Monday, February 1, 2010

In Which I Talk About The Home And Garden Show

So the Tacoma Home and Garden Show on Saturday was fantastic! There were literally hundreds of different displays-- everything from flower seed vendors (I bought myself some purple poppies) to roofers to cookware sellers to interior designers. It was really neat to get a chance to see the latest products and to get an idea of some of the trends for 2010!

We didn't linger over any particular site because Connor was a tad bit (read: WAY WAY WAY) overstimulated what with the crowd and the noise and the lights, so we just did a quick run-through of everything. It still took us almost three hours just to go through all the displays, though, which tells you how big the show was!

While I enjoyed looking around at all of the gorgeous displays, I really had my eye out for evidence of Universal Design. Universal Design, for those of you who don't know, is based around the idea of designing beautiful spaces and objects for use by everyone-- not just those between the ages of 14 and 70 without any disabilities. Our home is being remodeled using Universal Design principles, and to my mind they make perfect sense; in fact I sort of wonder why it's taken so long to catch on. It's getting harder and harder to visit the homes of a lot of our friends; almost all of the homes around here have entryways with a number of steps up to the front porch, as well as narrow hallways and bathrooms. There's also the fact that people age and can no longer stay in homes with long stairways, inaccessible storage, and so on, not to mention that injury or illness can strike without warning at any age, making living in a nonaccessible space extremely difficult. You can read more about the principles of Universal Design here.

While formerly a luxury trend, the good news is that it looks like Universal Design is finally starting to trickle down into mainstream design! French door refrigerators with wheelchair-friendly bottom freezers were standard fare in almost all of the display kitchens. Front loading washers and dryers were also in evidence, and we saw several accessible toilets and roll-in showers. There were a few vendors who even had displays that specifically mentioned accessible design and pictured some beautiful examples. Most, if not all of these were directed at those who wished to "age-in-place," however, and I never actually saw the words Universal Design mentioned anywhere.
There were still a lot of examples of the type of nursing-home/hospital THIS PERSON IS DISABLED AND THEREFORE WON'T CARE IF THEIR HOUSE IS UGLY design that has no doubt been frustrating disabled homeowners for years. With one lovely stainless steel exception all of the grab bars I saw were the white ho hum variety. There were also a number of hideous prefab roll-in shower designs (I know they're supposed to be inexpensive, but surely it is possible to design a remotely attractive accessible one that doesn't have the white molded tile, right?) and several prominently displayed walk-in tubs, which have yet to graduate from the all-white-acrylic-box look. Jacuzzi has made a slight effort, offering theirs in almond, white, oyster and black, and outfitting them with jet and Chromatherapy lighting systems, but they still have a long way to go on the appealing design front.
I saw zero examples of accessible landscaping, however. That was sort of depressing.

Anyway, back to the good stuff! I saw several companies that would retrofit cabinets for sliding shelves. Also in evidence was the current trend of oversized cabinet pulls, which offered a lot of variety. My personal favorites were these awesome climbing guys from the Soko San Francisco Manhandles collection, which were way, way out of my price range. But hey, a girl can dream, right? Wouldn't they be fantastic on those built-ins in Connor's room?

I'm encouraged by what I saw at the show, and am hopeful that Universal Design principles will continue to trickle down into more affordable ranges for those of us that don't have huge design budgets but want to keep our houses looking like homes and not medical facilities. I'll be headed to the Seattle Home Show in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to see what I'll find there!

1 comment:

Julia said...

We live in an old Victorian, which is charming as heck but very stairsy. Both my parents have severe joint problems now, and it's very difficult for them to get around when they visit. Our nextdoor neighbor, age 84, just had a bad stroke. In addition to other grave concerns, he is now in a wheelchair, and his wife has no idea how they're going to adapt to living in their home (a Victorian, like ours). We're wondering if they'll have to sell. It does seem ridiculous *not* to incorporate UD principles into modern construction.

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