Finalising the kitchen plans for our renovation project is one of the most fun elements for us and I was fully intending to blog about that last week.
However, when I started that blog post, I realised that I haven’t really talked about the basics of the renovation project for us which have been as much about the functionality and use of our space as it is about creating a beautiful space to be happy in.
In the first Access My Home blog – Adapting My Home: Stay Or Move? – I explained the process we have gone through in deciding to stay where we are in general terms.
Here, I’m going to focus on specific decisions we made about the space that we live in and how we could change it to work better for us, going forward. This part of the process was as crucial as any other in making our mind up whether to stay or move.
It is probably clear to anyone, looking at the drawings of our house, that identifying the major problem we had with the existing space, despite the adaptations that we have previously made to accommodate my wheelchair use, is not difficult:
It’s an old, tall, thin house with narrow corridors, separate rooms, an inaccessible mezzanine containing the dressing room and roof terrace above, just one main bathroom, a roof terrace we cannot use, lots of doors and steps up and down.
Not an obviously wheelchair accessible home but we’ve already made a good start at making it so.
There is a – mostly reliable – lift that services all three floors; the main bathroom is adapted for my use and works well: there is a level entrance, front and back: the main body of the house is accessible to me, albeit not perfectly so; the main rooms are large with high ceilings and big windows – a really nice place to be and roll around; the back garden is a small and pretty outdoor extension to the ground floor space; the front garden could do with a little attention but is a functional space for parking our side-ramp-opening wheelchair accessible Chrysler, allowing me space and privacy to get in and out of the car with no problem.
Decision to stay made, Project Renovation had to be all about retaining everything good that we have done as well as reducing the number of problems that the space was giving us, both now and, potentially, in the future.
Rather than attempt to solve ‘everything’, we picked a number of problems to address that we thought would improve our quality of life both overall and, specifically, for those who help me, as a wheelchair user.
And, the first place we started was with floor layout because that is such a huge driver of how we function and use the space in our homes.
For us, the layout became much clearer when we realised that our activities fell into three broad categories:
1. Socialising and entertaining – all of which tends to happen on our ground floor space,
2. The personal and private – sprawled across the first floor,
3. Creatively studying – reading, writing, music, films, TV, relaxing – which we want to focus on the 2nd floor and newly created mezzanine space.
Further to this, layout was also influenced by our years of living in the property. As an example of this, below, I’ve attached the before/after floor plans of our ground floor.
Key: A – walls removed : B – pocket doors replace opening/closing doors : C – floors levelled to living room height : D – side extension enlarged to provide accessible ground floor WC : E – previous internal steps generate external slope out to front garden.
Here, you will see that we intend to remove walls, change doors, level floors, reconfigure the stair space and completely change the layout by bringing the kitchen from the back of the house to the front, moving the living room to the central atrium and creating, what we are calling, a garden room which will essentially be a dining/breakfast/brunch room.
Whilst removing the walls, shifting to pocket and sliding doors, expanding the space, and levelling up the floors, will be making life easier for my wheels, the rationale for the layout is driven by practicality.
Our front room, the new kitchen, is a large, beautiful, high-ceiling room which is barely used because it gets absolutely no sun at all and the wall cuts it off from the rear spaces. By making it the kitchen, with a sliding glass partition wall, we increase the light there and make it a hub of activity, open or not as we wish, an integral part of the entire living space rather than being a cut-off dead room.
The central atrium, the old dining room/new living room, is the darkest space in the house. It has no windows. In the winter, it is lovely and warm; in the summer, it is lovely and cool. Into this living space we will set up a TV/media centre, throw in a cosy sofa and a couple of chairs so, when people come round, we can watch the football, listen to music, chat to the cook in the kitchen or watch the lights in the garden – it’s the chill holding-zone.
And, finally, the garden room. With its’ glass doors and ceiling, everyone loves this space, drawn inexorably to it by the huge palms and trickling water feature outside and the wonderful light. It’s where we always end up, in chairs, doors open, lights flickering, snuggling under throws, drinking alcohol or hot drinks, listening to the music, shooting the breeze. We’ve had so many wonderful times in what was our kitchen and will now be our dining space and we are looking forward to many more such days/nights to come.
I will continue outlining our plans in my next blog but I will finish here by saying, as I always do, be aware that the access and adaptation solutions I use are tailored to my needs – I am non-standing, power wheelchair user, paralysed from the chest down. What works for me may not work for you but I hope you may find something of interest here that will help you to develop your own solutions for your own needs.
Share the pain, share the gain. 😉
Click the link to see more in the Access My Home series.