In the design phase, Carol Sundstrom of röm architecture studio builds in a layer of ¾-inch plywood beneath the drywall. “We then can add grips, bars, pulls, pulleys, poles—whatever works for the homeowner or their guests.”
Grab bars (1) don’t have to look institutional, says Kahn. “Some of the new designs are ergonomic and attractive. There’s no excuse for not making something beautiful.”
Falls in the home occur most often in the bathroom, where moisture and slippery surfaces meet. “Use small floor tiles (2),” advises Rob Van Varick of Michael Graves Architecture & Design. “More grout means better traction.”
Color blocking (3) can prevent slips or falls by helping users distinguish foreground from background. “When you’re stepping into a white or beige shower, you can lose complete perception of where the corners and the floors meet,” says Tom Rowe of Michael Graves Architecture & Design.
Increasingly, homeowners are swapping bathtubs for roll-in showers (4). “Bathtubs are impractical and not very sustainable,” explains Nakhshab. Walk-in tubs can also be costly. “We do curbless showers with a shower seat (5) and handheld showerheads (6),” he adds. Place unobstructed controls near the entrance (7) in case assistance is needed.
Linear drains (8) at the shower’s edges keep roll-in surfaces flat. Experts recommend waterproofing the walls up to four feet high (9), and coating surfaces with penetrating sealer.
Interior designer Michael A. Thomas installs a whole-house anti-scald valve on the water heater to ensure the temperature never goes above 120 degrees.
Nakhshab prefers automated lighting in bathrooms. “When you get up in the middle of the night and it’s dark, you can stumble. The fixture senses when you walk in, and it pops on, minimizing a potential accident.”
For adults, ADA guidelines recommend the toilet seat be installed 17 to 19 inches above the floor (10); many brands offer “comfort height” options in this range. While the natural inclination is to center the commode on a wall, placing it off to the side provides extra space for mobility equipment or caregiver access.
Hanging a towel bar—which can double asa support—over a roll-in sink can disguise exposed plumbing (11).