Regain Access to Your Home

comfortable home

By Cindy Boykin, Courtesy Plano Profile

Home is a common topic for writers and poets, but Gaston Bachelard, author of The Poetics of Space, has a unique take on the subject. “If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” No matter one’s age, abilities or life experiences, being in a place so comforting that the mind can drift and dream at is pleasure makes home a place like no other on earth.

But when a house becomes difficult to navigate due to physical limitations, daydreaming turns to dreading. Thoughts focus on mundane, worrisome concerns of living life at home.

Millions of people find themselves in that situation. Approximately 20 percent of Americans have disabilities. In addition, persons 65 years or older represent 13.3 percent of the U.S. population; and since 2000, the number of Americans aged 45 to 64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – has increased by 33 percent. (Department of Health and Human Services, 2011)

More and more, people are looking for ways to live in their homes as comfortably and as long as possible by making their houses more accessible. But the roadblock for most people is the fear of a “hospital” look.

Fear no more. Here are some examples of how a home can be remodeled to make everyday life more enjoyable, convenient and beautiful.

Remodeling for now and later

“Did you see the before pictures?” Elaine asks. “It had so many negatives for us.”

Initially, Elaine and Russell Maxey just planned to update the look of their master bath – and natural stone like granite and travertine, maybe pain the cabinetry. But as they talked with remodeler John Todd of Elite Remodeling, the noticed other aspects of the room they wanted to change.

The biggest hurdle, literally, to fully enjoying their bathroom was the huge tub. It sat in a triangular position in the corner of the room, and the faucets were placed in the center of the tub’s wide rim. Elaine explains, “You would have to throw your leg over the faucet to get in. So it went unused.”

She continued, “The shower had a lip, which was fine, but if you had knee or hip surgery, you couldn’t get over that.”

Russell recalls, “As we talked with John, he started throwing ideas out and showed us pictures of other houses where he done this sort of thing – he had bunches of them. Then he sent a designer to work with us, and she came up with the perfect layout for us.”

The removed the corner bathtub and added a new one, enlarged the shower significantly, added a bench seat, turned the shower opening around to face the tub and removed the lip, widened the opening in case they ever need a wheelchair, added a shower wand, and installed two brushed nickel grab bars decorated with finials.

Russell confides, “We wanted the grab bars, but we didn’t want it to affect resale. But John said even some young people are putting them in now.”

With the repainted cabinetry, beautiful tile, mosaic and granite work, framed mirrors, and new hardware, it is barely recognizable from its former version. Elaine says, “It was one year ago in May since we did the remodel. I wrote John and told him I wouldn’t change a thing. And I wouldn’t!”

Now that they have planned ahead for the years to come, they won’t have to.

Beautiful convenience

Calvin and Deanna Field had two main objectives when they bought their Richardson home in 1995. Since they both grew up in the area – Calvin graduated from Richardson High School and Deanna from Plano Senior High School – they wanted their daughter to be in one of those school districts. And two, they needed a single story home because of Deanna’s disability.

They researched their options. Calvin says, “As a young family we felt we could get more value from an existing home rather than building new. The house had been recently updated by a do-it-your-selfer, so the interior was fairly new – although we found out later some people are not cut out for do-it-yourself!”

In 2009, they remodeled the master bathroom. “Our primary goal was to make the bathroom wheelchair friendly, but we absolutely did not want an institutional look. We wanted more open space, but had to fit within constraints of the existing structure. Elite was able to re-arrange the major elements – closets, toilet, sink and shower – to make more efficient use of space without sacrificing function.”

Calvin continues, “The main elements of the new bathroom are the stone ‘drive-in’ shower with a built-in bench to allow transfer for showering. The fixtures, including the grab bars, are all done in antique brass, such that the disability aids blend in with the existing structure.

“The toilet area is open for easy access and surrounded by ample storage and shelving. Believe or not storage is one of the keys to independence, allowing for contingency without having to ask someone to bring you something. Elite incorporated a sliding door that walls off the toilet area allowing for open access without compromising privacy.

“Another feature was the addition of a wheelchair friendly sink done with a granite top and antique brass fixtures.”

Calving says that the new bathroom has made an enormous difference for Deanna. “She had great difficulty – it was actually quite dangerous – getting in and out of the bathtub, and she was unable to use our shower prior to the remodel. The same was true for the toilet in terms of access and storage. My wife had to turn sideways to use her sink. Basically everything was difficult for her. The old shower mad me claustrophobic, and the bathroom color scheme made us both nauseous,” he joked.

“The remodel gave my wife a new lease on life, allowing her a sense of independence that she did not have before. The bathroom is both beautiful and highly functional. Honestly I thought we would have to compromise on aesthetics in order to attain function without spending a fortune. Fortunately, I was wrong.”

Elite Remodeling selected by Dallas Builders Association as their “2013 Remodeler of the Year!”