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Is Open Bathroom Knee Space a New Trend in Aging-in-Place Design?

by Mike Dodd, Home Remodeling Expert
August 07, 2015

Question: I recently heard of a new aging-in-place trend of having an open knee space in bathroom designs. Can you explain this?


An open knee space in a bathroom is actually not a new trend.  Many bathrooms historically have had open knee spaces for seating, predominantly used by women for purposes of applying make up.  In more recent times, those same areas have been utilized for access by an individual using a wheelchair.  Given the normal configuration of a bathroom vanity cabinet with storage below a countertop, an open space for seating or a wheelchair is certainly something that would have to be considered and planned for at the design stage.


Traditional vanity cabinets of yesteryear were 30" in height.  Today the norm is 36", a much more comfortable height, even for vertically-challenged folks! If the space is to accommodate a wheelchair, care must be taken to determine the correct height of the countertop in order for the wheelchair to physically pass under it.  The traditional countertop depth of 21 to 22 inches could very well be increased to 25 inches to create a larger working area, especially if there is a lavatory sink in the equation.  The most important consideration remains the ability of a wheelchair user to roll under the countertop and access both the countertop space and the sink/faucet controls (if one is present).  We like to mount faucets at a 45 degree angle to the sink in many instances where the countertop is deeper than normal so that the user can reach and operate it.  If the faucet is behind the sink in its normal location and the countertop is 3 to 4 inches deeper than the traditional installation, reaching it in and of itself can be an additional challenge that would be self-defeating.


Aging in place design is important, but universal design techniques, such as described here, are able to be used by anyone of any age.  It really boils down to common sense and incorporating that into the design.  We would be delighted to share our design thoughts through our consultative services.

Mike Dodd is the founder and President of Lifewise Renovations, that combines home remodeling project management with the expertise of health care professionals, to make it possible live safely and comfortably at home regardless of age or physical ability. As a member of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Mike holds the Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) designation.

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