Universal Design: Home Design Ideas for Aging in Place

Chastity Fabry

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Over the years, homeowners, architects, and builders have put more thought into how to design and build houses that will remain comfortable and accessible as people’s physical abilities change. The primary emphasis has been to help people to remain in their homes through retirement, but the design principles can also apply to homes of people with physical disabilities and even to homes of physically fit people who just want a house that is more efficient to live in and easier to take care of.

Some of the design concepts may be obvious to you, such as single-floor living, wide doors and hallways, and large handles and switches on doors and appliances. But there are many nuanced ideas, such as using contrasting colors to call out transitions between surfaces, and installing modular cabinet systems that are easily modified to meet changing needs.

At Fine Homebuilding, we’ve been showcasing homes with accessible designs—and focusing on the useful lessons they teach—for years; now you can find all of those homes in this collection of articles from our archives.

  • 1

    Design

    Incorporate as many of these design considerations as possible to build a home that is accessible and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.

  • 2

    Tight space restrictions, unique cultural requirements, and the desire to age in place informed this compact, efficient design.

  • 3

    Design

    Two sisters hire an architect to turn a dilapidated Craftsman house in the city into a cozy shared retirement home.

  • 4

    Design

    In this video, Architect Duncan McPherson and the homeowners of this new home discuss what it means to create a home that can meet your needs throughout you entire life.

  • 5

    Design

    Two architects collaborate on a one-of-a-kind project that provides lessons in comfort, craft, and flexible living at all stages of life.

  • 6

    Design

    A low-cost, low-maintenance home offers comfortable living for the long haul

  • 7

    How-To

    Powered by suction, pneuamatic vacuum elevators are a low-maintenance, compact alternative to conventional lifts, plus they have a much more modern look.

  • 8

    Design

    On a steep slope in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an architect delivers a family retreat for every stage of life.

  • 9

    Design

    A remodel proves that individuality rules, even in accessible design

  • 10

    Design

    Artisans and architects craft a house that embodies both the rugged and fragile nature of its arid landscape.

  • 11

    Design

    A hillside home with a simple, barrier-free floor plan features an exercise pool in an enclosed courtyard.

  • 12

    Design

    Updated Arts & Crafts detailing enhances a home remodeled for baby boomers who plan to stay.

  • 13

    Design

    It looks like a storage building. But beyond the barnlike facade, there’s a comfortable cottage for two with a beautiful view.

  • 14

    Design

    Five ideas for making a pocket-size house feel like so much more.

  • 15

    Design

    In Maine, a retirement home gets comfortable with the shapes, colors, and textures of its wooded surroundings.

  • 16

    Design

    With a wish list as a guide, a Texas couple and their architect built an inviting, accessible, and energy-efficient home.

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