We were very interested today to see a spread of accessible home design in the New York Times -- and of course we were most interested in the kitchens. Accessible in this case means accessible to the elderly, those with impaired abilities, and others who might find conventional design ill-equipped for them. Here are a few of the ideas mentioned in the piece -- and we find most of them to be very good ideas for contemporary kitchen design in all sorts of homes. The Times featured two homes that have been made very accessible and user-friendly. The first is in France, and was designed for Jean-Yves Prodel, who lives alone and uses a wheelchair. The other is in the Rockies, and it's a showplace home for Cynthia Leibrock, who designed it to accomodate aging and the challenges of limited mobility that come along with it.
What struck us, though, is that these user-friendly homes, designed to accomodate those with a limited range of motion or physical capacity, actually have some great features for anyone building a new kitchen. Here are a few of the things that really stood out to us.
• In Prodel's kitchen he had the countertops lowered to just 32" high, which he says are better for "children, the elderly, the disabled, and just about everyone who is not six and a half feet tall." I personally love this, since I am quite short and find the average countertop at a poor height for good chopping leverage and other kitchen work. I also like the idea of keeping countertops at a friendlier height for children.
• Prodel also uses one-touch appliances that let him easily make coffee and bake cakes and roast chickens. This made me think twice about dismissing "smart" appliances, or gadgets that seem overly simplified. Appliances that seem like a unitasker or superfluous to me might actually be quite helpful for a cook with disabilities.
• In Ms. Leibrock's kitchen there are pull-down shelves that let you easily bring high shelves down within reach. Again, as a short person, I love this. I don't want to wait until I'm 75 to implement this!
• Induction cooktops are a great thing in accessible kitchens; since they don't get hot they are safer for everyone to use.
• See the whole slideshow here: User-Friendly Design at The New York Times
Images: Kevin Moloney and Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times