Aging in place. Renovating a kitchen for your golden years.

Philadelphia and it's surrounding suburbs are filled with seniors and many are choosing to stay in their homes instead of moving to retirement communities. Wether you're disabled or not, it's important to design for the possibility that you may one day be losing your mobility, sight, or hearing. However, you don't have to build an awkward kitchen that will be difficult to resell. Here are some tips to design a kitchen for your golden years and keep it looking sleek.

A well lit kitchen is easy to work in and safer for everyone.

A well lit kitchen is easy to work in and safer for everyone.

1. Lighting.

Keep the kitchen well lit with ambient lighting, task lighting and natural light. Use multiple down lights to evenly light the kitchen, then add under cabinet lights and pendants to light specific work areas. Make sure appliances are well lit and use easy-open window shades or shutters to gain natural light. Modern light switches and outlets are available with light-up covers to make them easy to find. Also, consider mounting outlets and light switches lower to make them easy to reach. 

Large cabinet pulls are easy to grip.

Large cabinet pulls are easy to grip.

2. Cabinets

Choose cabinets and drawers that are easy-open and self-closing. Include pull out drawers in cabinets to avoid having to bend and search for items in the back. Large handles or cup pulls are easier to grip than small knobs. Choose contrasting colors for cabinets and counters so they are easy to see. Wheelchair bound persons will need a lower counter that they can fit their knees under. So, consider an island with a lower portion that you can use with dining height chairs. 

These kitchen islands are movable to gain room for future wheelchair accessibility.

These kitchen islands are movable to gain room for future wheelchair accessibility.

3. Layout

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires doorways to be 36" wide and that appliances have 30" wide by 48" deep areas in front of them (or to the side of dishwashers). When laying out your kitchen, consider adding space between counters or designing a U shape instead of using an island. Another option is to include a movable island that can be adjusted or removed if you ever need the extra space. This kitchen by Jill Neubauer includes a movable island and a lower island that works great as a wheelchair accessible prep counter.

Keep appliances easy to reach and choose large, bright displays.

Keep appliances easy to reach and choose large, bright displays.

4. Appliances

It's important to choose appliances that are easy and safe to use. Too much technology can be confusing, but it can also offer safety features like automatic shutoffs. Look for large, bright displays that are easy to read and knobs that are easy to grip. For wheelchair accessibility, use side by side refrigerators and consider dishwasher drawers. Wall ovens are also easier to reach than conventional ranges. Avoid built-in microwaves installed above the stove as these can be hard to reach. Ranges should have shut off knobs located at the front, so you don't have to reach over the burners. 

Use a sink skirt to keep your sink wheelchair accessible and stylish.

Use a sink skirt to keep your sink wheelchair accessible and stylish.

5. Plumbing

ADA compliant sinks should be lower than typical counter height and be open underneath. This can look odd in a kitchen, so consider adding two sinks. A lower sink can be wheelchair accessible and also great for making your grandkids help with dishes. A second taller sink will be comfortable for other adults. To hide the under sink opening, use a sink skirt like the kitchen above by Patrick Ahearn. Modern faucets offer touch controls to make use easier. Another helpful fixture is the pot filler faucet. Using a pot filler reduces the risk of trips and falls and is easier for seniors with joint pain. 

Like these ideas? Check out our other projects for more Philadelphia kitchen design inspiration.

Create lounge seating in your kitchen

People love to gather in the kitchen, so why not give them a seat? Keep guests happy by creating a comfy area where they can be part of the action, but out of the way. A lounge area in the kitchen is nice for aging relatives who don't want to sit on a bar stool for hours. Tired spouses can nap here and children can read, all while you prepare dinner. Here are 5 tips for using lounge furniture in your kitchen.

This gold sofa keeps guests in the kitchen or lets them get lost in the garden.

This gold sofa keeps guests in the kitchen or lets them get lost in the garden.

Use colorful, cleanable fabrics.

Lounge furniture is a great way to introduce color and pattern. Sofas and chairs are not permanent, so go bold and introduce something hip or odd. You can always switch it out. Make sure you choose fabrics that resist stains like microfiber or sunbrella. This kitchen by Jessica Helgesson makes use of a vintage sofa that adds a touch of fun and glamor.

This corner sofa allows for good flow around the kitchen island. 

This corner sofa allows for good flow around the kitchen island. 

Face the chef, not the trash.

When placing lounge seating, consider the kitchen flow. You don't want guests getting splashed or burned, or smelling the trash bin all evening. Place furniture so that guests can see the cook and other guests around them. Always have a table or window sill near, where friends can set drinks or plates. This kitchen by Eugenia Jesberg creates a cozy nook that's near enough to chat with the chef.

A sunny lounge in the Brooklyn kitchen of Jenna Lyons.

A sunny lounge in the Brooklyn kitchen of Jenna Lyons.

Use upright, supportive seats.

Choose seats that are easy for older guests to get up from. Look for arm rests and higher seat heights (fourteen-sixteen inches). Use upright, supportive backs so guests are comfortable sitting and chatting for long periods of time. Avoid overstuffed, deep lounge furniture that is hard to get up from. This kitchen, decorated by famous J Crew VP Jenna Lyons, makes use of a sunny spot to add overflow seating.

The lounge chairs on the right can swivel to enjoy the fire and the company.

The lounge chairs on the right can swivel to enjoy the fire and the company.

Create multipurpose seating.

Lounge chairs that can swivel or be easily moved are great for multipurpose spaces. If your living room is adjacent to the kitchen, consider a lounge chair that can turn to face both rooms. Multipurpose seating is a great opportunity to tie two spaces together with color, pattern, or texture. This great-room is by famed home design firm Polhemus Savory Desilva

This window seat adds extra storage to our showroom kitchen.

This window seat adds extra storage to our showroom kitchen.

Consider storage.

Every kitchen can use more storage. Add valuable cabinets and drawers above and below your lounge seating. Consider hanging a pot rack or shelves above seats. This kitchen is our beautiful showroom in Northwest Philadelphia. See more at Airy Kitchens

How to Choose a Kitchen Counter, Eight Beautiful and Durable Options

The kitchen designers at Airy Kitchens surveyed our favorite stone suppliers around Pennsylvania. Here's what we found:

This carrara marble creates a bright and elegant counter and backsplash.

This carrara marble creates a bright and elegant counter and backsplash.

1) Marble is classic and timeless. This durable stone will last a lifetime... with some maintenance. Marble is available in a wide range of colors, but white is the most popular. Different varieties of white can be very inconsistent in color and pattern, so make sure you see the slab before buying.

Pros: Marble is the only natural stone available in a soft white color. Marble's natural cool temperature makes it perfect for baking. You can set a hot pan on marble and use it outdoors.

Cons: Marble will easily stain and needs to be resealed every 6-12 months. Acidic foods like lemon and tomato will etch the surface and it will scratch easily. This stone works better for folks who like a natural weathered patina because it's hard to keep it looking new.

This leathered finish granite has a softer look and feel.

This leathered finish granite has a softer look and feel.

2) Granite is durable and beautiful. While some darker colors may look subtle, most granites have distinct patterns of iridescent speckles and swirls. Most granite is inexpensive compared to other natural stones, but rare types can get pricey.

Pros: Granite gives a show stopping look and is durable. It comes in many colors and resists scratching well. You can set a hot pan on it and use it outdoors. 

Cons: Granite is not subtle, so it will be the star of your kitchen. If you want to use other colorful, patterned tiles or curtains, it may get busy. This natural stone can stain and needs to be resealed yearly.

This soapstone has distinctive veining with a hint of green.

This soapstone has distinctive veining with a hint of green.

3) Soapstone has a soft look and feel. Most soapstone is grey and will darken over time to black. This can happen naturally or you can wax it to darken the color. Soapstone can scratch, but scratches can also be sanded out. 

Pros: Soapstone is chemically inert, meaning bacteria won't grow on it. This stone will not stain or etch and you do not have to apply chemical sealers. You can put a hot pan on it and use it outdoors.

Cons: Soapstone is only available in blacks, grays, and greens. It is more expensive than granite and marble. The natural patina can look dirty and waxing is needed every few months to give a consistent finish.

Quartz looks neat and clean in a solid color.

Quartz looks neat and clean in a solid color.

4) Quartz is a manmade product combining natural quartz chips with resin and color. This material is harder and more solid than granite, but it doesn't have the beautiful patterns found in natural stones. 

Pros: Quartz will not stain and is very hard to scratch. It doesn't need to be sealed or maintained. Quartz is available in every color you can imagine.

Cons: Quartz is more expensive than most granite and marble. It is heat resistant, but you cannot leave a hot pan on it or use it outdoors.

Butcher block counters add warmth to painted cabinets.

Butcher block counters add warmth to painted cabinets.

5) Butcherblock counters are a great way to add warmth and a touch of nature to your kitchen. These counters are available in an assortment of wood types and can be stained a variety of colors. Butcher block will show its age faster than stone and needs regular maintenance, but scratches and stains can be sanded away.

Pros: Butcherblock is inexpensive and easy to DIY. Wood is warmer and softer than stone, making it kid friendly and less likely to shatter a dropped glass. 

Cons: Wood will get mildew around water sources and can crack with age. These counters should be oiled every 2-3 months. You should not put a hot pan on these nor can they be used outdoors.

Concrete counters introduce texture and a consistent color to this kitchen.

Concrete counters introduce texture and a consistent color to this kitchen.

6) Concrete counters are strong and can be poured on site. This makes them a possibility where other counters can't fit without a seam. Concrete looks industrial, but it needs upkeep.

Pros: Concrete is customizable and has a unique look. You can put hot pans on it and use it outdoors.

Cons: Concrete is more likely to crack than stone or wood and it's expensive. It is very easy to stain, and must be sealed for food use. 

This quartzite counter has a distinct look

This quartzite counter has a distinct look

7) Quartzite is a natural stone with beautiful patterns and colors. This expensive oddity is becoming more popular in stone yards everywhere.

Pros: Quartzite is scratch resistant and will not etch. It is durable and beautiful. You can put a hot pan on it and use it outdoors.

Cons: Quartzite will stain and needs to be sealed yearly. Most varieties are more expensive than granite or marble.

Stainless looks great outdoors

Stainless looks great outdoors

8) Stainless counters are durable and can be easily customized like with this seamless sink. They are great for outdoor use, but will get hot in the sun. Easily scratched, stainless quickly develops a beautiful aged patina.

Pros: Stainless steel will not stain and you can put a hot pan on it. The metal surface will reflect light in your kitchen.

Cons: These counters will show more dirt and smudges than stone. Stainless can be noisy to work on and it can dent if you stand on it or drop something heavy.