Universal design’s purpose is simple: to create a home that anybody can live in comfortably. Often that translates into mental pictures of ramps and stair lifts awkwardly installed as an afterthought, but this Austin, Texas, home demonstrates that universal design may also mean great layout.
The client, Susan Allen, wanted a contemporary but accessible home that she could easily move in her wheelchair. Architect Nicole Blair worked closely with her to build a simple but soothing custom home that will permit her to comfortably live independently. Allen’s illness progressed, and she passed away after a year of living in her new house. But as a testament to her intent for its design, one of her two sons lives in it now. “It’s truly universal,” Blair says. “Anyone may live here”
in a Glance
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 1,577 square feet; 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Cost: $280,000 (new build, $175 per square foot), such as appliances
The custom home sits on a hilly lot in East Austin that Allen had fallen in love with.
A low roofline curves and falls below the branches of an oak tree, mimicking the lines of the hillside, as does the curving Hardie siding. Allen wanted her home to feel bright and cheerful, so she opted for shades of soft green.
Blair carefully designed round the oak to protect its critical root canal.
Low shelving, a deficiency of top cabinetry and 33-inch countertops — designed to accommodate Allen’s wheelchair — helped create the exceptional roofline possible.
The open kitchen makes for easy maneuvering. The spaces under both the stove and sink are available, so Allen could apply each. The decrease cabinetry banks are all drawers, that make it easier to get into the entire space.
Wall paint: 178 Base 2, eggshell finish, Benjamin Moore
A built-in bartop, made using the same Caesarstone since the counters, easily fits five people.
Multiple sockets along the stainless steel backsplash make it easy to plug in whatever appliance is necessary anywhere. A microwave along with an ADA-compliant dishwasher complete the appliance installation.
Pendant: Link Suspension; dishwasher: Tall Tub ADA Compliant Built-In, GE; refrigerator: Whirlpool
Natural lighting was a big priority, therefore Blair designed extra-large windows throughout the home.
Because of Allen’s sensitivity to compounds, Blair utilized VOC-free walnut plywood to the cabinetry and put in an electric air cleaner and filtration system. There is no end on the concrete; it has simply been buffed to a shine.
Countertop: Caesarstone, Blizzard
Open shelving in the living area may also function as a seat.
Sofa: Hepburn, Matthew Hilton for De La Espada; java table: Fractured, Matthew Hilton for De La Espada; carpeting: Golran; ottoman: Maseko pouf; unwanted table: Mushroom, De La Espada
The screened-in sunroom allows for year-round outdoor pleasure. No bumpy or stepped thresholds imply smooth transitions between indoors and outside.
Chairs: Maia Relax Armchair, Kettal
Most of the doors at the home are pocket doors, with the exception of doors. Each door is 3 feet wide. The doors are equipped with Kwikset biometric fingerprint deadbolts, eliminating struggles with keys.
A slot over the desk puts the daily mail within easy reach — no more going outside or picking up mail off the floor.
Office chair: Deer Armchair, Autoban for De La Espada
Stout pulls and hardware make the pocket doors easy to open and shut.
Door pulls: Valli and Valli
An open sink in a 33-inch height in the guest toilet makes it easy to clean up, with or without a wheelchair.
Red tile: recycled glass, Medici Mosaics
Although Allen wanted a really simply designed dwelling, the minimalist furniture also serves a practical purpose: Openness makes the room easy to move around in, as do the concrete floors.
Seat: Smoke Chair, Moooi; rug: Golran
The built-in storage and desk space along one side of this master bedroom extend past the pocket doors to the master bath.
Blue tile: recycled glass, Medici Mosaics; toilet: Toto S300 Washlet/Bidet Seat; countertop: Caesarstone Blizzard
A walk-in tub and shower intended Allen could bathe on her own with ease. The custom seat outside is covered in Caesarstone.
Tub: American Standard Walk-in Bath