Universally Awesome

April 30, 2015

This award-winning kitchen designed for a person with disabilities would shine in anyone’s home.

By Susan Kehoe, Ph.D. 

As life expectancy rises and modern medicine increases the survival rate of those with significant injuries or impairments, there is a growing interest in “Universal Design” (UD). The term refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people with or without disabilities.
Pamela Livingston Hardy understands UD; she won the 2015 National Kitchen and Bath Award, out of a field of 300 entries, for her design of a universal kitchen.

If you look at the photos of her award-winning kitchen, it’s difficult to find indications that it was designed for an owner with activity limitations — and that’s one of the reasons she won the award. “My goal is to design spaces that do not look like handicapped areas,” Hardy says.

As a psychotherapist in her former career, she considers unique aspects in her designs. “It’s important to think about the fatigue factor. As people age and suffer illnesses, special designs and products allow them to complete daily activities without draining their strength,” Hardy says. “It’s also important to consider the family dynamic where only one person in a couple is disabled. Happiness can depend on being able to work together with a high degree of autonomy.”

This kitchen is the perfect arrangement for a pair of cooks to work together. Hardy included his-and-her ovens, one at the typical height plus a raised oven with a horizontal opening to eliminate the long reach across a drop-front door. A magnificent 11-foot island provides a space for wheelchair access, and a cutting board pulls out from a drawer for barrier-free use. Appliance storage with a roll-up top is reachable from a sitting position.

Hardy installed special Kraftmade kitchen cabinets manufactured for UD use. The “Passport” line incorporates a 9-inch toe kick allowing space for wheelchairs and scooters to approach countertops more closely. It also includes a roll-under sink and cooktop enclosure for mobile devices. Large handles with wide hand clearance were installed on the cabinets and drawers, making them easier to open and close.

Floor surfaces are a significant UD consideration. In this kitchen-dining-mudroom area, large 12 x 24-inch tiles eliminate grout lines, offering a seamless surface for gliding or walking. French doors with zero thresholds allow the owner to move effortlessly to the deck and snap off a sprig of fresh basil for his tomato sauce. Hardy raised the garden off the ground to the deck level, ensuring that gardening could remain a hobby in her client’s life. Even the mudroom contains a built-in hose and drain for rinsing off the scooter, and a parking spot with a charging station.

The happy owners of this kitchen commented in Houzz, “Pamela assisted us in creating and designing our dream of an accessible kitchen. Her crew exceeded our expectations and their attention to detail was superb! She worked hard to create an accessible kitchen with side-opening oven, roll-under sink, cooktop and cutting board areas! Family and friends comment that we could be on HGTV!”

A resident of Bloomfield Hills, Pamela Livingston Hardy is one of those designers who can modify your home to make it ideal for independent living well into your later years. NS

Pamela Livingston Hardy Creative Renovations, creativerenovations.com
(248) 840-1919

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