This article is not your basic manual for selecting the “dream home”. Nor does it contain the list of “items to ask your designer” – these things can be found on any designer’s website or in Google search. As important as those elements are, what we’re going to do here is dig a little deeper into the design, skip the fan fee, and talk about some specific concepts that will really make a difference in your life. Matching your home to your lifestyle begins with an exploration of your needs and wants.
Most home designers will have some kind of “discovery process” that will help identify the basics of home design. It will start by setting up your lot and proceed through elements like privacy requirements, work areas, outdoor spaces, etc. Although this process is critical to your project, it is rarely deepened enough to transform your design into a home that will serve Your needs for life. Here are two keys to good home design that must be addressed in advance: a) assess the current needs of the homeowner; and, b) anticipate the future needs of people living in the home.
Without conducting a thorough assessment of the client’s functional capabilities, the identification of areas of the home where modifications are needed is often overlooked. For example, a child’s needs and ability to live comfortably at home are rarely addressed at the design stage. It is necessary to assess the child’s current abilities and design an environment that works and grows with the child. Some easy adaptive design elements would include adjustable shelves and bars in the closet. As the child grows, the shelves and bars can be moved to better accommodate his reach. Household appliances present a similar situation, as controls need to be accessible. Front mount controls on washers and dryers allow use. Security also comes into play. A child trying to use a microwave on top is a recipe for disaster! Of course, the example above is very simple, but it illustrates the point that design must be done from the individual’s perspective and their ability to carry out daily routines at home. This is why a good designer will do a customer evaluation and specify the necessary design modifications.
There are a couple of tools that a designer can use to assess the needs of their clients. One such tool is the Comprehensive Assessment and Solution Process for Older Residents (CASPAR). CASPAR was designed for healthcare professionals to assess their clients’ ability to perform routine activities at home. This is also helpful in determining the requirements of people with disabilities. Anticipating people’s future needs may be a bit more complicated, but we can start by understanding the aging process. Whether we like to think about aging or not, it is inevitable, and people’s functional abilities decrease over time. A well-designed home will easily adapt to these changing needs and allow people to stay home longer. Fortunately, “universal design” is beginning to take root in modern home design. Ron Mace, founder and program director of the Universal Design Center (NCSU), gives us the following definition of UD: “The intention of universal design is to simplify everyone’s life by making products, communications and the built environment as more usable by as many people as possible at low cost or no additional cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities. ” Because the principles of universal design are inclusive for people with disabilities, applying UD to home design is appropriate and addresses many of the needs of people who want to “grow old in place.”