Universal Design Basics… good design for all, including aging in place

Many people think of universal design as design for aging in place. It is that… but also much more than that. Universal design is good design for all ages and physical abilities… it truly is universal.

Below are the basics of universal design from Gene Nicolleli, a local architect who is also a Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing (CAASH) certified by the National Association of Home Builders 50+ Housing Council… and winner of the 2012 Gold Achievement Award - Best Detached Home on the Boards.



  • Outdoor ramp with gradual incline integrated into exterior home design
  • Covered porch providing protection from the elements
  • 42 inch wide entry door with a half inch beveled door threshold
  • Five by five foot open area at either side of the entry door


  • Single floor living
  • All hallways are 48 inches wide
  • All interior doors and passageways accessing a major room are 36 inches wide
  • All interior doors called out to have levered handles
  • Optional basement – Stair risers are 6 1/2" high for easier stepping and stair width is 3'-6" to enable a future straight rail stairlift


  • One lavatory sink countertop lowered and open underneath for assisted mobility
  • Large curbless walk-in shower
  • Glass shower enclosure can be removed and replaced with a curtain rod for easier transfer to a shower seat
  • Soaking tub set into a platform allowing one to sit and rotate into the tub vs. stepping into the tub
  • Comfort height toilet seats (17 inches vs. standard 15 inches)
  • Structural backing called out on drawings for future grab bar locations


  • Built-in oven at countertop height for easier food transfer
  • Microwave oven located in built-in lower cabinet for easier food transfer
  • Sink and cooktop can be retrofitted to be open underneath for assisted mobility
  • Roll-out shelves in pantry and lower cabinets
  • All cabinet hardware called out is easy-to-grip handles


  • Garage large enough to accomodate accessible ramp
  • Garage ceiling height allows for retrofitting to a 9 foot height garage door for accessible van with a higher than normal cab

…from Aging in Place House Plans by Gene Nicolelli

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results – EmailBaby Boomer Realtor


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I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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