the fridge inaccessible? Do you need more supplemental lighting? Questions like these usually point you in the direction of the best fixtures and installations to add to your room.

We’ve come up with a list of our top 5 most recommended universal design installations to create a livable, yet lively, kitchen.

1. Single-Lever Faucets

Whether it’s you, your grandchild or your elderly father who’s trying to wash his hands, a single-lever faucet lets anyone operate the most basic tool in the kitchen with ease. With a double-handle faucet, it can be difficult to set the temperature or completely shut off the water. Installing a single-lever faucet gives you more control without sacrificing style.

2. Multi-Level Countertops

Unfortunately, our homes aren’t always the most user-friendly. Most of us have hunched over a countertop that is too low or tippy-toed to reach a something on countertop that was too deep. By installing multi-level countertops, anyone can enjoy the space as they comfortably use it to their best ability. Whether you’re sitting or standing, multi-level countertops create an eye-grabbing appeal that is both functional and fashionable.

3. D- or U-Shaped Handles

Any cabinet that isn’t outfitted with the appropriate hardware can limit accessibility. Curved handles are better for grip if you or family members have smaller or less flexible hands. And luckily, this type of hardware comes in myriad styles, from chic and sleek to elegant and sophisticated.

4. Below-Counter Appliances

Who would’ve thought that microwaves don’t have to sit atop a slab of crowded counter space? Installing a microwave in an easier-to-reach place – at the same level as below-counter cabinets, for example – means that you’ll never again have to reach above your head to take out a heavy—not to mention, hot—plate of food.

5. Natural Lighting

Not everyone realizes how crucial it is to utilize natural lighting in the kitchen. Windows are your friend, and the bigger and taller, the better. Don’t have an area in which to bask in the sunlight? No problem. Some new light bulbs and lighting fixtures can mimic natural lighting to help you feel happy and healthy. Anyone with common age-related vision changes (or an affinity for the daytime) will thank you.

Remember, a home that incorporates design components that are both fun and functional is one that all ages and mobility ranges can enjoy.


Northern Californian interior designer Kerrie Kelly founded Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in 1995. She is an award-winning interior designer, author and multi-media consultant, helping national brands reach the interior design market.

Kerrie is a guest blogger partnering with Extra Mile to share her stories. The Hartford does not endorse or have any association with the products and/or services referenced. All opinions are those of Kerrie and do not reflect the opinion of The Hartford.

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