Moen bathroom

Aesthetically accessible

Designing and constructing a bathroom space that’s accessible to people of all abilities and ages is becoming much easier, with more beautiful results than ever.

Photo courtesy Moen


Sarah O’Donovan

Whether you know it as ‘liveable housing’ or ‘universal housing’ this mindful method of designing and building involves factoring in our diverse and ageing population when designing and constructing homes.

Australians are living to older ages and staying independent in their homes longer, which means the typical Australian house is also changing.

Consider what ‘forever’ really means when building a young and able-bodied client’s ‘forever home’. Does the ensuite plus guest bathroom – to later become the childrens’ bathroom – come to mind? Perhaps you focus on storage options and a bathtub, again accommodating the traditional growing family.

Today, homeowners are staying in their houses long after those kids have grown up and moved out. Many are simply adapting their homes to suit their changing needs and lifestyle, rather than moving into care facilities. This means taking a more future-conscious approach toward building design is essential for Australian homes of tomorrow.

Whether this means including preliminary measures such as reinforcing walls to withstand grab bars where they may be needed years later, or getting straight into it with accessible product choices, there are solutions to suit almost any style, budget and requirements.

Generally, there are three levels of accessibility a home can achieve: liveable housing which is designed to meet the changing needs of most occupants without major demolition or construction in the future; adaptable housing which can easily become accessible if and when the need arises; and accessible housing which is designed to meet the needs of those requiring higher levels of access from the outset.

When designing an adaptable or liveable home, space should be a high priority from the beginning

When accessibility isn’t immediately required in a home, liveability – or better yet, adaptability –should be the ambition. Reinforced walls and large open spaces can make all the difference when it comes time to renovate for universal access.

When it comes to bathrooms, accessible and adaptable bathroom design might be easier to achieve than you imagine: it can start as simply as opting for lever taps and larger light switches.

Lever taps are much easier to operate for those with low or deteriorating strength in their hands and arms, and rocker light switches are much more user-friendly when they are large, visible, and accessible from 900–1100mm up from the finished floor.

Another simple way to maximise accessibility in an ordinary bathroom is to opt for a hobless shower – a selection many homeowners already lean toward for the sleek appearance.

Having a continuing flat surface between the bathroom space and the shower ensures a safe entry for those with mobility constraints, vision impairment or young children. It also allows effortless movement of wheelchairs, frames or shower seats in and out of the shower.

When designing an adaptable or liveable home, space should be a high priority from the beginning. Turning circles for wheelchairs vary in size but the minimum space recommended in Australia is 1550mm in front of bathroom basins or beside them.

To maximise accessibility, there are plenty of options already available in the Australian market.

Moen bathroom
Maximise accessibility with a hobless shower
Photo courtesy Moen
Reece bathroom
The Armitage Shanks Sensorflow uses a motion sensor to activate water from the basin tap
Photo courtesy Reece

Caroma offers a range of products designed specifically for users with limited access and mobility that can also be used comfortably by any other homeowner. Their range includes toilet suites, raised buttons, basins, grab rails and more, blending the company’s reliable stylishness with comfort and practicality.

One example, the Virtu Comfort Shower Seat, is a comfortable and compact seat designed for installation and use in the shower. It holds a maximum load of 160kg and folds up neatly against the shower wall when not in use. This product is designed for longevity with self-draining and fade-resistant features. Caroma’s toilet suite backrests provide comfort and support for any occupant without compromising on style.

Another useful product is available through Reece. The Armitage Shanks Sensorflow uses a motion sensor to activate water from the basin tap, requiring minimal effort and reach from users. Also from Reece, the American Standard Cygnet Twin Shower gives users the best of both worlds by offering a stay-in-place overhead shower head in addition to a hand shower attachment – providing much more flexibility for those showering in a sitting position.

Integrating smart features also ensures a bathroom is accessible to all homeowners of the future. While touch and motion sensors for taps and toilets minimise the amount of physical strength and mobility required to operate the appliances, there are even more options. Some smart home systems and connected smart bathroom appliances – such as the U by Moen – allow homeowners to turn their shower or bath on remotely, negating the need to lean, crouch or stretch and ensuring temperature is optimal by the time the user steps into the water.

Many are simply adapting their homes to suit their changing needs and lifestyle

While the U by Moen is only available in the USA and Canada, it’s expected we will soon be seeing the trends in American universal design here on our own home turf. In the USA the universal design concept has been just another building consideration for some time and companies have begun to seamlessly integrate accessible design into ordinary products. This makes it easier than ever before for builders to create an accessible home that looks just like any other stylish, sophisticated home.

Moen’s grab bar collection consists of multipurpose grab bars which have been modified to offer a second use hidden behind a clever disguise. This collection discreetly fits out a stylish bathroom in entirety: one grab bar becomes a toilet roll holder, another becomes a towel rack, and another becomes a shower shelf. With this combination, three out of four walls are fitted with the safety of grab bars and the practicality of storage, all with the appearance of any other bathroom.

What will 2018 bring?

Universal design is high on the agenda for HIA this year with a helpful and inspirational guide underway. Further down the track HIA members will see universal design training opportunities and more. But if you need inspiration in the meantime check out the K&B Design Guide which has a dedicated ‘liveable design’ chapter full of enviably spacious bathrooms with neat ideas for streamlining accessibility without compromising style.

Moen grab bar
Discreet multipurpose grab bars
Photo courtesy Moen
Moen bathroom
The U by Moen allows homeowners to turn their shower or bath on remotely
Photo courtesy Moen

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