Homeowners who have kitchen makeovers on their minds are often triggered by a living space that no longer accommodates their family’s needs or preferences. The kitchen may be excessively outdated, lack sufficient cabinet and/or counter space, or the room may not be optimally configured to maximize space. These are all sound reasons to plan a kitchen renovation. But before you get seduced by “all the pretty colors” and a virtually limitless list of options from captivating cabinet styles and configurations to tony tiles and backsplashes, take your foot out of the showroom and put your future goggles on.

Gen Xers and Baby Boomers Plan on Staying Home

If you are among the 43% of 45- to 65-year-olds that anticipate remaining in their current residence throughout their retirement (source: USA Today), you may want to make some additional nips and tucks to your kitchen renovation blueprint. Here are three key elements to take into account to ensure your kitchen retains its functionality. Furthermore, retaining usability as your physical abilities moderate over time is a must. Remodeling with an eye to the future can not only provide you with peace of mind and a beautiful kitchen now but a future that is safe and comfortable.

1. Custom cabinets with removable fronts

Cabinets that are universal design capable are no longer ugly or institutional. Beautiful custom cabinets with stunning finishes and fashion conscience door styles can feature a view on the horizon and the physical limitations the future may bring.

Custom cabinets can be designed with removable fronts to become wheelchair or scooter-friendly. Island cabinets can be designed to use sitting down. Eating counters should be table height with chairs or low stools. Counter-height stools can be dangerous for seniors—both feet on the floor are the safest way to go.  Some cabinets, such as dishwasher cabinets, can raise in height to make loading and unloading easier on the back.

2. Keep it safe and within arm’s reach

The safest place to store anything in the kitchen is in the base cabinets. Falls from step stools are a major hazard in the kitchen. So, pulling items down on top of oneself presents another risk. Tall pullout pantries are a good place to store dry goods. However, the pantry cabinet should be no taller than the user.

Dish and glassware drawers eliminate the need for hard-to-reach wall cabinets and can open up a wall for more windows to provide natural light and a nice view. Studies prove that bright sunny rooms prevent depression and improve mood overall– a real plus for aging-in-place design. A bright sunny kitchen also cuts down on the electric bill and helps those with low vision. Safety is a huge consideration in kitchen makeovers.

3. Minimizing frustration with open and pullout shelving

Open shelving in islands or base cabinets is another way to keep dishes and glassware within reach.

Frustration and impatience are two common complaints of the elderly. The inability to find things is a number one cause of frustration, so organization in drawers and cabinets is vital. Pull-out shelves assist in finding items that are lost in a dark and difficult-to-access cabinet.

Anything heavy should be on a pull-out shelf such as the mixer, blender, slow cooker, bread machine, etc. This type of shelf protects your back and maximizes storage space. Even your kitchen garbage pail and recycling bins can feature a pullout system. Anything that makes life easier, safer, and less frustrating will be worth it in the years to come.


I hope these tips for kitchen makeovers inspire you. Come back for part two of this series where I’ll cover other aspects of the kitchen, particularly the “work triangle”, appliances, and other clever construction design applications that will both beautify and add comfort and safety to your kitchen long into the future.

— Jennifer Howard, owner + chief designer, JWH Designs & Cabinetry