Today on the blog I’m chatting to the lovely LeAnne Lavender. LeAnne and her husband Derek were forced to make changes to their lives and their home following an accident that left Derek paralysed. I’ve been following LeAnne for a little while now as they’ve been working on a new very stylish home from scratch, making every single aspect of it accessible and documenting it on her blog.
LeAnne is also active on Instagram Stories with her Accessibility 101’s and her weekly Insta Live gardening tips (well worth a watch if you have or want green fingers!)
She and Derek are incredibly open about details around their lives, including answering those issues that you ever wondered about if someone has paralysis of this kind, discussions on having children, day to day life, and so on. This all helps a wider understanding of accessibility and I admire her and Derek for this open approach.
I hope you enjoy our chat!
WCH: What’s your name and where do you live?
LeAnne: We are The Lavenders and Derek and I live with our dog Barkus Adroolius in the American MidWest.
Photo Credit: Bekah Taylor Photography
WCH: What sort of home do you have?
LeAnne: We have a 1952 ranch style home which is now 2,200 sq.ft
WCH: Can you share a little more about the disabled person in your home?
LeAnne: My husband Derek was injured in a serious motorcycle accident on his way to work. Right away, the doctors knew he had essentially crushed his spine and gave him little to no chance of walking again.
As a T4 paraplegic, he has no motion or feeling from his armpits down. There was a steep learning curve, but after a year and a half, we have started to get a hang of this paraplegic life.
WCH: How does this disability impact your home?
LeAnne: When the accident happened, our home was 440 square foot.
Fast forward a year, and we were able to purchase a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom home.
We knew we needed wider hallways, an accessible bathroom (preferably space for a roll in shower), hardwood floors, and no steps from the garage to the house. We ended up turning the new homes garage into our master bedroom suite.
We then added on an accessible garage and opened up the main living space by knocking out a few walls and replacing the hardwood with durable floors.
For equipment, Derek does use a shower chair on a daily basis, so we designed our master suite to be large enough to accommodate both the shower chair and his manual chair.
WCH: How do you incorporate or disguise the adaptations and equipment into your home?
LeAnne: We have been happy with how easy it has been to keep our style but incorporate the things we need for Derek to live comfortably.
If you walk in our kitchen, you may be confused to find that all our dishes are in the lower cabinets. We merely inform guests that they can find drinking cups in the bottom drawer!
We did get carpet tape which allows us to still have carpets and Derek can roll over them without any issue.
Our dining room table was too low, so we put wheels on the bottom to bring it up to height. It adds a little industrial flair to our wood table!
We also chose sliding, modern barn doors for our master bedroom. Sliding or pocket doors are much easier to maneuver than handled doors and also adds an extra dimension of style to the room.
WCH: Do you have any great tips for furniture buying, room design or planning that helps with the disability?
LeAnne: For furniture, we just always make sure we have the height measurements before purchasing something. We have also found power sofas to be incredibly helpful with paraplegia.
I would encourage any person new to the disabled community to try to be in the space as long as possible before purchasing a big piece of furniture. Living here with minimal furniture helped us get a lay of the land before we spent a lot of money on something that wouldn’t work best for our needs.
WCH: What’s been the trickiest thing to deal with in the home to make it accessible?
LeAnne: Obviously, finances come into play. As we all know, accessibility is expensive! We’ve saved up for our “big” projects and then learned to make a list of other projects we hope to finish within a certain amount of time. Having that list has helped me realize that even though we may not have something yet, it is coming!
WCH: What’s been your best find for the home?
LeAnne: My mother found a set of periscope ramps at a pawn shop right after the accident happened. These little ramps have been a huge blessing as they compact and can easily be stored in our car and then whipped out to get us up some steep steps (even onto the deck in our backyard!). If you are interested, here is the link for these wonderful little guys: Telescope Ramps
WCH: What would you say to an architect or interior designer to help them in designing an accessible space?
LeAnne: Rent a wheelchair from a local store and maneuver around the space (if possible). You will get a handle on what is feasible and what is not.
WOW! LeAnne and Derek’s home is beautiful. (also very jealous we don’t have that much room, but then we have a typically small English house and not a MidWest Ranch!)
I think it’s fair to say that every aspect of their home renovation has been carefully thought out and with style and function in mind. The sinks in the bathroom are the right depth and height, the roll in shower has fabulous tiles with the shower chair, the power sofa (in the background above) allows Derek to put his feet up like the rest of us.
I also heartily agree with LeAnne’s assessment that designers should sit in a wheelchair to use the space before designing it. I am very passionate about this too, particular in hotel rooms (but that’s a whole other blog post!)
Note: First Photo – Bekah Taylor, all others are courtesy of LeAnne.