Oh My Aching Back: Cabinet Heights to the Rescue

When approaching a kitchen or bath remodel or new construction, you can make things a lot more comfortable by getting creative with the heights of your base cabinets.
Standard heights traditionally have been 36” tall (including the thickness of the countertop material) for kitchen base cabinets, and 29” – 30” tall for bathrooms. These heights are good overall, but are surely not set in stone and can make life a lot more comfortable with some tweaking.
Consider the users’ heights when deciding on cabinet heights. If everyone in the household is tall, consider having the main area of the kitchen raised an inch or so. Chopping will be much more comfortable that way, and it will help avoid arm and back fatigue. If household members are various heights, consider having one area raised higher and another area at the standard height. If you have someone who requires lower heights, such as a wheelchair user, consult a design professional to assist with their particular needs.
In the bathroom areas, consider the primary users when determining the best heights. The master bath would likely serve adults, so having the base vanities at a taller 34” height will help to avoid stress on the users’ backs when utilizing the sink for face washing and tooth brushing. If a child uses the area, keep a small step stool handy for those times. A main hall bath outside the children’s rooms could have the standard height. If the children are a bit older (and taller) and you intend to remain in the home longer than a few years, consider the taller height there too for when the children are taller, as they do grow quickly!
Just a few adjustments can make for happy backs, and aren’t difficult at all to achieve if you plan ahead.

Fear of Commitment? Choosing the Right Colors for Your Home

One of the most frequent questions interior designers hear is how to choose colors for a home. We all love color, but some people are afraid of using color in their home. Many find they fear committing to a certain color scheme or making a mistake after it is all done. Here are some ideas to help to get you started.

  
To try to determine just what colors to use in your home, look in your closet! You’ll see the basic wardrobe classics in there: black, brown, navy, beige/khaki. Those colors are neutrals and very applicable in your home color scheme. Now, check out the colors hanging there, too. Unless you are a serious fashionista, a certain color or two will emerge as a standard in your color preference repertoire. Even prints will feature similar colors. These colors are a great place to start to help you decide what colors to use in your home. If you love wearing certain colors and feel good wearing them, you will enjoy seeing them throughout your décor.

  
Lest you feel the need to paint an entire room tomato red (or whatever color you find that you prefer), just paint the walls a nice warm taupe or other neutral that you like and use the tomato red as an accent color with some of your accessories such as throw pillows, lamp bases, art on the walls or throw rugs. You can even practice with some inexpensive items you might find at a tag sale or discount store before you commit with higher priced items. Give it a try and don’t be afraid to keep working at it.

Baby Boomers Have Home Builders Rethinking Home Design

The baby boomer generation, which is currently estimated to be aged between 48 and 67 years old, comprises almost one-third of the nation’s population. The demand that this lucrative segment of the population has on housing is causing homebuilders to rethink how they design homes. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has a 50+ Housing Council which focuses entirely on the housing needs of aging baby boomers.

  
A study commissioned by the NAHB suggests that baby boomers and older homebuyers want a maintenance-free lifestyle that frees them up to travel, socialize, and pursue other activities. Perhaps this is why real estate professionals report an increase in the number of baby boomers who are interested in condominiums and townhomes. There is also growing popularity for luxury units because they appeal to empty-nester baby boomers who no longer want the maintenance of a single family home, but don’t want to scale back on certain features and amenities either.

  
Homes that are specifically designed for aging clientele often incorporate what is known as “universal design” which allows anyone to function within the home, whether it’s children, an elderly person, or someone who is wheelchair bound. Universal design compensates for a reduced range of motion that often times comes with aging homeowners. For example, electrical switches and thermostats should be placed no higher than 48 inches above the floor and outlets no more than 27 inches—this puts them within the reach of virtually anyone. Likewise, the use of Lazy Susans, rolling carts under counters, pull-out shelves, and height-adjustable shelves make items more accessible. The height of counter tops must be within reach of all household members sitting or standing. Other features might include installing fold down benches in the shower, dual handrails, and raised toilets to compensate for decreased balance and coordination.

  
Universal design compensates for reduced strength by adjusting tension to assist with opening/closing windows and doors. Installing C or D shaped loop handles on drawers and cabinets and using easy gliding hardware for drawers also assists weaker individuals. Berms, ramps, and wider doorways with lower thresholds help with mobility and agility. Single-story homes also offer increased accessibility for aging homeowners—in fact, builders say that 75 percent of the homes they build for the 50+ market are single story.

  
The end goal for organizations like the NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council is to encourage the construction of more homes that can be adjusted over time to homeowners’ needs, so that they can live comfortably, safely, and independently as they age.