The architects of Solares Architecture renovated this brick house to make a home that’s fully accessible for all its residents; careful consideration was given to every surface, space, feature and appliance to create a house that can be enjoyed equally by all members of the family, regardless of age or physical ability. Located in Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village, the resulting home builds on the concepts of Universal Design, with an overlying emphasis on accommodating the functional needs of everyone that might use a space, from toddlers to senior adults. Built by Spaces Construction and Renovation, renovated features involve an attached garage connecting the back driveway to the house at the basement level, with a roof deck above. The renovated home also features a residential elevator and an interior retrofit to open up the rooms for ease of mobility and use.
Universal Design focuses on usability – not just the practicality of an item or whether or not it is a useful addition to a household, but how easy it is to access, use, store, or maneuver the spaces and features that make up a home. Keywords in Universal Design will revolve around safety, quality, spaciousness, and wellbeing. This home is not a show-stopping luxury villa with golden knobs and marble floors; rather, it is a compassionate environment with features that bring comfort and mobility to all members. In this design, every room isn’t just a stylish space; it’s an investment in quality of life.
The view of the dining room here shows the retrofitted interior, with a large, open hall connecting the common living spaces of the first floor. One key accessibility feature of the renovation is the elevator, which is found next to the staircase – a fitting location that groups both stairs and elevator in a central, unified location within the home. Note, in addition, that the dining room table is quite large for having just four chairs; because of this, this open dining space is welcoming to the addition of a wheelchair or walker.
A view of the kitchen displays a U-shaped counter that creates a convenient arrangement for a person who is centrally located within the space, allowing them to reach most cabinets or appliances while expending minimal energy. Lightweight chairs make a thoughtful addition to the kitchen counter; they’re easy to fold up and lift out of the way when necessary – and you don’t have to be a professional weightlifter to accomplish the task!
A view of the upstairs hallway shows a conventional closed layout present in many of Toronto’s older homes; however, the space is left free from obstacles like bookshelves and decorative statues, opening up the smooth floor for an easy transition from room to room. Sliding doors and wide door frames provide additional ease of mobility.
As a private space, the bathroom is given special attention, as many thoughtful safety features are required in order for a person of limited mobility to maintain an independent bathroom routine. This design shows consideration for the extra maneuvering space required by someone who uses a wheelchair or walker. In addition to the extra space, the room provides safety and comfort through the inclusion of a support railing for the toilet, lightweight shower chair, walk-in tub, and dressing area where a curtain can be pulled across for privacy. These features allow a person to comfortably adhere to their own bathroom routine without worrying about lack of space, lack of support, lack of mobility, or lack of privacy. This thoughtful and highly usable room is a breath of fresh air!
The bedroom also features support measures, such as the assistive railing that helps with getting in and out of bed without needing to call for a hand. Long, low windows also provide a comfortable, open view without the need to lean, reach, or stand on tiptoes, making the views just as accessible as the stationary features of the room.
The home also provides access to fresh air with a small backyard patio, which can be reached through a seamless transition through a sliding door. In this design, a person using a wheelchair or walker will find it refreshingly easy to get outside for some sunlight and fresh air.
This view shows the enclosed patio as it sits on top of the garage, taking advantage of the lift in elevation to create a patio that extends seamlessly at the main level of the home.
For more practical and accessible living ideas, see this ideabook with 9 kitchen accessories that make your life easier