Monday, January 30, 2017

"Wearing Tennis Shoes With A Tuxedo"

Got the picture - tennis shoes (or something equally as casual) with a tuxedo, evening gown, or formal wear? While undoubtedly comfortable, the footwear kind of destroys the overall look. 

This is what frequently is observed in design - especially aging in place design.

We see recommendations, solutions, or treatments that have a great aesthetic quality but not a totally functional one - or a functional treatment with one or two elements out of character with the rest of the design.

As aging in place professionals who observe living spaces of our clients and then make recommendations on what should or needs to be done, we often see the results of other efforts that miss the mark a little - not unlike wearing sneakers with formal wear.

For instance, there may be lower cabinets in the kitchen that offer a tremendous amount of storage, but using them compromises other areas of the kitchen. Maybe the large door or drawer conceals pull-out shelves or other drawers but the outside or main door or drawer has to be opened - and remain opened - in order to access the interior compartments. All the while, adjacent spaces are blocked from reaching or accessing them.

This same condition can be present with refrigerators, microwave, ovens, dishwashers, or other appliances that open into passageways or block adjacent cabinets with their doors open.

Speaking of ovens, perhaps there is a very nice dual wall oven or wall oven and microwave combination that are installed higher than eye level or have the controls atop the upper unit - making them hard to reach or view except for someone quite tall.

There might be a sit-down counter space provided but it is either at a 42" bar height (inaccessible for a wheelchair user or from normal height kitchen or dining room chairs) or has supporting legs that affect where chairs or stools can be placed to sit under it. Sometimes the stools themselves are the issue as they are too tall or too low to allow someone to sit comfortably at the bar height and use it to eat or drink while seated there.

Often islands are used when there just is not sufficient space to navigate around them easily, or they look out of place due to their size - too large or too small for the rest of the kitchen. While being an attractive focal point for the kitchen, the island should not be the only thing that people see and remember about the kitchen because of its prominence. 

In the bath, glass shower doors offer don't work the way they are intended. They either open into the shower so that someone has to step onto the drain when entering (or have the door band into a wall or bench due to the swing of it), or they open out into the room compromising the floor space or hitting the toilet or wall. From a safety standpoint, if the door only opens into the shower and someone were to collapse in the shower, it would be difficult to rescue them because they could be in the way of the door.

In other places in the home, such as the laundry, hall closets, and bedroom closets, doorways can be located so close to each other that opening one interferes with opening or accessing another - or compromises the accessway it opens into. It also could block use of furniture or actually bump into it.

The look needs to match the function, and vice versa for effective design - and to carry off the overall effect.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.