Universal Design Aims at Graying Boomers

Universal design is a style of home design that includes smooth, stair-less entries to homes; wide hallways and doorways; door handles other than knobs; and easy-to-reach light switches and electrical outlets.

Feel Better, Look Better

Dobkin proceeded to overhaul her house to make it accessible. She turned the project into a laboratory for other designers to illustrate how to make a home beautiful and accessible without looking institutional.

Washington-area developer Michael Rose routinely gets questions from customers asking him why his high-end homes are "so much nicer" than others in that price range. The answer is universal design.

His hallways are four feet wide instead of the standard three. The front entry doesn't have a lot of steep steps and "an ugly wrought-iron railing." There's a master bedroom suite on the first floor, along with a second hall closet — which is great for storage but also could convert into a future elevator for a wheelchair, if the need arises.

Rose, who is a paraplegic, calls it "lifestyle design." "It feels better; it looks better," he says of the features.

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