The Universal Design movement is something that has been on the rise for years. The principles of Universal Design are simple: design an environment so that it can be used by everyone, regardless of age or ability level. It's relatively easy to design a home when you factor in these principles! In this blog post we'll cover some universal design examples in homes, as well as the origin and benefits of Universal Design.

What Is Universal Design?

Universal design is a concept that has its roots in the idea of creating spaces, buildings, and products with an intention to be usable by all people. This means that any space can be used by anyone regardless of their abilities or needs. This can become particularly useful later in life, for those looking to build the home they will retire and grow old in.

A basic principle of UD includes ensuring equal opportunity for everyone in society- no matter what circumstances they are born into- to participate fully in everyday life. Despite this concept's apparent simplicity, many architects, designers, builders and homeowners don't incorporate universal design principles into their custom homes, and later regret it.

Universal Design Principles For Home Building

There are 7 basic principles of Universal Design. They are:

Principle 1: Equitable Use

The design needs to be useful to people with diverse abilities.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use

The design of this house can accommodate different people, no matter their abilities.

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use

The design of this is very easy to understand. People who are good at it, people who are new at it, and people who cannot focus will all be able to use it.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information

This design is good because it makes sure you know how to use it even if there are things in your way or you can't see.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error

The design helps to prevent accidents.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort

The design of the home is efficient and people can use it without getting too tired.

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

The space of each room is appropriate for different people, no matter a person's size. The rooms should allow ample space for the activity and intended purpose.

The 7 Universal Design Principles are not complicated, but if followed help to ensure that your custom home is able to be used even in the later stages of life.

Universal Design Examples In Homes

To make sure you grasp how Universal Design could be implemented in your new custom home. Here are some examples:

  • Caring for a loved one with mobility limitations.
  • Getting around the house with ease, even in wheelchairs or walkers.
  • Universal Design architecture that designs spaces that are accessible to people of any size and ability.

These principles have been applied at varying degrees at hundreds of public buildings, office settings, classrooms and homes across the nation. Most commercial and government buildings incorporate universal design principles to accommodate the wide range of people who might use them. While this isn't probably a concern to the residential home owner, it shows that the principles do work.

Universal Design Architecture

Some examples of universal design in the home are ramps and walkways with a level, flat surface that can be easily traversed by those who use wheelchairs. Doors should also be constructed so that they do not have thresholds which might present an obstacle for those using mobility aids such as a wheelchair.

Spaces are intentionally designed to allow accessibility to people of any size and ability. Stairs and steps are often avoided when using UD principles, as they can become troublesome later in life.

Universal Kitchen Design

Designing a kitchen with universal principles in mind often includes islands that can be accessed by everyone. Countertops and sinks are level to ensure comfort while cooking. Some also prefer a slight counter height difference as it reduces the need for bending over while working on tasks.

A kitchen island should also have an easy-to-install backsplash which is ADA compliant. There are options, like above, to consider when building your custom home, if you're concerned about accessibility issues later in life.


Though you may not think about it now, accessibility can be a big concern later in life. Universal design principles are important and there are plenty to consider when looking at your home's layout. Talk with our architect today if universal design is something that interests you!

Additional Reading:

Best Places to Live in Sacramento

Building a New Home Checklist

Pros & Cons of Building a Custom Home

Cost to Build a Custom Home