Universal Design / Aging in Place Bathroom in Mpls.

Vision Impaired Widow Finds Comfort & Function in Bathroom Remodel

The need for Universal Design and/or Aging in Place Design is becoming more and more common and needed in our aging, society of increasing life expectancy. Murphy Bros. design/build CAPs certified expert Cherie Poissant explains some of the unique elements that went into this project which touch on both disciplines.

"In this particular case, my client, Dorothy, a widow, wanted to stay in the home she has lived in for decades. No surprise, most adults over 65 say they do too. But this 1920's home was not constructed with the principles of Universal or Aging-in-Place design concepts, which is true with most homes on the market these days. She also suffers from macular degeneration, which affects central vision. As is the case with senior clients dealing with vision issues, I needed to pay close attention to lighting and color that would give her peripheral vision cues. I chose a high contrast color scheme in the design to make navigating the room easier and safer," explains Poissant. "In addition, every wall and contact point, such as the the towel racks and TP dispenser also doubles as a grab bar to address fall prevention, which is a huge issue with the elderly."

Also featured in the design is a quick-drain walk-in tub which was also specified for comfort, maximum functionality and safety. Additional lighting was also essential to the design in order to address Dorothy's vision issues. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in U.S. adults over 65.

Design/Build Consultant—Cherie Poissant

Photography—Alyssa Lee

Note grab bar above TP role and towel rack and tub faucet.

Before remodeling conditions shows original materials, limited access and storage

As you can see the original pink plastic tile, dated tub, and tiny vanity, and no storage, typical of homes in the 1920's, also limited access through a single narrow entry. And, take note of the typical non-privacy window, which was in pretty bad shape, is so close to neighbors side entrance. Nothing like having to choose privacy over natural light—or the reverse. Now she has both the daylight she needs to actually use the bathroom and the privacy we all want. Because this was an older home built with 2 x 6 floor joists we needed to bolster the carrying load under the new bathtub with additional structural support.

Existing bathroom floor plan

New floor plan

"Light was really the inspiration for this project," recalls Poissant. "When I first met with Dorothy, she brought out this beautiful little tiffany style lamp that she just loved and wanted to see these mosaic of colors used in the design. You will see the same colors in the ceiling light and in the glass tile treatment on the walls surrounding the entire bathroom. In order to enlarge the bathroom for improved navigation and additional storage we had to remove a small closet. We use that change to design an elevated cabinet to showcase the lamp that was the foundation for the entire design.

To gain more space for the custom vanity, and to increase the ease of use the toilet was relocated next to the new walk-in tub and an adjacent closet outside the bathroom was sacrificed. The vanity was designed, again with contrasting materials, at a raised height for ease of use. An additional cabinet was added in the corner with a raised platform to tie in and showcase the tiffany lamp.

Homeowner Dorothy relaxing in her walk-in sub, frosted window behind let's in plenty of additional light while protecting her privacy.

Original tiffany style lamp Dorothy wanted to use as the basis for her color schemes.

Memorabilia shelf and hallway lighting to match scheme in bathroom.

In order to get the tub in the bathroom we had to cut into the opposite wall. That gave Dorothy an idea. She saw this as an opportunity to bring even more light into the area and asked if we could design something like a window in that wall. He did better than that. Master carpenter Mark Arntzen created a memorabilia shelf with a clear glass backing. Now Dorothy has a more light in a dark hallway and a showcase for a tribute to her late husband who was a physics professor at St. Thomas. We also added lighting to the hallway to make sure Dorothy could navigate the hallway safely.

  • Vanity Countertop: Berkeley 3cm Cambria Surface
  • Vanity base: Custom cherry w/White Melamine Interior
  • Vanity light is Feiss VS21304ORBH 9.75H x 29.5W.Bulbs 75 watt A 19
  • Bath ceiling light - Quoizel TFAV1714VB Vintage Bronze- Dark bronze with lighter bronze highlight and semi gloss finish 2-60W A 19 Medium Base (13W CFL) Shade: Tiffany Glass - 14" x 5" Tiffany Ava Glass Contains 342 Pieces of Tiffany Glass
  • Wainscoting walls set 12x12" marble with decorative glass
  • band 3" and top with marble chair rail. Tub deck surround set
  • 12x12" marble and 13.5" glass band running around all three
  • walls top with marble chair rail.

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