More and more homeowners are considering the future when remodeling their kitchens. Where several years ago, most homeowners I worked with had a 5- or 10-year plan for upgrading or downsizing, many homeowners now want to plan to remain in their homes for as long as possible.
What does that mean when it comes to design? It means the homeowner and the designer need to work together to identify the priorities that are must-haves for now, but they also need to consider future needs for aging in place, as they specify functional areas and features.
As we age, our eyes lose the ability to focus light. So a kitchen that can accommodate our needs in 10 or more years needs to have ample lighting.
Consider ambient light, task lighting such as under-cabinet lighting to brighten countertop spaces, and other functional lighting, such as in-cabinet lights that allow the user to see what is inside the cabinet or the drawer.
With the introduction of LED lighting in recent years, light in and below cabinets does not generate any significant heat, and it is bright and energy efficient. The diodes also have a long life, even with everyday use.
Another consideration in planning is to allow for as much accessibility as possible with the least amount of effort.
Storage considerations should include rollouts, corner pullouts, upper cabinet pullouts and the like that allow for items to be removed from cabinets without a lot of climbing, reaching or particularly climbing onto the floor.
Placing a pullout in an upper cabinet is a great way to bring items to you without needing to climb and reach. It does not necessarily maximize the possible storage within the cabinet, but its ease of use may become increasingly important.
This clever drawer storage allows plates to be stored vertically rather than stacked, minimizing the grasping and heavier lifting required to pick up plates that are stacked. This type of storage requires a taller drawer, so it needs to be allowed for in the cabinet design.
My number one favorite storage accessory for corners is the curved corner pullout. It uses more cubic footage in corner cabinets than most other corner storage accessories, and its best feature is that it brings everything out of the cabinet. No more crawling and reaching to access the corner cabinet!
Whenever possible, use accessories that bring items to you, and preferably with minimal motion. This allows you to work efficiently in the space, but also eliminates the need for repetitive bending and reaching.
The more drawers there are in the space rather than doors, the easier and more efficient the interiors are to access as well, since a single motion is all that is required to open them.
When planning for decorative hardware, consider using wider and deeper pulls that are comfortable to grasp. Knobs can pose a challenge for arthritis sufferers when fingers can’t easily grasp them to pull. Likewise, small pulls that sit close to the surface may be difficult for larger or sore hands to reach into and grasp.
Planning for this ahead of time eliminates the issues that can arise when pulls have been drilled and installed, and a larger pull becomes necessary.
A benefit to larger pulls is they usually look more appropriate to the size of the doors and drawers too.
Better yet, skip the knobs and pulls altogether and invest in touch-activated hardware. Just tap the cabinet and the electronic system will open the drawer or door for you.
If your have the space, consider a separate cooktop and oven, with the oven in a tall cabinet to minimize the bending and reaching necessary to use the oven. The space below the cooktop can be used for storing pots and pans in pullout units for easy access.
Likewise, consider using a microwave drawer instead of a microwave in an upper cabinet, as hot foods in heavy dishes may be difficult to reach for and dangerous if dropped. A microwave drawer provides an easy-to-reach solution that minimizes the distance between countertop and microwave.
With a little bit of consideration for future needs, you can create a kitchen that accommodates your lifestyle now and in the years ahead.