Universal Design: A Home for a Lifetime

Homeowners want a roof that lasts decades, extra bedrooms for children or guests you plan to have, however, design choices are often planned for a single snapshot in time.
However, wider doorframes and barrier free entrances are easier not only for wheelchairs, but also for strollers, roller bags and appliance moving.
Carpet runners on stairs are great for acoustics but also avert falls.
Lever style door handles are easier for all hands or no hands. My hands are almost always full and I open the front door with my elbow. 🙂
Wall ovens are harder for children to reach and are easier on adult backs of all ages, especially at Thanksgiving!
There are many finish and design choices you can incorporate into your home that make life easier for all ages and abilities.  Below are some features you may want to include in your new home, next remodel or future project.
Because bathrooms are the first rooms that fail us when we become disabled short-term or long term from an accident or age, you may want to start there.  They are also expensive to remodel.  A wet room is great now and will work beautifully later in life.


  • Low-maintenance exterior
  • Low-maintenance shrubs and plants

Overall Floor Plan

  • Living area on main floor with open plan, one flex room and one full bath


  • Minimum of 36-inches wide, wider preferred
  • Well lit


  • Accessible path of travel to the home
  • At least one no-step entry with a cover
  • Sensor light at exterior no-step entry focusing on the front-door lock
  • There needs to be 32-inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door
  • Non-slip flooring in foyer
  • Entry door sidelight or high/low peep hole viewer; sidelight should provide both privacy and safety
  • Doorbell in accessible location
  • Surface to place packages on when opening door

Interior Doors

  • There needs to be 32-inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door
  • Levered door hardware


  • Plenty of windows for natural light
  • Lowered windows or taller windows with lower sill height
  • Low maintenance exterior and interior finishes
  • Easy to operate hardware


  • Lever handles or pedal-controlled
  • Thermostatic or anti-scald controls

Kitchen and Laundry


  • Easy to read controls
  • Washing machine and dryer raised 12-15 inches above floor
  • Front loading laundry machines
  • Microwave oven at counter height or in wall
  • Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer
  • Side-swing or wall oven
  • Raised dishwasher with push-button controls
  • Electric cook top with level burners for safety in transferring between the burners, front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user; light to indicate when surface is hot


  • Bracing in walls around tub, shower, shower seat, and toilet for installation of grab bars to support 250-300 pounds
  • If stand-up shower is used in main bath, it is curbless and minimum of 36-inches wide
  • Fold down seat in the shower
  • Adjustable/handheld showerheads, 6-foot hose
  • Tub/shower controls offset from center
  • Shower stall with built-in antibacterial protection
  • Light in shower stall
  • Toilet two and half inches higher than standard toilet (17-19 inches) or height-adjustable
  • Design of the toilet paper holder allows rolls to be changed with one hand
  • Slip-resistant flooring in bathroom and shower

Stairways, Lifts, and Elevators

  • Increased visibility of stairs through contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, color contrast between treads and risers on stairs and use of lighting
  • Multi-story homes may provide either pre-framed shaft (i.e., stacked closets) for future elevator, or stairway width must be minimum of four feet to allow space for lift


  • Adjustable closet rods and shelves
  • Lighting in closets
  • Easy open doors that do not obstruct access

Electrical, Lighting, Safety, and Security

  • Light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms
  • Light receptacles with at least two bulbs in vital places (exits, bathroom)
  • Light switches, thermostats, and other environmental controls placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from floor
  • Electrical outlets 15-inches on center from floor; may need to be closer than 12-feet apart
  • Rocker or touch light switches
  • Easy-to-see and read thermostats
  • Pre-programmed thermostats


  • Smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior
  • Color/texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning

  • HVAC should be designed so filters are easily accessible
  • Energy-efficient units
  • Windows that can be opened for cross ventilation, fresh air
  • Installation of energy efficient windows with Low-E glass

Reduced Maintenance/Convenience Features

  • Easy to clean surfaces
  • Central vacuum
  • Built-in pet feeding system
  • Built-in recycling system

Stumbling Blocks to the Home Sale

Picky, Picky, Picky

Crawl spaces, Small Silly Items and Too Much Technology; some of the issues that slow down, derail or impede a sale.

Just about every home in the last year has had issues in the crawl space.  It could be standing water, wood damage, suspicion of mold, or lack of a vapor barrier.  If a seller does no other pre-inspection on a home, DO A CRAWL SPACE INSPECTION.

Almost everyone knows the basic maintenance items that need to be done regularly on a home and especially before putting it on the market. Recent inspection reports have included what I feel are silly items.  For example, the inspector did not find the switch for an exterior light or for a bathroom fan.  They both were nearby and working.  Lightbulb burned out?  The inspector suggestion is to call a licensed electrician.  SO, label every switch and make sure all lights work as they should.

In the last month a new issue has been included in inspection reports.  The size of step risers.  I have had two that say the risers are 1/2 inch too short.  One buyer asked for the steps to be replaced.  Crazy.

Finally, because buyers and agents are often not allowed to be at the inspection these days because of Covid, a lot of additional anxiety about the condition of the house causes the buyer and buyer’s agent to be extra cautious.  In the past, I have always encouraged buyer’s to attend the inspection to get a more balanced idea of the condition of the home, especially a home that is not new.  I will warn buyers when they get the inspection report it will feel like the house is falling apart because every little thing is mentioned, sticky door, cracked outlet plate, etc.

It is work to keep your home maintained properly and work to get it ready for market, however, the payoff is BIG.  Homes in good condition sell fast and for big $$$$.

spring flowers

Seeds for Fall Planting – Affordable Luxury

The Luxury of Beauty

Plant any or all of the seeds this fall and have happy surprises all spring and summer!

Alyssum, sweet (Lobularia maritima) | zones 3-10
Bachelor Buttons / Cornflower Centaurea cyanus | zones 3-8
Bee Balm Monarda | zones 3-9|
Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia | zones 3-9
Blanket Flower Gaillardia | zones 3-10
Blue Flax Linum perenne lewisii | zones 5-8
Columbine Aquilegea | zones 3-9
Coneflower Echinacea | zones 3-9
Cupid’s Dart Catananche caerulea | zones 4-9
Daisy, Painted Chrysanthemum coccineum | zones 3-7
Flax Linum grandiflorum | zones 3-10
Foxglove Digitalis | zones 4-8
Larkspur Consolida | zones 2-10
Love-In-A-Mist Nigella damascena | zones 2-11
Lobelia Lobelia | zones 4-8
Lavender Lavandula | zones 5-9
Lady’s Mantle 
Alchemilla | zones 3-7
Milkweed Asclepias | zones 4-9
Tropaeolum | zones 7-10
Viola | zones 5-10
Penestemon | zones 3-8
Pincushion Flowers  
Scabiosa | zones 3-7
Pinkball Thrift 
Armeria Formosa | zones 3-9
Papaveraceae | zones 3-8
Prairie Coneflower 
Ratibida columnifera | zones 3-10
Rose Campion 
Silene | zones 4-8
Sweet Pea 
Lathyrus odoratus | zones 2-11
Sweet William 
Dianthus | zones 3-9
Cheiranthus cheiri | zones 3-8


Summer Fun: Plan For Pets

Road trips, backyard parties and especially July 4th are often times when pets make a break for it. 🙂

Brody Birthday 004

July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. Before the holiday, make sure pets are wearing tags with up to date contact information and don’t let them outside during fireworks displays. Indoors, avoid post party vet visits by keeping firecrackers, insect repellent, table food, and alcoholic beverages out of paw’s reach.

If you plan on being away, it is not too early to make your pet sitting arrangements!


Buyers and Title Insurance

Buyers and Title Insurance: Contributed by Doug Watson, CEO of Frontier Title

title insuranceWhy do buyers and title insurance go hand in hand?  With more than five million homes sold annually in the United States, purchasing a home remains at the center of the American dream. A large percentage of these buyers will be making this major purchase for the first time, which can be an extremely stressful and overwhelming experience. Even for an experienced homebuyer, purchasing a home can be a daunting undertaking, as they are well aware of the stack of paperwork that must be completed in order to get the keys to their new home. One of the lesser-known aspects of purchasing a home is the role that title insurance plays within the closing process. Title insurance is a very important investment, so we’re sharing some information to help homebuyers better understand its role in the home buying process.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance protects real estate owners and lenders from property loss or damage they could experience from liens or defects in the property’s title. Unlike other insurance options that require monthly premiums, title insurance is a one-time fee paid by the buyer at the time of closing. Title insurance rates differ based on the value and location of the home being purchased. While title insurance is not mandatory, it is a strong investment.

Who is Title Insurance For?

Both homebuyers and lenders need title insurance in order to be insured against various possible title defects on a property. Prior to closing, the insurance company will run a title search on a property. This typically takes between two and three business days and statistics show that more than 33 percent of title searches result in a problem that must be resolved before closing. Liens or defects on the title can include tax liens, abstracts of judgment, child support liens or bankruptcies. A lien means another company or person has the right to keep possession of your property until your debt is repaid. Without title insurance, the new buyer would be responsible for clearing any defects that are on the property.




Pittsboro NC – Great Small Town Living

Three Small North Carolina Towns To Put On Your Radar



Not far from the large cities of both Durham and Chapel Hill is a smaller community, Pittsboro. One of the major trends I noticed throughout my drive around North Carolina was the focus on food. Not just the classic dishes we’d expect likeBBQ, no, there are some incredibly talented people throughout the state who are reimagining the culinary experience in some places where you’d least expect it. I have a sweet tooth, and so one of my first stops in Pittsboro was at the main street staple, Phoenix Bakery. The owner never thought she’d be a baker, but maybe that’s what makes her donuts in particular so amazing. Ignoring convention, she bakes using mostly local ingredients and never adds anything you wouldn’t be able to find in a grocery store. She also bakes her donuts instead of frying them, creating a pastry that is delicious and completely unlike anything else I’d tried before. A short drive away is another creative establishment, the Small Street B&B Café. Part art gallery, part homey cafe, the menu here is entirely sourced locally, changes daily and is as creative as its owners and the bed and breakfast right next door. Creativity seems to reign supreme here, because a new type of winery opened its doors in Pittsboro not too long ago. The Fair Game Beverage Company creates both wines and hard spirits again using North Carolina, or regional, products. If you enjoy unusual small batch spirits or wines, definitely stop by their tasting room for some samples. The main reason why I was in Pittsboro though was to spend the night at the nearby luxury property, the Fearrington House Inn. A gorgeous Relais & Châteaux hotel/restaurant, this is pure rural luxury at its best. Spacious suites and a fine dining restaurant that easily ranks amongst the best in the country make a stay here something extraordinary. With Pittsboro an easy 10 minute drive away, it just makes sense to merge the two into a single weekend away you’ll remember for a long time.

Having grown up in small and medium sized towns, I have a particular affinity for them. But I also realize they’re not all made the same. Far too many have died a slow death, mere shells of their former glory. That’s why I was so happy to see these three communities in North Carolina that aren’t just surviving, but thriving.