Finding the Accessible in the Inaccessible – Open Plan Living

It’s time for another dose of interiors inspiration featuring some of my favourite homes from the ‘gram. If you’re looking for accessible interiors inspiration, it’s everywhere, we just have to be open minded and see how we can adapt some of the fabulous ideas on Instagram or Pinterest for our own needs.

Some of the homes I’m featuring in this post are not accessible homes – but there are accessible and inclusive features in them – all we have to do is look past the staircases and see how we can get some fabulous inspiration that we can adapt to our own homes.

Today, we’re talking about Open Plan Living.

UK homes are traditionally built with many small rooms, but most of us at one point or another have extended, knocked down walls and opened up the smaller rooms to create a larger, more open plan space. The preference for open plan living has grown over the past few years, with many homes from those huge ones on Grand Designs to simple garden extensions, there’s a real thirst for breaking down walls and having an open sociable space. Interestingly, with the recent Covid-19 Lockdowns in the UK and people trying to work from home, homeschool and all stay sane in the same space, there’s been a little reversal back to smaller, self contained spaces, but once lockdowns are over and we are socialising again, the need for the larger open plan space will come back in full force.

In our home, we have a small living room, but the kitchen-diner was extended some years ago before we moved here and it’s the place where we all congregate if we have people over. Also it’s where the food and booze is, so that’s pretty standard! There’s an expired planning permission on our house to extend out to the back, to create a large kitchen/living/dining area overlooking the garden. Maybe we’ll do that one day!

Open Plan living is, of course helpful for wheelchair users, it gives plenty of space to move, to turn and to get around without bashing into furniture or door frames, and if you go with wood or tile flooring, it gives you a lovely smooth space to roll around in.

So let’s a look at some of my favourite homes with some fabulous open plan living space…

Lissi Walker / Oxfordone

First up this is one of my favourite homes on Instagram. Lissi’s home is full of vibrant colour, textiles and quirky pieces and it feels so homely. Lissi has a great eye for colour and DIY and has some some fantastic paint effects around the house, I really envy her decorating and painting ability!

The house is mainly laid out on one floor, with a guest room and bathroom (and a large wall of shoes!) upstairs. Her kitchen/living/dining area stretches across the back of the whole house and is a gorgeous space. The flooring is consistent across the area, so there’s no pesky thresholds to navigate. There’s also plenty of space to move and spin around in your wheelchair.

It’s a simple, easy flow from kitchen to living area to dining area. Also, have you noticed that cheeky wheelchair height bar? Perfect for everyone to reach. The colours and mid-century vibe runs through all of the designs, from the Eames style chairs to the Ercol style sofa. It’s full of style and there’s plenty of inclusive and accessible inspiration to be had here.

Lissi has a wonderful blog detailing her love for colours and design – take a look here for more fabulous colour inspiration.

Amy Wilson

Next up, is the fabulous Yorkshire home of Amy Wilson. If Amy looks familiar you may recognise her from the recent series of BBCs Interior Design Masters where she did some really great design work.

Amy’s home is full of fun, colour, texture and brilliant design ideas all over, but in her open plan living/kitchen/dining area she has a swing, a brilliantly hidden secret door and a wonderful mosaic on the wall, “Made in Yorkshire” – it’s a fun family home, full of beautiful pieces and great accessible inspiration.

I realise the swing might not be to everyone’s tastes – but it may be a fun idea for a sensory room design in a child’s room, or for even for adults with sensory issues to chill out on. Who doesn’t love a swing!? I think it’s a great idea and being a family home I bet there’s arguments over who gets to sit on it! Of course you need to consider safety issues around your personal situation but it’s an idea that’s worth thinking about! (Of course always call in the experts to fit this type of feature!)

What I love about Amy’s open place living space is that there’s plenty of light and space for a wheelchair to get around easily. There’s a wide turning circle even between the island and the cooker, giving you plenty of freedom!

The kitchen (of dreams!) is accessible with all cabinets and pan drawers down low within easy reach, and there’s easy access out to the garden. I love all the colours and the beautiful wood tone of the cabinets contrasting with that bold wallpaper is a fabulous look.

There’s some also beautiful hardwearing flooring down, tile/stone on one side, wood on the other to give definition to the kitchen/dining and living spaces, and the flooring is is easy to roll around on and to clean if you have muddy or wet wheels.

This room always makes me smile whenever it pops up in my Instagram feed!

If you’re in the Yorkshire area or further afield, and want some design advice Amy would be great to call upon. All her contact details are in her blog and her Instagram.

Laura / The Happy Build

This is a new find for me on Instagram, I’ve only been following Laura’s account for a few months but it’s turning into a favourite of mine because of this completely fabulous open plan living, kitchen and dining area, that leads seamlessly into the outdoors space. I love the simplicity of the design – the paired back, uncluttured feel, the openness of it and the clean straight lines.

The amazing thing in this kitchen for me is the tiled floor, which is a dream for wheelchair users to scoot around on, and the folding door mechanism is set into the floor so you can get to the beautiful outside space with outdoor kitchen, without any bother at all. The flooring feels like it flows from one space to the other, which for a wheelchair user is a dream!

There’s also so much space here to move around and the kitchen is pretty accessible too, I spy Pan Drawers all the way down the island, these are so much more useful to a wheelchair user than trying to reach into the back of a deep cupboard, and the mid-level ovens are also very friendly for wheelchair users. The light, pared back feel to this home is also likely to be useful to those with sensory issues who prefer a more neutral feel if too much colour is unsettling for you.

Whilst many of us in the UK don’t have the luxury of this much space, we can take some inspiration from the design, the pan drawers, the large flooring to ceiling cupboards offering storage at every height, the easy to clean and maintain flooring and the easy access to the outside space mean that there are accessible elements to this home that you might not have thought of.

Robyn Donaldson / Around.Robyn

Last up on today’s ideas for open plan living is a semi open plan feel of Robyn and Jamie’s home. The kitchen-diner is open plan with a door to the garden, and they have fabulous glass doors through to their office area and living room. What I love about that is you can keep the doors open for an open plan feel, or close them if you want to get cosy in the living room, or to close off the smell of a particularly fragrant curry on the hob, yet the glass keeps it all open as you keep the sight lines through to the garden from the sofa.

I love the colours and textures in Robyn’s home. Her instagram name was formally ‘almost everything off ebay’ and her eclectic style and love of vintage furniture shows through in every room. Also she has two excellent dogs who love the limelight, you’ll see sneak peeks of them in most shots.

The kitchen dining area is small (or standard UK size!), but there’s lots of storage, and an excellent vintage wheelchair accessible round table (not many round tables are accessible as they usually have a middle post which can get in the way of the footplate of a chair, but this table has four legs which gives plenty of space for a wheelchair user to get under).

I also like the butcher’s trolley, which is easy, accessible storage for wheelchair users to reach without issue, and it’s on wheels so can be moved if you need to use it for food prep, or for party drinks and nibbles. The range also has a couple of handy height ovens which could be useful for some wheelchair users as they’re not too low down.

If you love vintage, eclectic mid century stuff then Robyn is a great account to follow. Also she has an excellent blog with co-host Emma that talks about home and health and many other things besides. We’ve featured on her blog before – see here for more details!

So there you go! A quick whistle-stop tour of some of my favourite open plan living spaces on Instagram. Remember you don’t always have to look for accessible inspiration from other accessible homes. Look for designs and styles you like from any home and see how you can adapt it to work for you.

Which one is your favourite, and do you prefer open plan or separate spaces? Let me know in the comments below!

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