Late last year I was asked to do a segment with KITV on their Aging Well Segment to show an example of a universally designed bedroom and bathroom I did for a client. During the interview I was explaining what Universal Design is and offered an example of the difference between Universal Design and designing to age in place The example I gave was that when an accessible entrance and a traditional entrance are put near one another, everyone just naturally used the accessible entrance because it was more comfortable, i.e. it was wider, easier to open etc. But in many designs, we are prompted to feel that we should not use that entrance, that is only for the impaired. (This example applies to the restrooms for sure, but unfortunately there is never enough room to build all the stalls with ADA dimensions)
I’m not sure my example really had an impact and since then I’ve been looking for examples to better explain what I do as a primarily universal designer and how it can change the way we look at our environment. And then I read an article about the recent remodeling of the Oslo Metro in Norway.
When they redesigned the space they reversed all wayfinding cues so that an accessible exit was just marked EXIT and all other exits that required specific mobility skills had the pictograms that we typically see for the handicapped. The use of signs was thus reversed. The accessible exit became the obvious exit for all travelers, needing no special marking. Other exits were marked with their specific restrictive properties….it was a subtle, but important, manifestation of a change of mindset.
It is a large scaled example of what we do for client’s bathrooms, kitchens, etc. every day. When a space works for everyone, there is no need for a sign to remind someone of their disability. We all have disabilities of some sort at some time in our life. Design can move us past singling them out with signs.
Welcome to the new Universal Interiors website and our first blog. This new beginning made me think of my beginnings and how I landed in the world of design.
From the time I was 8 years old until I left home my “space” was in the upper left room of this house. But what I never realized was that it was also my first decorating job!
When my older sister moved out, my younger sister and I were able to have our own rooms and I was able to pick out new wallpaper and paint. That was huge! Lavender was all the rage back then, so my room was converted from little girls’ pink to a middle schooler’s lavender and green floral garden. And since you could buy fabric to match the wallpaper new curtains were in order. I can still recall standing at my father’s workbench while he explained to me what they meant by 1-1/2 fabric widths per window. By then I was sewing most of my clothes, but curtains? It sounded scary. But I did it, and of course it was so easy that my mother wanted me to make them for other rooms too. I would eventually start my first side business in my parent’s basement sewing curtains, shades and pillow covers for other designers.
Eventually grade school gave way to high school and little flowers didn’t cut it anymore. Any changes had to be superficial since I couldn’t remove the wallpaper or paint. The wallpaper was only on one wall, my first tip on an accent wall, so I covered the entire wall with strategically placed posters. Very 60’s. No black light though, that was in my brother’s room. Bold plaid curtains replaced the faded flowers and luckily me for it was time to lay new carpeting, so I picked a bright, not quite lime, green. Yikes! I couldn’t believe my mother went for it! Add one recycled wooden cable spool padded and covered in green fabric and I had myself a pad.
I didn’t realize at the time how naturally all of these little ideas came to me, only that when I redecorated or rearranged my room I felt refreshed. It was my expression, my ideas. I’m sure I inherited some of my talent from my mother even though she doesn’t agree, but she knew enough to select beds that could be configured three ways, two different sized dressers and mix and match smaller pieces to be split between bedrooms as needed. Adaptability! Never decorate without it.
And so my journey in design began, in that room on the corner, decorating or rearranging every place I lived and worked. Adaptability, flexibility and expression continue to be a strong component in all my designs….but I don’t do posters anymore.