Why can't we make our homes comfortable for tall and short people?


By AGENCY
  • Living
  • Saturday, 02 Oct 2021

Some cooking islands can be adjusted in height. Photo: TEAM 7/dpa

Sharing a flat or a house with someone else means that your home has to fulfil different requirements. But while couples and roommates are usually able to negotiate a cleaning schedule and who has to take the trash out, things are a little more complicated when it comes to furniture.

Ever had a short roommate complain that the kitchen surfaces are too tall? Or does your partner, who is taller than you, regularly moan that the couch is unaccommodating?

Even though it’s not unusual that people who live together aren’t the same height, this is rarely taken into account when furnishing a home.

If average dimensions are used, neither person will be comfortable, says Detlef Detjen, a Germany-based specialist in healthy backs.

Instead, each household member should be able to live and work in a way that is ergonomically suited to them, particularly in areas that are used often, like the kitchen or the living room.Why are ovens and microwaves always too low or too high? It's time we start installing them at a back-friendly height. Photo: Franziska Gabbert/dpaWhy are ovens and microwaves always too low or too high? It's time we start installing them at a back-friendly height. Photo: Franziska Gabbert/dpa

Kitchen options

Cooking can suddenly become a nuisance when you have to use a chair every time you need an item from the top shelf or if your back aches after 15 minutes of chopping veggies on a low kitchen counter.

Luckily, there's something to be done about that. Putting up a sideboard with a higher work surface in addition to the normal kitchen counters is one possibility, says Detjen.

Another solution for people of different heights using the same kitchen are height-adjustable cooking islands.

"With the help of an electric motor drive, the working height can be raised or lowered by up to 20cm," explains Christine Scharrenbroch from the German Furniture Industry Association.While taller people frequently need to stoop down, those with a smaller built often have to depend on others, or wobbly chairs, to get what they need from tall kitchen cupboards.If couples of different heights have to share the office space at home, a height-adjustable desk can make sense. Photo: Uwe Anspach/dpaIf couples of different heights have to share the office space at home, a height-adjustable desk can make sense. Photo: Uwe Anspach/dpa

But some cabinets now come with special shelves made of metal frames that can be pulled down from the cabinet by a handle, Scharrenbroch explains.

Another general tip: Ovens and dishwashers shouldn’t be installed on the very bottom, but at a medium height so that everyone can reach them easily.

Of course all these options don’t come for free, but if you can allow yourself to invest some money into a more ergonomic kitchen, it will make a huge difference.

Bathroom struggles and sofa time

Similar challenges await in the bathroom, where it’s difficult to find the ideal height for mirrors, sinks and shelves that will suit everyone. Luckily, there are also similar solutions.

Height-adjustable washbasins were originally developed so they could be lowered for wheelchairs, but they are actually great for everyone – from small children to grandparents who need to sit down while brushing their teeth – and come without the hospital chic nowadays.Steps will help smaller people reach the washbasin and mirror. Photo: VDS/dpaSteps will help smaller people reach the washbasin and mirror. Photo: VDS/dpa

Installing a height-adjustable mirror might be another way to make things a little easier, if buying a new sink is not an option.

Most people still opt for a conventional sink, says Jens Wischmann from the German Sanitary Industry Association, probably because we only spend a short time in front of it.

However, the experts recommend not installing the sink too low, as it’s uncomfortable for a taller person to have to stoop down all the time, while smaller people can easily compensate the difference with a small stool.

While we might not spend much time in front of the bathroom sink, living room furniture is another story. It’s therefore important to have armchairs and sofas that are suited for all sizes.For cuddling, it doesn't matter how high a sofa is. But if you're going to sit upright on it for a longer period of time, it's worth buying elements for taller and shorter people. Photo: Christin Klose/dpaFor cuddling, it doesn't matter how high a sofa is. But if you're going to sit upright on it for a longer period of time, it's worth buying elements for taller and shorter people. Photo: Christin Klose/dpa

"Your back will thank you if your favourite seat is tailored to your body measurements," Detjen says.

One option is set elements with different heights and depths. The armchair in particular should fit our individual body dimensions, recommends the expert. – dpa

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