The Finer Details Of Award-Winning Universal Design

Posted on | February 25, 2013 | No Comments

If you ask Kevin Holdridge about universal design, he’ll tell you that it’s about much more than wider doorways, lowered cabinets and wheelchair-accessible rooms. For the Charlotte residential designer and principal of KDH Residential Design in Charlotte, it has everything to do with providing comfort and ease for his clients’ present and future needs, and making sure that they live in a beautiful, wonderful space. As a universal design expert, Kevin anticipates those current and future needs in ways that would never occur to most of us. We talked to Kevin to find out some of the finer details of his design process.

Images Courtesy of KDH Residential Design ©

Kevin is keenly aware of his clients’ need to aesthetically enjoy their space. “I always try to be subtle,” he explains. “You shouldn’t be able to tell just by looking that a house is designed to accommodate mobility issues. It shouldn’t look industrial in any way. It should just look like a beautiful home.”

In the featured home here, Kevin accomplishes the balance between form and function with some clever amenities. “We added a big, wide, meandering sloping walkway that looks like a courtyard space rather than a ramp,” he notes. “In the bathroom, the shower is open and curbless. We added a picture window overlooking a zen garden to bring the outdoors in. Also, transom windows race around the whole house and let in a lot of natural light. Natural light is especially important for those with vision impairments.”

The wall color and flooring choices were also made with the visually impaired in mind. “Universal design tends to have open concept floor plans. Using high-contrast colors from room to room—stone floors in one room and wood floors in another, for example–can help a person with vision problems discern which room they’re in.”

Kevin added some unexpected and thoughtful details to help with mobility issues as well. “The whole house is designed for accessible one-level living so that you’d never need to go to another floor,” he notes. “There are no steps, and the entrances are zero threshold. The back patio can easily be accessed and enjoyed by anyone. There’s no walk-in closet. All of the closet function happens in the bathroom, using pull-out drawers.”

“In the living area, we added a flex space with a wet bar for entertaining. The wet bar features a big TV that’s wired for the internet. That way, the homeowners and their guests can enjoy looking at photos and watching videos. No one has to be segregated from the crowd because they lack mobility.”

For Kevin, it all comes down to the finer details and creature comforts. “Your home is your sanctuary,” he notes. “If you experience physical challenges, and your home is designed to help you meet them, it’s just one less thing to have to worry about.”

In 2012, the home featured in this article received First Place Custom Luxury honors in the American Residential Design Awards (3,001 – 4,000 s.f.) which were conducted by the American Institute of Building Design. Sharing in this award with KDH Residential Design was builder, McSpadden Custom Homes.

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