How to Get an Accessible Kitchen Design

Your home should be a refuge, and leave you feeling comfortable in every room.  This means your home design must reflect not only your personal tastes, but also the functional needs of the household.  Every family is unique, and the requirements of the family members change over time depending on the stage of life. 

No place is this more evident than in the kitchen, which tends to be the hub of family life.  A kitchen design for a large family with young children may look very different to one targeted to a couple planning to age in place.  The family with young children may require a designated homework space or a secondary snack refrigerator away from the oven.  On the other hand, a kitchen intended for family members with limited mobility may target features designed to make the space more accessible and easy to use.

There are many ways to incorporate features that will stand the test of time if you plan to age in your current home.  Here are a few key areas to consider:

Easy access storage:

Customized storage is a great idea for any kitchen design, but it is especially important when you are planning around mobility.  Easy access makes the kitchen a much more accessible space and can be incorporated into any style kitchen. 

Wherever possible, include pull out shelves, lazy susans, or corner pull outs.  Pull outs in a pantry make it much simpler to see and manage food items.  They are also useful in accessing small appliances, making it easier to find and lift items that would otherwise strain your back, knees, and shoulders.

Similarly, drawers are an ideal option to store, organize, and access a range of kitchen tools including utensils, pots and pans, dishes, and much more.  Add a peg system to keep dishes better organized, and store heavier items where you do not have to bend low or reach high to access them.

Height and distance:

When mobility is a concern, the last thing you want is to have to reach high or low, or to carry heavy items from one location to the next.  A kitchen remodeling project always starts with a well-planned layout, and the kitchen intended for aging in place must carefully consider where to locate key items. 

Things you need on a regular basis, like the microwave oven, should be at or below counter height so you do not have to reach high.   If counter space is limited, opt for an under counter built-in microwave. 

Consider the distances between key work areas such as the sink, oven, and fridge.  Make sure you have easy access from the sink to the oven, and perhaps include a pot filler at the range for filling heavy pots with water.  Identify a safe landing spot for hot trays and pots near the oven.  Make sure you have easy access from the sink to the dishwasher and the trash or recycling area.

Ease of movement:

Your kitchen design can facilitate easy movement around the room by opting for a simple style.  Keep surfaces flush and avoid anything that juts out and could cause an accident.  For example, counter depth appliances, rounded edge countertops, and simple kitchen cabinets make it easier to navigate the room.  A simple style also makes cleaning the kitchen easier, which is a benefit at any age!  Similarly, make sure you have adequate clearance around all storage areas and appliances, so you can easily maneuver, open oven and refrigerator doors, and take things in and out of cabinets.


We all know that kitchens are prone to mess, particularly water, dirt, and grease spills.  This can complicate efforts to clean, but more importantly make the floor very slippery.  Take extra caution to minimize the risk of slipping by installing a floor with better grip.  A textured surface allows steadier footing, so carefully investigate your flooring choices and ask your design expert for more advice.