Universal Kitchen Design Ideas

Ensure people of all ages and abilities can effectively use your kitchen by embracing the principles of universal design.

Everything In This Slideshow

  • What is Universal Design?

    The theory of universal design states that your home should be accessible to all people, regardless of their age, size, or ability. Embrace the principles of universal design and outfit your kitchen with elements that will make working in the space convenient for everyone. 

  • Choose Smart Surfaces

    When designing a universal kitchen, it's important to keep all aspects of both use and upkeep in mind, so choose countertop materials wisely. Solid-surfacing countertops, such as granite and laminate, are easy to clean and will stand up well to normal wear and tear over the years.

  • Install Adequate Lighting

    Natural light is always the best, so make sure your kitchen has at least one large window to welcome sunlight and views of the outside. Install task lighting above certain areas, such as the island and cooktop, to ensure safety for the cook.

  • Consider Flooring Options

    Kitchens are high-traffic areas, so take care when choosing your flooring. Opt for comfortable, slip-resistant floors, such as cork or linoleum, to make sure people of all ability levels can move through your kitchen with ease.

  • Conceal Cleaning Supplies

    Keep cleaning supplies and other hazardous materials out of reach of children by containing them behind closed cabinet doors fitted with safety locks. Consider moving the supplies up to a higher cabinet as your children age to ensure they're still out of reach.

  • Select a Faucet

    Opt for a single-lever faucet to ensure people of all abilities can turn the water on and off. Single-lever models can be managed with either an open hand or a closed fist, making them perfect for homes with people who suffer from arthritis. Touch-on and touchless faucets are also great for universal design purposes.

  • Embrace Contrast

    A swath of contrasting color around the perimeter of the kitchen can help people who are visually impaired navigate throughout the space. This wide band of brick tiles contrasts the blue-painted lower cabinets and the black laminate countertops.

  • Install Open Shelving

    Open shelving makes it easy to spot the items you're looking for. Housing dishes and cooking utensils out in the open also adds a decorative element to your kitchen.

  • Go with Glass

    Glass-front cabinetry functions similar to open shelving but lends a bit more structure. Outfitting cabinets with glass inserts makes it easy to spot the items you're looking for and can also help a small kitchen feel more open.

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    Include Pullout Storage

    Ever rummaged in a cabinet only to find out the item you're searching for isn't there? Save time and keep your kitchen more organized by outfitting your cabinets with pullout shelves. The pullout shelves make it easy to spot wanted items and can be maneuvered by people of all abilities.

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    Store Your Dishes

    Rethink dish storage to make it easily accessible for all people. Storing your dishes on a pullout shelf in a lower cabinet is safer and more convenient than storing them in an above-the-counter cabinet.

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    Plan Your Island

    Storage-laden islands are excellent additions to any kitchen. Make sure your island has between 42 and 48 inches on each side so that people in wheelchairs or other mobility devices can move easily throughout the work space.

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    Access Your Microwave

    Carve out space in your island for the microwave to ensure people of all ages and abilities have easy access. Placing the microwave in the island also frees up counter spaces that's often taken up by the appliance.

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    Vary Counter Heights

    Vary the height of the countertops throughout your kitchen to ensure people of all ages, sizes, and abilities have a place to work. Elevate one side of your island countertop to create a slight barrier between the work zone and the breakfast bar.

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    Remember the Hardware

    The larger the handle, the easier it is for people with arthritis or other mobility issues to grab it. D-shape door and drawer pulls are the most convenient for a wide range of people. If you have small children, outfit the handles on your lower cabinets with safety locks.

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    Choose the Right Refrigerator

    Opt for a side-by-side refrigerator model so that people who are seated in a wheelchair can reach both the fridge and freezer. Freezer drawers installed into an island or the lower cabinetry also make accessing frozen items a breeze.

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    Install a Wall Oven

    Wall ovens can be installed at any level along the wall. Install yours a bit lower on the wall so that people of smaller stature or those who use a wheelchair can easily access the oven. If you have the space, install a second wall oven above the lower one to make preparing large meals more convenient.

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    Elevate the Dishwasher

    Raising the dishwasher a few extra inches off the ground will reduce the distance you need to bend over to place dishes on the racks. The extra elevation also makes it easier for people with limited mobility to access the appliance.

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    Create Recessed Areas

    Include recessed areas beneath the stove top and sink to allow people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices to nudge right up to the work zones. The recessed areas can be outfitted with shallow cabinets so that you lose little storage space. 

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    Install a Pot Filler

    Tired of lugging pots full of water to and from the stove? Install a pot filler faucet directly above the cooktop to make preparing pasta, potatoes, and other items easier.

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    Smart Galley Kitchen Design

    See how functional a galley kitchen can be when everything is within arms' reach.

  • Next Slideshow 16 Kitchen Trends That Are Here to Stay

    16 Kitchen Trends That Are Here to Stay

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    Begin Slideshow »
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