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With expertise in design for adults 55 and over, we completed a remodel project for a physician couple who bought their forever home. While they are still young at 55 and 65, the homeowners knew they wanted to plan for the future.

Though they are active and healthy, the clients knew there would likely come a time when one or both might have mobility issues. They wanted a design that would enable them to stay independent and in their home for as long as possible and allow them to enjoy a beautiful, contemporary aesthetic.

I’m seeing more and more homeowners realizing at a much younger age that it’s a smart investment for them to incorporate design for longevity. Either when they are building a new home, or when planning a remodel and including it now, rather than waiting and having to remodel again later.

Doing it once is better for the homeowner and for the environment, as it preemptively puts less in the landfill. Since 2013, when I founded my company, there has been a downward shift in client age from primarily 80s and 90s to 50s, 60s and 70s.

It is because more people understand that well-aging design is a proactive health and wellness measure, and it does not have to look ugly and institutional. It can be beautiful!

Existing Conditions

The bathroom was dark and did not function well for the clients. The existing shower was treacherous to enter and exit with its 4-inch step up, followed by a secondary, minuscule 17-inch-wide entry to a 3-inch step down.

The water closet was narrow and tight and inaccessible by mobility devices. Lighting throughout the bathroom was insufficient, including in the shower and at the vanities.

The clients wanted a larger shower and shampoo niche, separate vanities, a tub and a bathroom entry door for privacy.

They requested a light, neutral, contemporary look, along with a colorful window treatment. If possible, they also wanted to increase the size of the wardrobe closet.

Specialized Design

Well-aging design (also known as aging in place or universal design) entails far more than just installing grab bars, which is a common misconception. It requires special knowledge and skills from both the designer and the contractor. Thoughtful design needs to be executed well to work effectively.

Our company always meticulously weighs the impact of every design decision to anticipate and meet the changing needs of older adults and prevent life-changing falls.

This includes proper space planning and precise selection and placement of aging-friendly fixtures, finishes and colors. These intentional, comprehensive design solutions, correctly constructed and installed, help clients proactively live safely and independently up until and through retirement.

To accommodate any future age-related needs, my first step was designing a new ADA-compliant floor plan, making the space wheelchair accessible. That was followed by creating a new electrical plan with abundant ambient and task lighting to supplement the room’s natural lighting.

One wheelchair-accessible vanity was provided. An ADA-compliant shower with a curb-less entry and slip-resistant floor tile was built per the design plan. It was appointed with a handheld shower, an ADA-compliant shower seat and grab bars, all precisely located and properly installed.

The new oversized shampoo niche is more functional and is reachable from the shower seat. Some of the other special features include an ADA-compliant toilet, sinks, single-lever faucets and additional grab bars. All doors and doorways were widened to 36 inches.

I advised the clients that bathtubs can be a hazard for older adults and that adding a grab bar was not feasible in this case due to the location of the tub and the height of the windows. The clients, however, still wanted the tub.

Creating an ADA floor plan while also incorporating a tub was a challenge, particularly since the clients wanted to increase the size of their wardrobe closet. My solution was capturing space from a wide hallway that shared a wall with the bathroom and from the large bedroom foyer. A small amount of bathroom space was surrendered to expand the closet.

The beautiful, custom, neutral color high-gloss finish vanities and linen closet are floating. The two vanity countertops are anti-microbial quartz. To add visual expanse and make the room lighter, the shower ceiling was raised 2 feet, and a 36-inch-wide glass door and enclosure above the pony wall was installed.

Evidenced-based biophilic design was incorporated to enhance wellness. A gorgeous, custom 10-foot-high walnut contemporary barn-style entry door with an ADA loop handle was added for privacy.

Providing consistency and flow, the walnut-finished bamboo shower seat enhances the aesthetic. Two stunning vanity walls and a shower shampoo niche were created using a 3D organic patterned tile.

White, wood-patterned, slip-resistant floor tile planks brighten the room. My custom designed, translucent ocean-blue window treatment panels embedded with natural birch serve double duty delivering inspiration and privacy.

A contemporary, freestanding tub surrounded by organic patterned wallpaper, foliage and nature-inspired wall art create a tranquil, contemporary organic aesthetic that incorporates nature.

Because it is about health and life safety, I strongly encourage contractors and designers to acquire certification such as Certified Aging-in-Place (CAPS) from NAHB, Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP) from the Living in Place Institute, or NARI’s Universal Design certification.

You don’t know what you don’t know! Without the special knowledge and training, instead of helping clients, you could unintentionally be harming them and inflicting yourself with liability. QR

Bonnie J. Lewis (Allied ASID, CAPS) is the principal of Bonnie J. Lewis Design in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Master Design Awards 2023
Universal Design | Gold

Company Information
Bonnie J. Lewis Design
Scottsdale, Arizona

Project Information
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Contractor: A-Team Construction
Square footage before: 247
Square footage after: 232
Project cost: $115,747

Product Information
Doors: The Barn Door Store
Tile: Crossville
Flooring: The Tile Shop; Crossville
Lighting: Halo; Nuvo Lighting
Walls: Momentum Wallcoverings
Cabinetry: Kindred Custom Cabinetry
Countertop: Pentel Quartz
Tub: Wyndham
Toilet: Kohler
Shower: Schluter
Shower faucet: Delta
Sink: Deco Lav
Sink faucet: Delta
Tub filler: Delta

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