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50+ Housing Magazine: Clean, Modern, and Easy to Use

4/1/2013

Universal design principles aim to create a built environment that functions well for all - that's the universal part. But the design part may suffer, since products and approaches that ensure function often look institutional.

This remodeled kitchen and bath project, however, combined functionality and beauty through thoughtful, skillful design, earning it a finalists' spot in the 2013 National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) design competition.

It was created by Carnemark Design + Build, Bethesda, Md., for a retired Arlington, Va., couple who were downsizing from a larger home to a roomy one-level condo(originally two units) to address one spouse's mobility issues.

While some universally designed kitchens and baths shout "accessible" at the viewer, these rooms deliver accessibility in a whisper. The look is modern without being edgy, and gracious without being fussy.

And while most builders don't have the option of using as many custom features as are shown here, the ideas behind the design can be expressed in alternative ways by builders who want to appeal to a market that includes every buyer.

The firm's principal designer, Michael Stehlik, knew that the couple's goal was a home that was easy for both of them to live in - a goal that's reflected in the company's approach to design. To express that goal in a manner consistent with the clients' preferences, Stehlik took design cues from the couple's taste in art and furniture.

But it's the details that tell the U.D. part of the story. To allow for wheelchair use in the galley kitchen, Stehlik used a wider isle space and looked for products that wouldn't demand a high counter height.

On the cooking side of the room, the designer sprecified a Miele combination convection and microwave oven, which is set into a 30-inch-high counter.

The cooktop has touch controls at the front edge, and the range hood was installed six inches lower than average.

The Sub-Zero refrigerator combines a smaller freezer at floor level, allowing a seated person to reach much of the refrigerator.

On the sink side, the counters had to be somewhat higher to accommodate a dishwasher, but Stehlik found a Miele dishwasher that was three inches shorter than average so that counter came in at 33 inches.

pull-out pantry next to the refrigerator stores often-used items. And a fold-down cutting board on the wall allows for seated food prep.

Roll-out drawers with easy-to-grip handles provide undercounter storage throughout the kitchen, and the sink side also includes a cabinet with roll-out shelves and a two-bin pull-out for trash and recyclables.

The backsplash behind the cooktop is back-painted glass for easy cleaning. The bright orange splash of color makes a statement without overwhelming the room. The countertops are quartz, which is easier to clean and maintain than natural stone.

Lighting is key in a kitchen, so the design provided multiple ways for light to come into the room: recessed ceiling lights, undercabinet task lighting, a light in the range hood, and light from the adjacent dining room via the pass-through.

The designer took space from an adjacent room to enlarge the master bath.

It includes an ample no-threshold shower with a built-in bench and hand-held shower, in addition to the standing shower on the opposite wall. The toilet, set at a height comfortable for both owners, is recessed in an alcove. The extra space from the adjoining room became a laundry room and large walk-in closet.

There are two sinks, one at standard height, set in a vanity with storage. The other sink is lower,with open space beneath for easy use by a seated person.

So what made this project a success story? It was produced by a well-respected firm, it combines great design and skillful execution, and it received national recognition. Equally important, the owners are delighted.

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