More than ever, housebuilders are experiencing an increasing demand for accessible homes that don’t compromise on design. With the kitchen being the heart of the home, homeowners of all ages and levels of mobility want to enjoy the experience of cooking, cleaning and socialising in a stylish space that they are proud of. Here, Andrew Story, Head of Product Development at British kitchen manufacturer Moores, shares the company’s advice for housebuilders when it comes to designing and specifying aspirational and accessible kitchens.
The Office for National Statistics has named population ageing as a global phenomenon with people over the age of 60 expected to make up 16.5% of the population by 2030. Therefore, a key aspect of creating an accessible space is considering this ageing population and its specific needs, whether this be when specifying retirement and residential homes, incorporating accessibility into multigenerational homes or specifying projects for older clients. An innovative and effective way to consider these needs is for kitchen designers and manufacturers to don ‘age explorer’ suits that physically age their movements by 20 years and upwards to allow them to walk in the shoes of an older demographic and experience their challenges first hand.
Considering how to best create an accessible space for an older generation will likely become more and more common in the design and specification of kitchen projects as it is a great way to future proof a property regardless of the current residents’ age. While innovations such as floating base units and adjustable worktops may not appeal to all prospective homeowners, these features cannot be dismissed as irrelevant and are therefore a big selling point in homes.
Where possible, consulting with the prospective buyer prior to installation of a kitchen can be wise when it comes to setting cabinets and worktops to a specific workable height. However, where this is not possible, rise and fall worktops are also a great option that are becoming increasingly popular among designers and housebuilders tasked with creating accessible kitchen spaces. The feature allows for each potential user to personalise the height of the cabinets and worktops to their specific needs, creating a versatile space for multigenerational homes and homes in which residents have varying levels of mobility. There are a variety of different options regarding functionality, ranging from a rise and fall electronic motor that can be operated via wall-situated buttons to manual adjusting via a handle.
Drop-down shelf designs
By collaborating with housebuilders and homeowners to identify commonly awkward areas of the kitchen and conceptualising solutions, designers can create spaces that are ergonomic for all. For example, hard-to-reach, high-up shelving is a common issue faced by many homeowners including those living in multigenerational homes with children, those with specific height requirements and those with limited mobility including wheelchair users. By identifying this as a common and widespread problem, innovations such as drop-down baskets that can be lowered and raised using a small lever can be designed and specified. Fitted internally, this solution creates a more efficient, ergonomic space without requiring an obvious and unattractive fixture that detracts from the homeowner’s design aesthetic.
Small but important features that may often be an afterthought in kitchen design are a great place to begin. Something as simple as the removal of plinths beneath cabinets can make it much easier for those in wheelchairs to navigate the space and have closer access to worktops. By removing plinths, the cabinets become wall-hung and, rather than detracting from the space, offer a sleek and contemporary statement that may well make its way into mainstream kitchen design.
The future of accessibility in the kitchen
It is clear that kitchen design is moving more towards accessibility becoming the norm in new homes, not least because these features are ultimately beneficial to future-proofing a home for all profiles of prospective buyers. They make the kitchen an easier place to navigate and facilitate an efficient workflow. While we cannot expect highly specialised accessible kitchens to enter mainstream kitchen design in the near future, we can definitely expect to see a shift towards ergonomic spaces that are designed for and beneficial to homeowners of all ages and levels of mobility.