Best Bets For Universal Design-Friendly Flooring

You’ve probably heard of the term universal design, especially as it’s applied to helping people age within their homes. Yet universal design isn’t an age-specific term; at its core, universal design is about enhancing accessibility, function and performance within a space, regardless of a person’s age or physical condition.
One of the biggest things to consider when incorporating universal design is your flooring. Throw rugs are a no-no, as they can present a trip hazard. Soft carpets are a good choice, especially if they’re not too thick so that the carpet is conducive to wheelchairs, walkers and/or crutches.
Earlier this year, I attended a universal design panel discussion here in Kansas City, and came away with a host of great tips, including top picks for flooring. Non-carpet surfaces are generally favored because they offer little resistance and are relatively easy to clean and maintain. The top three picks include:

1. Tile. Versatile and relatively inexpensive, tile is a top choice for universal design flooring because it comes in a variety of slip-resistant styles, making it a great choice for areas such as the kitchen and bathrooms. Tile is conducive to high mobility and is a budget-friendly option if you’re looking to change your flooring, especially if you’re needing to floor a large area in your home.
2. Hardwoods. Like tile, hardwood floors enhance mobility and, if sealed properly, can handle wear and tear and are easy to keep clean. Hardwood floors add a sophisticated look to any room, and their increasing popularity means hardwood is now available in a range of styles and colors that not only fit any decor scheme, but can also work with any budget.
3. Cork. This eco-friendly material offers high mobility but is also slightly softer than tile or hardwoods, making it an ideal choice if you’re worried about someone falling on a hard surface. It also retains more heat than the aforementioned materials and would be great in a living room or kitchen. Maintain cork much like you would a hardwood floor to keep it in good condition.
Have you thought about universal design in your home? What changes would you like to make?
Photo courtesy of Real Cork Floors

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  • Reply
    sassy girl
    April 1, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Some strategically placed mirrors always help in dark rooms. Large full-length floor mirrors work but wide hanging mirrors with ornate frames have always done wonders for my space.

    • Reply
      April 1, 2008 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you Sassy Girl! I like the mirrors idea a lot. But all the mirrors I like (modern looking), are always so expensive. Any suggestions on where to get this at a reasonable price?

      • Reply
        April 3, 2008 at 8:50 pm

        I would check all of the usual inexpensive subjects — CB2, Ikea, West Elm, Room & Board, etc.

        I also lean more toward using a paler shade on the walls and punching things up with bright accessories — that also allows you more flexibility if you want to change color schemes without completely repainting, too.

        Hope to see a picture when you’re finished!

  • Reply
    April 1, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    One of my friends suggested an orange tone because it might give the living room a more ‘denlike’ feel and also complement the blues in the bedroom and bathroom. Any input?

    • Reply
      Will Barrow
      April 1, 2008 at 11:18 pm

      It sounds like you are open to colors so I say go for it. Blue and orange could be fun for awhile and if you hate it just paint it again. Make sure and check some swatches before you start.

    • Reply
      April 2, 2008 at 6:14 pm

      Orange can be as subtle as off white with a peach undertone. I’ve used it successfully with northern rooms. Especially with blues.

  • Reply
    April 1, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Pick a mirror with a beveled edge which is anything but modern.

  • Reply
    April 2, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I once had a room very similar to this, which only got eastern light. It was painted a color not too far removed from this when I moved in. At first I thought it was a really fun color, but after a while I felt like it was too visually assaulting and that it sort of ‘fought’ with other colors in the room. I painted it some light cream color eventually (I think SW’s Interactive Cream), which lightened it up considerably and gave it a much more serene feel. When my realtor staged it, he went even lighter, something called BM Little Petal I think. While they may not be the most exiting colors, I think they’ll give you much more light, and you can punch the room up with furniture and accessories.

    • Reply
      Charles & Hudson
      April 2, 2008 at 4:30 pm

      Great suggestion. “Yellow” is available in many varieties and it doesn’t always have to be of the “visually assaulting” kind.

  • Reply
    Kathy Price-Robinson
    April 3, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I vote for yellow. I have my office in a walk-out basement that also faces northwest, and I painted the walls a soft, buttery yellow. It tends to be cool down there, and the yellow warms it up. Blue would be a cold disaster in a north-facing room, in my opinion.

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