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Principles of Universal Kitchen Design

If you’re building a new home or remodeling your kitchen soon, consider a universal design plan. Universal design ensures that everyone, regardless of age, size, or ability, can safely and effectively use the space. If you plan to age in place or eventually sell your home, a universal design age-proofs your home and can help increase your home’s value. In today’s blog, we’re taking a look at the basic principles of a universally designed kitchen.

Cabinets and Countertops

The height, color, and placement of your cabinets and countertops play an important role in a universal kitchen design. Use contrasting colors between the floors and cabinets and between the cabinets and countertops. Contrasting color makes it easy to safely identify when surfaces change.

Go for light, neutral countertops. They make it easier to see what is on the surface. The type of countertop material you choose matters, too. We suggest using an easy-to-clean, durable material like quartz or porcelain. These materials require less care and maintenance. You should also vary the height of your countertops. Have at least one countertop that is 30-inches high for children and people with limited mobility and another that is 36-inches high for adults. Plan for landing areas, or drop zones, near all appliances.

Pull out storage inside cabinets and drawers such as trash pullouts, rollout shelves, swing-up mixer shelves, pulldown shelves, and drawer inserts, not only keep your cabinets neat and organized, they make it easier for people of all mobile ability to access. Include recessed lower cabinets for workspace near the stove, sink, and prep zone so people who use mobility devices can easily access the work zone.

Lighting and Layout

Lighting and layout are crucial in a universal design. Layered lighting is the best way to provide safe lighting for everyone. Choose dimmable overhead lights along with under cabinet lighting, lighted drawer interiors, and even lighting on the bottom of lower cabinets.

When designing your layout, be sure to provide clearance for mobility devices. The recommendation is at least 42 to 48 inches in a work aisle and up to 60 inches around the dining areas of the kitchen. Don’t forget to eliminate rugs and other trip hazards.


The type and placement of the appliances you choose matter greatly. Be sure to give appliances space on each side when designing your layout. Appliances tucked into a corner or against a wall limit access and mobility. Go for a stovetop and wall oven over a range oven. You can place a wall oven at any height and a stovetop is easier to access. Choose a stovetop that has clearly labeled controls in front and go for an induction stovetop for safety. Even when induction stovetops are turned on, they remain cool to the touch unless a pan or pot is placed on them, making them safe for children and adults with memory loss.

Choose a single-lever faucet for the most accessibility. You can use them with either a closed or open hand or fist and single-lever faucets are particularly helpful for people with arthritis.

Go for a side-by-side fridge. They are easier for anyone to access. Install the microwave in a lower cabinet or kitchen island. This frees up counter space and is easy for children and people with limited mobility to access.

Ready to apply these universal design principles to your upcoming kitchen remodeling plans? Let us help you design the kitchen of your dreams! Click here to get started.


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