Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Natasha's Bathroom

Blog #2 – Natasha’s Bathroom


Natasha (not her real name) is a 7-year old girl with Muscular Dystrophy.  Her parents contacted Whiteley & Whiteley, because she was getting older and needed more privacy, including an accessible bathroom, so she could care for herself.  She shared a Jack & Jill bathroom with her sister and the area was cut-up into small spaces; we needed to open it up for the wheelchair.  The diagram below shows the original bathroom layout.

Our plan was to remove the wall between the lavatory area and the toilet/tub area, which provided additional room next to the toilet for accessibility.  We pushed the closet wall back, making the closet two feet deep and adding two feet to the area in front of the lavatory. We now had a five foot turning radius in front of the sink.  Next, we removed the existing vanity and replaced it with one especially designed to accommodate Natasha’s wheelchair.  Finally we widened the doorway from 2’-4” wide to a full 3’-0” and installed a pocket door.  Pocket doors are a good selection, because they slide out of the way, rather than swing through the travel area; however, the hardware used to pull the door closed is recessed into the door and can be difficult for someone with poor manual dexterity to operate.  My personal preference would have been double doors.  Double doors that enclose a 3’-0” opening only swing through 18” each and are easier to reach and open or close.  The diagram below shows the revised bathroom layout.  Note that the door to the sister’s lavatory remains for privacy.


These were the structural changes that we made to the bathroom.  Fortunately, in this case, none of the altered walls were load-bearing.  When removing walls, it is important that you consult a professional to ensure that the wall is not load-bearing – a wall that supports the end of a joist.  Removing a load bearing wall without re-designing the load distribution will cause serious structural damage and eventual failure.

Next week, we will discuss the details of Natasha’s vanity design, electrical issues, grab bar options and other unique features designed specifically for Natasha.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Introduction to Whiteley & Whiteley

Welcome to Whiteley & Whiteley’s new blog.  Who – or what – is Whiteley & Whiteley?  We are a home design firm that specializes in designs for special needs children and adults.  I am David Whiteley, the principal designer and I will be writing this blog with my wife, Diane, our creative consultant.

Our passion for special needs design began when my brother, Bill, slipped on the ice and broke his hip.  Although he lived in an expensive home in an exclusive neighborhood, he was unable to access the bathrooms with a wheelchair, because the doors were too narrow.  When I found out about his dilemma, I decided that all of my future home designs would be wheelchair adaptable; the hallways and doors would be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and at least one bathroom would be accessible.  Then, a few years ago, I met a woman with a special needs child who explained the difficulties in finding an architect or designer who understood the nuances of designing for special needs.  Most are familiar with ADA, but special needs represent a much wider spectrum. I decided to learn as much as possible about designing fully functional homes for special needs.  To that end, I became a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), attended special needs trade shows and participated in projects to design and build homes for special needs children and adults.

I am ready to begin sharing my knowledge, but more importantly, I hope that you will share yours.  I would like this to be an interactive blog where parents and children can discuss the challenges of designing a home for the special needs community.  I include “children” because I have found that special needs home design includes creating spaces for our aging parents, commonly referred to as mother-in-law suites.

I have a list of topics that I will cover, such as designing the most functional bathroom vanity or the different types of doors and their applications; however, we will also let the blog follow the thread of thoughts from the readers.  Enjoy.