Designing A Two Story Home: Things to Consider

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6 Tips for Designing a Two-Story Home 

You’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and you know you’re ready. It’s time to build your forever home, one you can live in comfortably now and into your retirement years.

With many people in Tallahassee deciding to age in place–live in their homes as long as possible–it makes sense to think about doing what you can now to make your home accessible for when you’re older.

Not that aging in place design is only for older people. It’s really just good design that can accommodate people of all ages or ability whether it be from injury, handicap or age.

Many people are also planning to have an  older family member live with them and will need a design that accommodates their needs. Is it possible to design a two-story home with aging in place in mind? The answer is a resounding yes!

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#1. Thing to Consider When Designing a Two Story Home: Primary Bedroom On the Main Floor

The most important thing to consider in a two-story home is whether or not you can make it possible for all living to take place on the main level. Age or injury may make stairs difficul to navigate. 

This means a bedroom, a full bathroom, the kitchen, and a living room need to be on the first floor, with no steps separating the spaces (no sunken living room, for example).

You can design your Tallahassee home with the master on main to begin with (around 40% of new builds now include a master on main), or you can modify it later. You could include a large living room in your design, with a home office connected to it, planning to section off part of the living room for a bedroom when the time comes, and then make the home office into a bathroom.

An easy way to do this is to include rough plumbing in the home office walls, ready to go when you are. You could also skip the half-bath powder room on the main floor and install a full bathroom with a curbless shower, for ease of use.

Master Bathroom Remodeling

#2. Universal Design for Bathrooms

For single story or two story homes the most common remodel to support aging in place is the bathroom. If you design your bathroom now with future concerns in mind, you won’t need to remodel it later.

Making the primary bathroom large enough to accommodate a wheelchair is a great place to start. You will want a curbless shower with at least two grab bars and a bench. A shower head that moves up and down on a rail will easily serve someone who is sitting or standing. 

  • You could install a raised toilet, with a grab bar nearby. This can be disguised as a toilet paper holder.
  • If you love baths, make sure the bottom of the tub is non-slip, add some grab bars, and make the edge wide enough to sit on.
  • Vanities should be low enough to accommodate a seated person, so aim for a height of about 34 inches.
  • A nice perk is lighting that comes on when you enter the room. 
  • And non-slip flooring is a must for safety both now and later!

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#3. Making A Two Story Home More Accessible With A Residential Elevator

If you building a new two story home and want to make the second floor accessible, consider preparing the house for an residential elevator. You can of course just include the elevator in the intial design but you can also design the house so one can be added later. The easiest way to do this by stacking two walk-in closets one on top of the other. Make sure there is a solid foundation under the lower closet that can support an elevator. Building your closets this way now allows you to install an in-home elevator later on when you need it. 

In lieu of an elevator you can also 

  • make your stairway straight and wide now, to later easily accommodate a chair lift. 
  • build in large landings to make maneuvering easier (for people and also for large pieces of furniture). 
  • install sturdy railings on both sides of the stairs, and make sure there is good lighting in stairways.
  • carpet the stairs, or add non-slip tread.

All of these ideas make getting to the second story easier both now and in the future. It’s possible to keep using the second story longer, even when you or a loved one finds it harder to get around, if you make stairs as easy to use as you can.

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#4. A Kitchen For Everyone

Even in a two story home kitchens are usually on the main floor. After bathrooms, kitchens are the most re-designed areas for those looking to make their homes more accessible.

If you are designing a home, you can incorporate a few ideas now that will make it easier to age in place.

  • Again, keep in mind the needs of someone in a wheelchair or who needs to sit often.
  • Keep counters low or have varying heights to accommodate sitting or standing.
  • Store most-used items no higher than 48 inches above the ground.
  • Use deep drawers on lower cabinets–so much easier to access both now and later–and consider using pull-down shelves on upper cabinets.
  • Put the microwave on the counter instead of above the range.
  • Use a side-by-side fridge for easy access to both fridge and freezer.
  • Consider installing a kitchen island at chair level, instead of stool or counter level.

With a little forethought, you can make your kitchen work like a dream both now and later.

Two story home kitchen

#5. Space to Move, Things to Do

Although most new homes already include generous spaces, be sure the home you’re designing has doorways of at least 32 inches, and hallways that are at least 36 inches wide. This allows for ease of movement for wheelchairs and walkers. Your foyer or mudroom should be 40 inches wide and include a space to sit and remove or put on shoes. Consider an open floor plan for easy maneuvering with fewer corners and doorways.

You may not have considered the possibility of being mainly homebound before Covid hit, but the reality is that many seniors are home most of the time. Thinking about ways to connect with the outside world, and stay mentally sharp, from the comfort of home, you might

  • lower windows to provide good views even from a seated position.
  • ensure there is something outside to look at–a body of water, a garden, a bird feeder, a busy sidewalk.
  • make sure there are spaces in your home dedicated to hobbies: a puzzle table, a sewing room, a potting bench, a workshop, a reading nook.
Back Entrance to home

#6. Getting Inside

How easy is it to get in and out of your home? If you can, include a no-step entry that is wide and sheltered from the weather. Often, the easiest place to do this is through the garage.  You will be able to drive your car into a protected area and walk inside without trouble.

If you do include exterior steps in your home plan, make sure they have low risers and some kind of no-slip finish (skid-proof tape, rubber mats, etc). 

A Comfortable Home

Designing your two-story home to accommodate you as you age, suffer injury or plan for an older family member is possible. You can make your home functional and accessible without sacrificing comfort and beauty. And McManus Kitchen and Bath can help! Contact us today to discuss making your home a place you love now and feel secure in later.

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