If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know I’m a champion of embracing different design if you have a disability in the home – finding alternatives to the standard ugly ‘hospital chic’ that we might have been used to in the past.
With that in mind I wanted to talk about alternatives to the standard wheelchair accessible sink and/or vanity unit in the bathroom. I’ve done a post about bathroom sinks before, and all the advice and inspiration in that post still stands – those options are still great ideas.
This post is about stepping outside the norm for accessible bathrooms and coming up with something different if you can.
So, what do I mean by alternative sinks and vanities? Simply something different to the standard cupboard and might well be cheaper than getting built in units.
A wheelchair user needs space under the bathroom sink to be able to get close to the water and it needs to be the right height for use. The taps need to be within easy reach and simple to switch on and off. You can have a straightforward counter top but on my travels on Instagram I’ve spotted some brilliant (and in some cases very cheap) alternatives.
Build Your Own Countertop
Interiors Blogger and Instagram legend Lisa Dawson has recently done the bathroom in the Barn (soon to be an AirBnB) and in the ensuite had her long-suffering builder Miles make this excellent counter top for the bathroom. I’m sharing two pictures here, one before the storage shelf was added and it was perfectly wheelchair accessible, and one after the storage shelf was added. To make the shelf accessible for storage you could always leave a space in the middle, keeping the storage on either side.
The beauty with building your own is that of course it’s made to your own specifications. This worktop was made with MDF, so it’s quite reasonable in price. Lisa has chosen to tile it in this brilliant orange tile, but you might choose to paint it with waterproof paint, or even use decoupage and use a water resistant vinyl wallpaper covered in a clear varnish. The possibilities are really endless, the limit is your imagination and budget!
Upcycle An Old Piece of Furniture
A favourite of mine on Instagram, Nicola from The Girl with the Green Sofa recently upgraded the family bathroom and if you haven’t see it, it’s an absolutely gorgeous space. Who wouldn’t want a copper freestanding tub, and those floor tiles – they are fabulous. Any I digress! What struck me about Nicola’s bathroom was the washstand she has put. Nicola has always been a fan of mixing old and new, and with a Victorian home, she decided to go vintage for the washstand. She purchased a secondhand dressing table from a vintage store (although you can look online or in charity shops for cheap options). She then took all the ugly white paint off it, sanded it, varnished it and brought it back to it’s original patina. You might chose to tile it, or paint it, or put a marble (or marble effect) piece of kitchen worktop on the top.
Nicola’s builders then cut the top and set the sink and tap inside the unit. And doesn’t it look fantastic. The drawers aren’t usable any more of course but I love the basket storage underneath. Once you’ve found the piece you’re after you could make it the right height by cutting the legs as needed.
What I also love here is the freestanding tap. You could move this closer to you if you didn’t want to reach towards the back of the unit.
Isn’t it a fabulous idea?
Build a Wood Shelf
Olivia from Lust Living has a beautiful eye in her home and her recent wetroom renovation is an absolute stunner. I’ll talk more about her bathroom in a future post but what I want to show here is the brilliant compact wooden shelf they made to house the sink. It’s a small wetroom and space is at a premium so rather than trying to find something in the standard bathroom stores that worked for her, Olivia went for a smaller scale shelf and sink that fits the available room perfectly and also gives a sense of space in a small room.
Again this shelf is something that can be built to your specific needs and the height you need it to be. Consult your builder if you need to lean on the sink if standing, this might not be strong enough, but your builder could advise the best option for you. You can pick whether you want it painted or not, you can do what works best in your room.
I also love the wall mounted taps in a highly contrasting colour to the wall tiles, which is helpful for those with visual issues or dementia.
Olivia has done such a great job in a small room, don’t you think?
Use a Piece of Oak
My favourite accessible bathroom on Instagram of late has been that belonging to Jo, from WheelieLiving shows you don’t have to give up on style to have an accessible bathroom. I’ll be sharing more of Jo’s story soon but in the meantime let’s take a look at this bathroom and the gorgeous piece of oak she selected for the worktop. It was made specifically to her height in the wheelchair and in her shower chair, and the taps were arranged within easy reach for her. Similar to Lisa’s bathroom above, Jo has had a shelf fitted underneath for accessible storage.
I love the natural texture and patina of having a piece of oak in the bathroom, it’s a nod to a nature, especially in this room without a window. It’s hardwearing, unique, and a real talking point in this room. I love how it works with some of the modern elements, such as the sink and the toilet and those amazing tiles. Who says you need to compromise on style if you have a disability?
Use a Trough
Yep. A trough. Bear with me on this. Not only are they extremely durable but they are fabulous shape, have that vintage feel about them, and are typically shallow so a wheelchair user doesn’t have to stretch too far for the taps.
This is the home of a lovely accessible home insta-pal Will’s French Farmhouse. I recommend you follow them on the journey, renovating an old French farmhouse to be a wheelchair accessible holiday home for the family. So far there’s accessible bathrooms, hoists in the ceiling, a pool hoist, ramps and more to come.
This trough has been put into place from it’s first home (left picture) to it’s new home (right picture). The house is still in renovation so it’s not finished but you can see how it can work well for a wheelchair user.
The troughs can be picked up at reclamation yards, online or in vintage or antique shops. They come in single, double, triple sizes – so there’s plenty of choice. I love it as a quirky option. You can paint the enamel on the outside to match your room – imagine it in a bright pink or blue to have a bold modern vibe, or black if you’re looking for a classic feel.
It’s such an unusual idea. I love it. What do you think?
I hope this has given you some ideas to think differently about the way you approach an accessible bathroom – we don’t have to stick to the norm and we can find cheap, alternative ideas to make your adapted home unique and beautifully designed.
What other ideas do you have for unusual sinks? Let me know in the comments below.