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Universal design meets style at bath, kitchen show in Las Vegas


A grab bar for the bathroom shower that makes you think pretty before old. A kitchen drawer for trash that makes you think wow before useful. A kitchen faucet with temperature presets that says "looks elegant" before "avoids burns."

Technology was everywhere at the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. But often behind the lighted musical commodes was an effort to make the activities of daily life easier for all ages and abilities without sacrificing aesthetics.

There's been a "night and day difference" in the past five years in what's being offered to enable people to age in place, said Mary Jo Peterson, whose Connecticut-based interiors firm specializes in accessible design.

"Manufacturers are waking up and saying, 'I need to do something,' " to be part of the market for universal design, a concept that refers to designing for people of every age and ability, said Peterson.

Several companies displayed automated cupboard doors that require no handles. Europeans have been using them for years, but only recently have they become popular in this country, said Dennis Bean, sales official for Salice, their maker.

Just changing the color inside a drawer makes its contents easier to see. Lighted floor tiles, induction stoves and oversize shower stalls also were shown.

Installing LED strips around medicine cabinets or in drawers and cabinets also can help people see what's inside more easily. LEDs don't get hot, and they're discreet and efficient.


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