Have you heard of Universal Design? If not, you will! It’s quickly gaining ground as a major design initiative. Universal Design refers to designing products and spaces that are simple and accessible for everyone regardless of their age, abilities or limitations. In the words of Steve Jobs – one of the early adopters of the discipline – “Design is not just what it looks like. Design is how it works.” And kitchen designers today should look at a number of human factors when specifying everything from countertops, flooring and paint color to storage, lighting and plumbing.
Appliance manufacturers are also supporting the goals of Universal Design by developing products like ovens that have built-in temperature probes with large visual displays and audible alerts to insure safer food preparation; dishwashers with customizable height adjustments and full extension racks to eliminate the need to bend down; and microwave drawer ovens for ease in food loading and unloading. Additionally, details such as large handles, easy-to-turn knobs, and bright interior lighting are being designed into products.
The new Monogram French door wall oven combines design and functionality, and features one-hand opening and closing of both doors at the same time for ease of use. New induction cooktops use magnetic energy to transfer heat making them safer to use and easier to clean. Surfaces cool rapidly and surrounding areas do not get hot. And although these features are particularly helpful to those with limited abilities, they are “universal” in their appeal and usefulness.