Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
Building Type: Residential
This Universal Design house provides accessibility throughout and seamlessly connects to accessible exterior areas, allowing residents to fully enjoy their whole property.
Perspectives and Goals
The residents, a couple in their mid-fifties, wanted a home that would allow them to age in place. The husband had suffered a work related injury and is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair. They also have 3 adult children who visit occasionally. They wanted a fully Universal Designed house that would work for the whole family and support their needs as they got older. The accessible relationship between the interior and the exterior spaces was extremely important to the family.
Initially, the couple bought a plan from Charles Schwab, AIA, of Life Span Home Designs LLC, from his plan book entitled UD Smart Homes for the 21st Century. They then worked with Schwab and local builder Brad Alexander from Majestic Homes, Myrtle Beach to customize the plans and create a unique home. Schwab specializes in accessibility and Universal Design, describing his firm’s mission as “providing home plan designs that are Universal Designed and built with sustainable products and for clean air and energy efficiency. Our vision is that by the year 2020 all new homes in America will be built with Universal Design features for Life Span Living and include sustainable building products and energy efficient construction.”
The home also demonstrates the need for design professionals to work closely with clients to come up with solutions that truly match the client’s desires. Even though this house was Universal Designed, the clients did not want grab bars adjacent to the toilet as the owner transfers from both sides and actually preferred 36″ high counters in the kitchen. The original plan was designed with varying height kitchen cabinet countertops.
The home has no step thresholds at all of the entries, including the French doors in the master bedroom. Those flush entries are covered and slightly slope away from the house for protection from the elements at storm time.
The open floor plan is critical in this home and is a major universal design feature. The main family living areas flow together for easy access and a visual connection from one “room” area to the other. These open rooms are defined by varying ceiling treatments and varying yet flush floor finishes.
Interior design elements and colors were selected by the owners. These colors also help define the open spaces.
All of the passage doors are 36″ wide and with the proper lever side of door clearance for wheelchair use. Many are pocket doors for easy access and space saving design.
Floors are designed flush throughout for easy access.
There is a curbless shower and open knee space at all sinks for seated and wheelchair use.
Lever handles are used throughout, as are raised outlets and accessible switches.
All of the windows are lower for easy viewing by a seated user.
The landscape is designed for easy access and wheelchair use, and the exterior spaces were designed as extensions of the house. A gently sloped pathway leads down to a bass fishing pond. Even the fishing deck is designed for access, with a curb rail to prevent a wheelchair from rolling off the edge.
A salt water aquarium is featured between the kitchen serving bar and entertainment bar. The aquarium supports the connection between the interior and exterior spaces by hinting to the outdoor fishing pond.
The power panels in the garage are located at an accessible location.
The workshop and music room is also Universal Designed and all fully accessible.
The large accessible bathroom also doubles up as a storm safe room, an important safety feature in this hurricane-prone part of the country. People often think of taking shelter in basements during storms but this is an obvious hindrance for a wheelchair user. The concrete reinforced UD bathroom doubles up nicely as a hurricane safe-room as it is larger for wheelchair use. This main level safe room provides an accessible alternative.
The kitchen and bath hardware provides for fully extended drawers and storage making it all fully accessible and efficient.
The kitchen serving bar and the entertainment bar has varying heights for lower level seating and bar level seating that functions well for all members of the family.
The home is also designed for energy efficiency with 2×6 insulated wall construction and other energy saving products.
The clients enjoyed working with Schwab so much that they invited him to visit the home for five days to experience the finished product, which he happily did. He’s been invited to revisit again at anytime. Now that’s a happy customer!
Project: Vasey Residence
Clients: John and Donna Vasey
Architect/Designer: Charles Schwab AIA, CAPS and CGP of Life Span Home Designs LLC
Builder: Brad Alexander of Majesic Homes, Myrtle Beach
Size: 3860 square feet (not counting the garage or workshop)
Cabinets: Custom Brazillian Cherry
Faucets and Fixtures: Moen and Kohler
Cooktop: Frigidaire Gallery Series
Countertops: Custom Granite
Dishwasher: Maytag Quiet Series 400
Doors: Old South Millwork de Vinci Amhurst Collection
Exterior Siding: River Valley Stone Stucco
Flooring: Martha Stuart and Pergo
Garage Doors: Amarr
Garage Door Opener: Harman Silent Drive Garage Door Opener
Garbage Disposal: InSinkErrator
Ice Maker: Marvel Ice Maker
Insulation: Owens Corning