Access-for-all architecture

5 min read

The word ‘accessible’ doesn’t have to mean ugly plastic grab rails and hospital-style furniture. If you are living with a disability, as 16 million people in the UK are today, or simply getting older, you have just as much right to a beautiful home. With a design-led approach to space-planning, fixtures and materials, it’s possible to create interiors where accessibility doesn’t dictate the aesthetic. Here, we reveal three case studies that each address different needs, proving that universal design doesn’t have to come at the expense of comfort or style

Covet Noir chose a durable Sacco rug in the living room, ideal for wear and tear from wheels

The accessible house

Wheelchair-friendly design solutions can be both aesthetic and functional, as this family home by Covet Noir demonstrates

Custom furnishings bring a crafted feel to this two-storey family home in south London, but also make it functional for a wheelchair user. Hiroki Takeuchi, a co-founder of fintech company GoCardless, was involved in a road accident in 2016 that left him paralysed from the waist down. He and wife Rachel Swidenbank, who is CCO of web service company, didn’t allow this to dictate the design of the home they share with their two young children.

After working with Takero Shimazaki Architects to plan a 370-square-metre house with awheelchair-friendly layout and lift, the couple appointed interiors studio Covet Noir to design fixtures that ensure the house is equally usable for them both. ‘The challenge was how to accommodate two people with different needs living together,’ explains Covet Noir co-founder Adele Lonergan. ‘Everything had to be considered to the millimetre.’

Some of the most ingenious solutions can be found in the bathroom – the shower features a bench seat made from durable and stylish iroko wood that would look at home in a luxury sauna. Lonergan also designed a bespoke double vanity where basins and surfaces are at matching heights, but are both within reach for seated or standing positions. Rachel’s side has drawers while Hiroki’s is open underneath, resulting in a surprisingly attractive asymmetry.

A brushed-nickel grab rail blends with the materials palette in the bedroom;
Homeowners Hiroki Takeuchi and Rachel Swidenbank;

In the bedroom, you could be forgiven for thinking the floating bedside cabinets and cantilevered dressing table were designed for aesthetics rather than accessibility. The room also features a Sacco rug that was specially selected to handle repeated wheelchair use, satisfying Rachel’s desire for something soft underfoot. ‘When you’re working with a couple, there are always compromises,’ says Lonergan. ‘It just throws a curveball in the mix when you have to

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