Functional Homes Elegant Design

Universal Design That’s Elegant, Too
Accessibility has a golden opportunity to embrace being streamlined and handsome.
By Dan Gregory
My sister-in-law, an architect, recently led a workshop on the concept of accessibility for a design studio in the Middle East, which got me thinking about accessible design that’s beautiful. Grab bars, wheelchair-compatible counters, barrier-free showers, and other universal design details should be as elegant as they are useful. They don’t need to–they shouldn’t–look cumbersome, institutional, or like an afterthought. Product manufacturers and designers have caught on and are showing how to combine comfort and style, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. Plumbing fixture manufacturer Moen, for example, has produced a handsome grab bar that incorporates a toilet roll holder into a single sleek curve.

Another grab bar is seamlessly integrated into a tray for soap and sponges. (Master Bath by Tier 1, photo by Twist Tours. Both product photos courtesy Moen.)

This is common sense: Good design is about solving problems gracefully, not to mention keeping things (and people) in balance. All of us need a steadying hand now and then, especially in a slippery bath or shower. Jaclo’s slotted channel drain gate makes it possible to step or roll across the threshold and into the shower unimpeded.

For the kitchen, Broan has introduced an under-cabinet range hood — their

Evolution QP3 Series –  with an optional hand-held remote allowing you to control the lights and fan without reaching up–something that would be difficult or impossible if you’re in a wheelchair. Homes designed for accessibility will be increasingly in demand, like those make way for a shallow ramp to the entry deck, not to mention a roll-in shower and a hallway handrail that can do double-duty as a picture rail.


Stylish and beautiful universal design is gaining momentum, and it’s something your clients will be asking more about in the future. What’s your favorite design feature that’s as beautiful as it is universally accessible? Tell us about it below.

Dan Gregory writes Eye on Design. His blog appears on occasional Fridays.