Design for Safety in Mind
Safety probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you are considering remodeling your home. Maybe you need more room, or you want to make better use of the space you have, or you just want a change in your surroundings. Whatever your reason, you will need to make decisions about furniture, lighting, floor and wall coverings, window treatments, paint and finishes, and dozens of other details. Each of your choices can affect the health and safety of the people in your home.
"A safe home is one in which people can live with the lowest level of risk to their safety," says interior designer Lisa Bonneville, FASID, of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., the author of an ASID ;book on designing a safe home. "That includes risk to their health, risk of injury and risk to their security."
Each room in the home presents a unique set of safety factors to consider. Perhaps you're dreaming of a gourmet kitchen with commercial grade range and ovens, like those master chefs on the TV use. Have you planned for adequate ventilation? Those ovens get hot! Have you checked to see if you can reach across and stir a pot of pasta on the back burner without the risk of burning yourself? If you have children at home, how will you safeguard them against getting too close to a hot surface or open flame?
A spacious multi-head shower is a popular luxury. Did you know that smaller floor tiles give you better traction on slippery wet floors? Use an antimicrobial grout to prevent mold and mildew from forming between the tiles. A number of manufacturers now make decorative shower bars that add style along with an extra measure of safety. Consider also making the entry stepless and add a seating area to reduce the risk of falls, which are the most common cause of injury in the home.
Safe doesn't have to mean stodgy. In her book, Bonneville describes how she used decorative patterns of tile and contrasting colors to help prevent injury by subtly calling attention to counters, steps and islands in the kitchen, bathroom, spa room and outside on the patio and around the pool. She selected a matte finish for the granite countertops in the kitchen that not only looks chic but enhances the safety of the work surface by reducing glare and providing contrast.
10 Steps to a Safe Home
Even if you're not ready for a major remodel, make safety a part of your next spruce up. Here are some tips from Bonneville:
- When replacing bedding, select natural fiber fabrics. They provide soft comfort, are low maintenance and healthier.
- Add path lighting to bedrooms and bathrooms to provide clear navigation at night.
- Low-pile, tight-loop rugs add warmth without impeding mobility.
- Multiple lighting sources add drama and provide ample illumination for common household tasks.
- Install "D" style handles or pull hardware on cabinetry for a finished look and ease of use.
- Use only cordless shades or blinds in a nursery or child's room.
- Carpet hardwood stair treads for color and contrast and to provide a non-slip surface.
- Line drapery to provide privacy and improve room acoustics.
- Reorganize shelves and pantry to place commonly used and heaviest items within easy reach.
- Make sure you have a place inside the kitchen for a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and flashlight.