Factoring in the future

Implementing some planning wisdom into your build will help you design a home that meets your needs, as you get older. Yola Mealing of Stiltz explains

There is an excitement that comes with planning a new build. Alongside the practical aspects such as plumbing, draining, heating and wiring there are also the more design-led choices like choosing a kitchen or landscaping the garden. There is so much time and emotion invested into a self-build that it becomes an intrinsic part of who we are. When we go to these lengths to achieve the house of our dreams, it makes absolute sense to incorporate future needs into the planning.

Ageing in place 

The term ‘ageing in place’ is a buzz phrase that’s made its way across the Atlantic and is now gaining traction in the UK. It means smart builders and renovators are looking to the future and pre-empting the decisions that we all need to make someday. For example; What will happen when the children have flown the nest and we are coming close to retirement? Are we going to have to downsize and move to a single-storey property in advance of growing older? Or do we future-proof the home we lovingly built and which has memories within its walls so that we can continue to live there? In addition to being our largest financial outlay, our home is one of our most emotional investments too. 

Those who self-build or who carry out substantial renovations to their homes in order to personalise them to their own high specifications are especially resistant to having to relocate simply because of the practicalities relating to growing older.

So, what do we need to think about in order to future proof ourselves against making this move? Despite what retirement apartment developers tell us, there really is no need to move house at the first sign of stiff joints or aching limbs. There are solutions available now which can be factored in at the planning and building stage which will make sure that difficult ‘what now’ conversation never needs to happen.

Today’s products designed for accessibility have changed beyond recognition. Attractive modern design is built into the functionality. From smaller, non-fixed items, such as kitchen aids and therapeutic beds to more permanent fixtures like walk-in showers, wet rooms or home lifts, there are many stylish products available that mean all areas of your home will remain accessible to everyone. Even if it’s something we don’t need right away, locking longevity into our homes makes perfect sense – even if these features are only currently used when older relatives come to visit!

One step at a time 

The staircase we choose is often designed to be the centrepiece of a home. Not only is it a focal design point but it also links the communal rooms where we host our loved ones and spend quality time together with our families to our upstairs relaxing and resting spaces. When investing in a self-build or embarking on a major renovation on the home, thinking about mobility between the upper and lower floors is a smart, modern way of developing your key asset.

The main reason for feeling your house no longer works for you is when stairs start to be difficult or painful to use. 

Let’s look at this key component of the house in a bit more depth. We have highlighted some main areas to focus on with regards to stairs from safety, mobility compliance and the all-important aesthetic perspectives.

Open-tread stairs are highly desirable and look amazing but can pose a potential danger to younger children, older people, and those with reduced mobility. Less obviously, steps with deep treads and high risers can also be difficult to manage.

If the staircase you have no longer works for your family, it might be necessary to install a completely new one. There are clear UK Building Regulations relating to replacement stairs and this type of design and installation can be a costly project, with further building disruption and reduced accessibility within your home during the construction phase.

As an alternative to either relocating or creating a new staircase, there might be compelling reasons for fitting a home lift. A home lift can be positioned close to the existing staircase; in some instances (depending on your stairwell configuration), it might even be possible to install a home lift at the turn of your stairs. Alternatively, because the best of today’s contemporary home lifts do not need a supporting wall, you can choose to locate one away from the stairs altogether, either in a living room and have it travel directly to the bedroom or even inside a cupboard if a suitable one exists. 

Home lifts make so much sense and are proving to be an increasingly popular solution. They are quick and easy to install, either at the point of a self-build or as a retrofit when needed. A few brands of home lifts also bring a contemporary design twist too, which is of huge importance. If you’ve invested time, money and effort creating your home exactly as you want it, then a home lift is the perfectly stylish design solution. 

Don’t forget 

Allowing your home to grow and develop with you to accommodate your family’s life cycle needs is the key to ‘ageing in place.’ Make sure you consider locking in ease of access by incorporating future-proofed designs and solutions into your finished build. This will enable enjoyment and ease-of-living for you and your family, now and well into the future.

Yola Mealing is marketing manager at Stiltz