28 October 2008


This is the the latest entry in my Aging in Place Series, designed to help homeowners with lower back or flexibility issues, or a household member in a wheelchair, remain independent and fully-functional at home. These suggestions will not only increase your laundry room's functionality, it can increase your home's value to a larger pool of buyers.

* Replace your standard washer and dryer with a front-loading pair on pedestals. (Shown here are GE Profile's SmartDispense set.) These make it much easier for someone with back issues or in a wheelchair to load and unload clothes at a more comfortable height. They also use less water and save electricity, which is helpful to every household.

* Replace a standard ironing board, which is awkward for someone in a wheelchair to handle, with one that folds down from a wall or out of a cabinet. Make sure there's enough room on one side of that board for the user to do the ironing, and a nearby outlet.

* Add a table for folding laundry at a comfortable 30-inch height. If space is tight, consider a fold-down table instead of a standard one.

* Add a rolling hamper with removable bags that can be wheeled to the washing machine for ease of loading. I find that divided hampers save the most time on laundry day, as clothes can be tossed into their respective "lights" and "darks" hampers as they're shed and avoid the time-consuming sorting chore.

* If there's a plumbing hook-up for a sink in the laundry room, look for a fixture that mounts to the wall or otherwise allows roll-under access. Kohler has a very stylish model called Harborview that blends style and function with accessibility.

* Choose a faucet with lever-style handles, rather than knobs. These are easier for someone with arthritis or Parkinson's to operate.

* Make sure there's sufficient light in the laundry room. A typical center-mounted fixture may not be enough. A track light or multiple recessed cans that focus beams directly on the task areas for folding, ironing, loading and unloading clothes will be helpful for someone with vision challenges.

* If you're planning on adding cabinetry for laundry room storage, consider base or tall cabinets with roll-out shelves. This will make it easier on your back or household member in a wheelchair to access laundry detergent, bleach, dryer sheets, etc. (Someone in a wheelchair is unlikely to be able to reach a cabinet above the washer and dryer, even with pull-down accessories.) If there's no space for such storage, consider one of the units that can sit between the washer and dryer for holding laundry essentials. Some appliance companies make them to match their washer-dryer sets. Less expensive versions are available from housewares and storage specialty retailers.

* If you have cabinetry in your laundry room already, change its knobs to pulls. They're easier to use for someone with less hand strength or flexibility.

* If someone with balance issues is using this laundry room, replace loose throw rugs or mats with non-slip versions.

Photo Note: The laundry room shown here is NOT fully accessible. Someone in a wheelchair would not be able to reach the cabinets above the washer and dryer, and would have a difficult time using the standard 36-inch high counter next to the washer and dryer for folding. (A 30-inch height works far better for the seated user.) However, the rolling laundry cart, cabinets immediately next to the washer and dryer, (especially if they're equipped with roll-out shelves), and pedestal-standing washer and dryer would be very helpful for the wheelchair user. Additionally, GE's SmartDispense sytem means pouring the laundry detergent down into the pedestal, which may be easier for some users, than pouring it up into a tray near the top of the washer, which is the typical detergent location.

If more modifications and updates are needed in your home or a local friend's or relative's, please let me know. In addition to being an NKBA-certified kitchen designer, I'm also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. You can email me or call (813-810-0467).

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21 October 2008


As I wrote last week, many Americans are helping their parents cope with aging issues. If you’re one of them, here are some ways to help them function more effectively in their kitchens, without a major remodel. These suggestions will not only increase the kitchen's functionality, it can increase its value to a larger pool of home buyers.

Many of these tips will work well in your kitchen, too, especially if you have lower back issues that make it hard to get into some of your cabinets.
* Replace base cabinet half shelves with roll-out trays. This will also increase the storage of that cabinet by about 25 percent.

* Add roll-out trays to the bottom of base cabinets, as well. This will make it easier to reach items at the back of the cabinet. (Shown above right, Rev-a-Shelf's roll-out tray in wood keeps items organized and accessible.)

* Add a swing-out or lazy susan accessory to hard-to-reach base corner cabinets. Corner cabinets can be the toughest to access, especially those called "blind corner cabinets" that are typically placed next to a range or a dishwasher. Unless you have great knees and a flashlight, you're going to be hard-pressed to reach anything stored in that cabinet! Thankfully, there are now accessory systems that bring the back items to the front and save your back and knees!

* Replace cabinet knobs with easier-to-use pulls. These are especially helpful for older users with arthritis or Parkinson's. You'll probably have to add a back-plate to cover the knob hole, but there are some attractive ones on the market.

* Replace a knob-style faucet with a lever-handled faucet. These are also easier for older hands to operate.

* Replace a gas or electric cooktop with an induction cooktop. Induction cooktops use magnetic energy and only generate heat directly below and next to the pot. They can reduce the chance of someone with vision or memory challenges from burning themselves on a hot surface. For the same safety reason, they're great for kids, too. Induction cooktops offer additional benefits for all of us, too: they use far less energy and, because they don't heat up your kitchen, save on youf air conditioning bills, too.

* Add task lighting to your kitchen by illuminating your countertops with under-wall cabinet lighting. Brighter work surfaces can mean the difference between a perfectly-julienned carrot and a painfully-jabbed fingertip -- especially for those with vision challenges. As an added benefit, under-cabinet lighting can make your kitchen look bigger.

* Treat super-slick floors with an anti-slip treatment. Polished travertine is incredibly beautiful for high-end kitchens, but presents a risk of serious falls to older residents and visitors. To avoid this potential hazard, look into an anti-slip treatment like SureStep.

If more modifications and updates are needed in your home or your parents', please let me know. In addition to being an NKBA-certified kitchen designer, I'm also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. You can email me or call (813-810-0467).

14 October 2008


Many adults are doing their best to help parents remain safely and independently in their own homes as they age. Others are moving parents into their houses, both for safety and economic reasons.

If you’re facing either of these issues, here are some ways to be proactive on safety in one of the most accident-intensive rooms in the house – the bathroom.

* Replace a standard toilet with a comfort-height version.
* Add grab bars in the shower, tub and toilet areas. (Moen Kingsley Oil-Rubbed Bronze shown here.)
* Replace knob-style faucets with lever-handled faucets.
* If your parent is in a wheelchair, replace a standard vanity with one specifically designed for this user’s needs.
* Replace counter tops in the bathroom with rounded-cornered versions that contrast sharply with the vanity color beneath it.
* Increase the bathroom’s lighting.
* Replace a pre-code shower valve with a non-scald version.
* Replace a wall-mounted shower head with one on a slide bar. If there are two shower users, and only one has a disability, it is ideal to add a second valve attached to a slide bar shower head for the seated user and keep the original one for the standing user.
* Add a bench to the shower stall.
* Replace a tub with a shower and make it curb-less if the user is wheelchair-bound.
* Check that the vent fan is working properly to help avoid mold hazards.
* Replace smooth, slick flooring with a less slippery textured tile. If this isn’t possible, have a slip-resistant treatment applied to the existing floor.

If your parent is under medical care, it is crucial to involve his or her medical team before making any living arrangement changes.

For more ideas on increasing your home's accessibility, please read my whole-house article published online at BobVila.com.

07 October 2008


You may notice that my Style/File feature has been updated. The new one features a wide array of good-looking countertops. I call this slideshow, “Counter Intelligence,” as it focuses on the many wonderful choices available to add style and functionality to your space. Let me elaborate…


Seamless appearance, integral sink capability, repairable, easy maintenance, new Illuminations line is semi-transparent, allowing it to be beautifully backlit.

Easily scratched or burned, usually unnatural in appearance, less market appeal than natural stone.


Rich and elegant in appearance, no two are identical, natural stone is highly desirable.

Needs to be sealed, easily scratched or chipped, expensive.


Natural beauty, durable, high market appeal.

Care needs to be taken in wet areas, expensive, needs to be well-maintained.


Environmentally-friendly, dramatic appearance, easy maintenance.



Tremendous selection, do-it-yourself installation possible.

Natural stone tile needs to be kept sealed, grout can be difficult to maintain.


Naturally beautiful, each slab is unique, heat- and scratch-resistant, durable, high market value in many areas of the country.

Needs to be kept sealed to avoid staining, higher maintenance, radon concerns for some styles, typically no warranty available, can be expensive -- especially for exotics.


Wide range of styles, personalization possible, seamless appearance, integral sink capable, high market value.

Needs to be kept sealed. Expensive.


Easy maintenance, excellent durability, long warranties, stain-resistant, high market value.

Often unnatural in appearance, expensive.

Stainless Steel

Choice of chefs, seamless appearance, easy maintenance, stain-resistant.

Scratches easily, expensive.

There are more choices, of course, including limestone, copper, pewter, soapstone and other exotics. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in a material that isn’t profiled here – including laminate.

“Counter Intelligence” wasn’t meant to be all-encompassing, just darned eye-catching and, hopefully in this accompanying posting, informative.

01 October 2008


October is National Kitchen & Bath Month. Betcha didn’t know that! Betcha don’t really care – except

If you live in Central Florida, you could get a totally free, in-home kitchen or bath consultation from a professional designer!

These consultations are being offered to local homeowners by qualified members of Central Florida’s National Kitchen & Bath Association. Yes, I’m one of them. I'm also a member of the group's Executive Committee. Several of my Execo colleagues' firms are also offering free consultations this month. These include Signature Kitchens of Vero Beach, The Kitchen Director in Lakeland, S & W Kitchens in Longwood and Maitland, Duncan's Creative Kitchens in Bradenton and Deem's Kitchen & Bath Showrooms in Springhill, Homosassa and Ocala.

While I'm including all my fellow Execos' sites, I might as well include mine, too. I'm Tampa-based, but the zip codes I’m covering in this promotion are: 33647 (New Tampa), 33543 and 33544 (Wesley Chapel), 33617 and the Temple Terrace zips immediately surrounding it.

All of us providing this service will be looking for ways you can enhance your functionality, storage and style – and using NKBA’s highly-respected Design Guidelines to do it.

If you’re in one of my coverage zips, feel free to call me at (813) 810-0467 or email me to set up an appointment. If you live outside my coverage area, but want to take advantage of this month-long offering, click on the chapter’s NKBM page to find a provider near you.

If you're reading this outside the Central Florida area, visit the National Kitchen & Bath Association web site to find a local professional, request a Kitchen & Bath Workbook, read top-notch articles on design and remodeling and much more.

A local kitchen remodeled by NKBA member Jamie Goldberg.

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