December 2, 2022

Eristart

Specialists in home interior

This Modern Home Remodel Pairs Mid-Century Finds with Universal Design

Every home could benefit from wide halls and doorways, a wheelchair-friendly bathroom, and a zero-clearance entry, says disability advocate and mom to three girls Amy Webb (@thislittlemiggy). You might not need these features now, but they’ll make life easier in the future for you, your family, and visitors.

When Amy’s second daughter was diagnosed with microgastria and limb reduction complex, Amy and husband Bracken knew this little girl would change their lives—not just in the way that kids always change parents, but in a more specific we-need-to-figure-this-out kind of way.

Annie Schlechter

Their daughter started training with a wheelchair at 16 months. Her first power chair was the smallest on the market, and while it didn’t require a lot of space to operate, the Webbs knew they would need a better-functioning home as their daughter and her wheelchair grew.

The couple found a house in deep disrepair, bought it for the price of the land, and hired an architect versed in universal design (meaning accessible to everyone) to help them give it a full-scale makeover. The home needed some major work: an elevator, ramps at each of the three entrances, an accessible bathroom on each level, and space planning for the wheelchair’s turning radius.

But the couple quickly learned that even if they designed a home to meet the recommendations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they would still have to make additional changes to suit the individual needs of their daughter.

Annie Schlechter

The Webbs meticulously considered the usability of every inch, but the style came easily. Clean white walls and neutral furniture emphasize the view of the wooded landscape. Vintage and midcentury finds and their own handmade artwork and furniture throughout add soul. “We put a lot of thought into how our home would work for all of us,” Amy says. “Because our daughter is able to live with independence, so are we.”

Annie Schlechter

Lots of open, clutter-free floor space makes the Cincinnati home work for the whole family, including a daughter who uses a wheelchair. For example, the area around their piano—a rare 1960s Baldwin Acrosonic that meshes with Amy’s midcentury aesthetic—lets all three daughters easily reach it. Painting the original brick white helps collections and photos stand out.

Annie Schlechter

In the kitchen, the fridge moved to an open wall so it’s available to everyone at all times (even during busy meal prep), and sinks were placed so she could roll up in the easiest way possible. The tweaks aren’t standard, but they’re what the family needed.

To make the kitchen usable for everyone, kids dishes are stored in lower drawers with wide, easy-to-grab pulls, and the microwave is set low into the island. Extra distance around the island (especially behind the stools) creates a more open, bottleneck-free workspace. Touch faucets allow their daughter to wash up with ease.

Accessibility takes from no one and gives to everyone. You will never regret having a zero entrance or wider door.

—Amy Webb

Annie Schlechter

In the living room, walls were removed to open the space and make it easier to navigate. To brighten the room and keep the focus on the view through the wall-to-wall windows, the Webbs painted the ceilings and original brick fireplace white. Minimal furniture pieces arranged far apart, a low-pile rug, and a round coffee table all contribute to better traffic flow.

When you design for someone with the least mobility or greatest physical needs, it brings greater freedom to everyone.

—Amy Webb

Annie Schlechter

The extra-wide entry hallway leads to double office doors. A secondhand bench and vintage rug set the style tone for the rest of the house. August, the family’s apricot-color poodle, keeps watch. Black doors add drama to an all-white paint palette.

Annie Schlechter

One dark wall in a mostly white house makes a bold statement. Amy created the painting above the walnut wood bed Bracken built, and she hand-pieced the gray and white quilt. “I swear, it’s worth $5,000 to me,” Amy jokes. “It took me months to make it.” A large, colorful vintage rug ties their collections together. Airy rattan is unexpected on a midcentury-inspired light fixture.

Annie Schlechter

A low bed is easier to get in and out of. A display shelf lets their daughter keep favorite toys and books close. The lamp turns on and off with a single touch. The ceiling light and window blinds are controlled by voice commands.

Amy wrote When Charley Met Emma and Awesomely Emma about a girl with physical differences.

Annie Schlechter

The girls’ bathroom includes a pair of sinks at different heights, grab bars, and a transition seat. The drawer pulls are turned upside down to make them easier to grab. Seamless floors (without any raised lips) are wheelchair-friendly.

Annie Schlechter

Bracken built the versatile bunk beds in their youngest’s room. The top bunk is an extra sleep space for now, but it can be changed later if they want to add a desk below the loft.