Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 27, 2015

Universal Design for the home

Napkin Sketch Series

Napkin sketch by Ed Garbee

Shower and vanity components of the residential bathroom are beginning to demand more attention to how they’re installed. Decades earlier little thought was given other than to enclose the bathtub with a curtain, or in some cases sliding glass doors mounted on the tub rim. The vanity was a simple cabinet attached to the wall near the door. Today’s aging population that wishes to remain in their home require a new approach with new ideas. 

That new approach is called Universal Design, and the goal is to provide accessibility to the home owner during daily activities. With that in mind, walk-in showers are becoming less a luxury and more a necessity. A few simple changes can make a tremendous difference in how the space is used. First, remove the existing tub and/or shower stall and build a small knee wall to create a curb near the controls. If you prefer, the knee wall can be full height or support a glass panel. The opening at the far end of the shower lies in the same plane as the bathroom floor but slopes to the opposite wall where a lineal floor drain is installed. This slope ensures water that falls to the floor flows back into the shower and not the bathroom. If the walls adjacent to the shower door are tiled, there’s no need to provide a door, though a swinging glass panel can be installed. This type of installation provides easy access, easy cleaning and avoids trip hazards. 

For the vanities, consider wall mounted units without doors. This provides toe space beneath the cabinet for persons in a wheelchair, and the open front gives easy access to under-cabinet storage. Faucet controls may include blades for the user to operate without the need to actually grasp the handle.

Whether you’re adding a new master bath or renovating an existing space, consider the long-term impact offered by Universal Design. The implications go well beyond just aesthetics. Beauty versus functionality need not be separate thought processes.

Ed Garbee can be found at Garbee Architecture, 633 Chestnut Street, Suite 600, Chattanooga, TN 37450. Phone 423-364-2830. Email: g-arch@bellsouth.net