We sat down with LeAnne Lavender who recently launched Lavender Accessible Design, a consulting firm that specializes in creating beautifully designed spaces to accommodate users with a disability. While LeAnne and her husband Derek have always loved designing spaces, it wasn’t until Derek was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down that LeeAnne had to face the challenge of designing a fully accessible home. Read on to find out her top tips and tricks for those looking to design an accessible space without sacrificing style.
Congratulations on officially launching Lavender Accessible Design! Could you tell us a little more about your company and mission?
Lavender Accessible Design is a simple consulting business where we think outside the box to beautifully design spaces around a disability. So often we think that accessibility has to be utilitarian and unappealing, which isn’t the case at all! Our goal is to create the best home feeling to those who need it the most.
For our readers that may not follow you on Instagram and know your story, how did you get started in accessible design and why is it your design focus?
My husband and I have always enjoyed designing and renovating spaces. With his technical background and muscle, I could see the vision of the space and he could make it happen. We made a great team and enjoyed turning a 400 sq. ft. garage into a home!
In June of 2016, our world was rocked when Derek was in a serious motorcycle accident on his way to work. Although the accident is still a mystery, he suffered a spinal cord injury which has left him paralyzed from the armpits down. The injury sent us reeling as we spent 5 months in a hospital trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next.
We loved our studio apartment styled space which nestled on an acre near the city but knew it just wasn’t what Derek needed. We sold our home and purchased a ranch which became the vision behind Lavender Accessible Design.
As many of you can relate, when you live with a disability a lot of things become a lot more challenging. We knew we wanted to design a space that would be beautiful, cozy, and accessible because we would now be spending a lot more time at home.
Can you speak to the importance of accessible design in the bathroom?
Ah, the bathroom. The biggest change and adjustment we’ve had to make is that our lives basically revolve around an accessible bathroom. Literally. It’s such a big deal but a topic that isn’t brought up often with able-bodied individuals. Who wants to discuss their bathroom habits or explain to someone in detail they can’t stay at their home because their toilet doesn’t have the right clearance or their shower isn’t a roll-in?
There is hope, folks. An accessible bathroom can and should be in every home! It isn’t necessarily more expensive and certainly can be just as beautiful. If you can kill two birds with one stone, why not?
What elements of design do you consider when designing or renovating a bathroom for accessibility?
There are three important components of an accessible bathroom. The sink, the toilet, and the shower. Yup, basically all the things that make up a bathroom! From a purely aesthetic standpoint, we determine what the style of the home is and how can we pull those features into the bathroom. As you know, you don’t want a super modern bathroom in a French country farmhouse. Once the style is set, we then pick out features that will bring the whole design together.
What are some current trends you’re seeing within the accessible and universal design world?
Funky tiles are a fun feature for any bathroom floor and can also help with wheelchair traction. We suggest either choosing a small tile with a lot of grout lines or a larger tile that has some texture to the design.
How did you come to know Seachrome as a brand and what do you look for in terms of quality, style, and usability of products when specifying or recommending to a client? What element is the most important factor?
Seachrome gets it. They understand that every feature in a bathroom really counts in the design, so that also means making each accessible piece beautiful. Although it would be nice to pick one that matters most, they all matter most! You don’t want a quality piece that doesn’t fit the overall style and you don’t want a stylish piece that isn’t going to hold up. That’s why Seachrome is so great at what they do.
What do you see as a common oversight in accessible design projects by specifiers, architects, or interior designers?
In general, I’m a huge believer that the designer needs to spend some time in their client’s shoes. If the client is in a wheelchair, rent a chair and try it out in the space you are developing. Oftentimes, small yet simple changes are overlooked because they just didn’t think of it.
Where do you hope to see the world of accessible design in the future?
I would love to break the common misconception that accessible design is typically unattractive and therefore not worth implementing in spaces unless necessary. As we know, this just isn’t true! When we were searching for our home, we toured over 50 houses in our town and only one house was accessible…one! Since each of us will know and love someone who is in a wheelchair or needs accessible equipment at some point in their lifetime, why not just start making the changes now?
Images by: The Home Aesthetic