Design for Aging – 5 Things to Consider: Part 2

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Design for Aging: Part 2

In Part 1 we reviewed what aging in place is, why it’s important to plan ahead for home remodeling and decorating projects, and I covered the first 2 things to consider – grab bars and selecting flooring. In this installment, I’m going to cover shower seats, clear floor space, and planning storage.

Shower seats

Shower seat 101. This is NOT a shower seat…

This is…

and this is…

What’s the difference? The first one is not large enough, nor does it provide enough support to be considered a shower seat. It’s a nice little shelf that you can use to prop your foot and shave your legs. However, it’s not a shower seat.

To be considered a shower seat, you need at least a 15”x15” square that is approximately 18” in height. It can be a wall mounted seat or a built in seat. Certainly, a shower seat can be in the corner and have a triangle shape, but there must be a 15” square within the triangle, meaning the two short sides of the triangle must be at least 30”. Anything smaller is a safety hazard and is simply a shelf. You also need at least a 30”x30” square of remaining floor space in shower with a built in shower seat. Which leads to our next topic…

Clear floor space

Life brings many unexpected surprises as we age, wonderful things like grandkids and retirement and travel, but it can also bring knee surgeries and arthritis and even the temporary need for an assistive device. That’s healthcare speak for walkers and crutches and wheelchairs.

I know! I know! I’ve again broached a subject no one wants to talk about. You’re imagining a person fumbling around in a bathroom. Again, it doesn’t have to look like that. Imaging moving around nimbly in a space without barriers. If you have enough clear floor space, you’ll be able to navigate your bathroom with ninja-like agility!

To create clear floor space you need to remove any floor-level barriers. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends a “turn radius” of 60”, but it can be hard to find that in a small space. Ideally and at minimum, you will need an entry that is 32” or wider, a 36” path from the entry into the bathroom and in front of the toilet and vanity, and a curb-less entry into the shower. This will create enough space to back in or out of the room without barriers (see below). You may never need this much space, but it can’t hurt to plan for it.

Planning Cabinet Storage

Something we don’t think much about is what types of cabinets are most functional. Often, bathroom and kitchen professionals with select whatever you want and whatever looks symmetrical in the design. However, drawers and pull-out shelves are the best options to reduce the need to bend over or stoop.

In a bathroom vanity, you will probably need to have a door and drawer combination for each sink, but you should minimize the width of that cabinet. A 18″ sink cabinet is wide enough to accommodate each sink and its plumbing. You can also add shelving beneath the sink that slides out to make it easier to access items in the back of the cabinet without the need to stoop or squat. Use 2-3 drawer cabinets to fill the rest of the width of your vanity as shown in the image below.


This vanity has maximized the drawer space by using 24″ door and drawer cabinets beneath each sink and a 24″ 3-drawer base cabinet in the center.

I also recommend not using vanity units. These usually come in configurations that cannot be modified and don’t maximize your drawer space. If you can work it into your budget, use vanity cabinets that are purchased individually.

Those are some basic tips on creating an aging friendly space that is attractive without looking “clinical”. If your interested in this topic and you want to learn more about barrier free kitchen and bath design, check out the National Kitchen and Bath (NKBA) guidelines. Do you think these are ideas you might incorporate into your bathroom remodeling project?

Stay tuned! Next week we’re going to review how plan your bathroom remodel budget. If you’re interested in planning a kitchen or bathroom project you can schedule your complimentary Design Style consultation here.  Also, don’t forget to grab your copy of “3 Biggest Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them” here.


9 thoughts on “Design for Aging – 5 Things to Consider: Part 2”

  1. Darla Powell says:

    Well thought and and super informative. I love that you differentiated the shower seat deets.

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you, Darla!

  2. LORI SAWAYA says:

    Great point about drawers and pull-out shelves. You think of it for a kitchen but not a bathroom (so much). They’re equally functional in a bathroom – maybe more so.

    1. julielampe says:


    2. julielampe says:

      Thank you Lori!

  3. Excellent advice! Drawers and pull out shelves are SO much more useful and totally worth the extra $$ for something that is going to be used so often and for so many years. Love this!

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you Janet!

  4. DezinerTonie says:

    Very informative. With the aging Baby Boomer population, this information is necessary. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you Tonie!

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