Remodeling a kitchen to help aging in place

Kitchen designer, Shawna DillonShawna Dillon explains the universal design at the heart of her ASID “Design of Excellence” Award winning kitchen remodel.

Clients' Goals and Challenges

My clients for this project were empty-nesters who needed a design that would help them age gracefully in place. Marriages and grandchildren had expanded the family, so they wanted a kitchen that could function both as an elegant retreat to enjoy alone and as a space to entertain friends and host large family gatherings. Given that the general footprint had served my clients well for over 20 years, the challenge was to update the finishes and improve functionality without drastically changing how their family occupied the space.

Design Execution

We originally started planning for some workflow changes and appliance relocations but then decided to keep the existing layout and just focus on improving it with a more universal design. Here are the "before and after" looks:

The original kitchen

Remodeled kitchen with Snaidero's Idea cabinetry

Storage and Ergonomics

  • The passageways were expanded to allow for greater freedom of movement, no matter how many people are using the kitchen at the same time and what their physical abilities are.
  • The new cabinetry, Snaidero’s IDEA line, features an ergonomic easy-grip integrated handle.
  • The new deep drawers open and close easily with a light touch.
  • The extra-deep base cabinets used for the sink area increase storage and counter space. This modification allows for frequently used items to be stored in a single place, keeping everything at arm’s reach.
  • The expanded tall pantry cabinetry offers a wall of storage that is accessible from any height, while seated or standing.


  • The cabinet style (Snaidero’s IDEA) and finish (high-gloss Golden Cherry) fit right in with the existing craftsman architecture of the room, adding value to it. You’ve got both the traditional feel of the wood and the contemporary touch of the high-gloss finish.
  • Both countertops and backsplash are Marron Cohiba Granite but the counters have a polished finish while the backsplash is honed (matte) and almost textured. This makes for an exciting juxtaposition.
  • Visually, the reflective surface of the cabinetry makes the whole room look bigger than it is.
  • The contrast between the high-gloss light wood cabinets and the rich matte chocolate-colored granite produces that warm and luxurious effect that is needed in a kitchen open to the formal areas of the home.


  • The old bulky appliances were replaced with streamlined ones that integrate beautifully within the clean look of the new cabinetry.
  • We increased the size of the refrigerator/freezer and the cook-top, which now includes a Vario electric grill hob for more versatile cooking.
  • The Miele hood raises and lowers 12” to allow for more space above the cooking surface when not in use, so as to have an exposed view of the whole room.

Side views of the kitchen before and after the remodel

End Result

The universal design is suited to respond to the homeowners’ needs as they age. It’s a functional kitchen that they can enjoy alone or with company and keeps with the elegance of the existing space, which was left untouched.

Fin Fact: A Kitchen's Longevity

The clients’ original kitchen cabinetry was a Snaidero Red Aspen, which they had owned for over 20 years. Since it was still on trend and in beautiful shape, the project contractor was able to re-install it in his home to enjoy it for years to come!

  • CABINETRY: Snaidero, IDEA style in High Gloss Golden Cherry wood finish
  • BACKSPLASH: Granite, Marron Cohiba 2cm (honed)
  • COUNTER-TOPS: Granite, Marron Cohiba 3cm (polished)
  • LIGHTING: Hera, KB12 Cabinet Puck Lights PLUMBING: Dornbracht, Elio pull-out faucet in chrome
  • SINK: Julien, #3755 Double Bowl Under-mount, Stainless Steel
  • STOOLS: Holly Hunt, Aldabrah Counter Stool by Dakota Jackson
  • WALL PAINT: Benjamin Moore, Ashley Gray & Gray Mountain