Lavender’s Longshot: Rethinking Accessible Design
If you visit Derek & LeAnne Lavender’s Indianapolis home, you might notice several things: they have an eye for mid-century design, the beautiful landscaping, and Derek loves tinkering in the garage. Their 1952 mid-century ranch, “The Quarry,” hits on all the design essentials like preserved vintage tile and soaring wood-paneled walls, but it also has hints of modern design with an open-concept living area and even a walk-through fireplace! But there’s one thing that might not be as obvious and that’s that it was designed with accessibility in mind.
Just shy of their third wedding anniversary, Derek was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him a T4 paraplegic. While he’s paralyzed from the armpits down, LeAnne says, “Derek is now completely independent, but we have learned that life just takes a little longer.” At the time of their accident, they were living in “Bunker,” a fixer-upper they had purchased and were renovating DIY style. “We snagged our foreclosed property for an insane deal…we got to work flipping the detached garage into a guest house. Unfortunately, life had other plans and we weren’t able to finish the house before we were forced to relocate,” LeAnne mentioned when describing her time there. As they left Bunker behind, their home search began. Through the home search process, Derek and LeAnne share how his injury altered their search for their second home.
Roll-in showers, or zero entry, allow a person in a wheelchair to easily roll into a shower. When Derek and LeAnne purchased “The Quarry,” they renovated and added on to meet their needs. The master suite needed an accessible shower but they didn’t want it to look like a hospital shower. As LeAnne explains, “Wheelchair-bound folks have the option of using a shower chair which can get completely wet.” So being able to roll into a shower was vital.
A surprising feature of an accessible home is integrated technology. The Lavenders have Alexa which “allows Derek to turn off all the lights, turn on fans, and set room temperatures with just his voice,” LeAnne says. Smart home features have made tremendous advancements that even a stove, garage door, or hot water tank can be voice or app-controlled.
Derek and LeAnne work to educate others about accessible design on their blog, Lavender’s Longshot. LeAnne explains that it’s not just permanent features in a home that need to be accessible, but furniture as well. “Choosing a bedroom set and couch with at least a three-inch gap at the bottom would also allow someone with a Hoyer lift to use the space easily. A Hoyer lift is a piece of equipment that quadriplegics use to get in and out of furniture.”
How Their Home Search Changed With Their Second House
As young newlyweds, their first home “Bunker” was all about budget and the downtown location. As their needs changed after Derek’s accident, so did their home search. “Our sweet Realtor showed us basically every home on the market at that time. We were able to find one house that was built for someone in a wheelchair but the finishes chosen were just not our style.” Trying to find an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant home in their design preference was difficult. Instead, Derek & LeAnne opted to renovate in order to meet their needs. “The home we ended up buying was move-in ready for an able-bodied couple but did not have the setup we needed. The bathroom wasn’t accessible and there was no way for Derek to independently get in and out of the house. Because of this, we continued to rent through the year of renovations.”
Lessons Learned and Advice for Accessible Design
With renovations complete and a magazine-worthy designed home, Derek & LeAnne are now able to appreciate the journey that led them to the perfect home. Their home allows them to entertain on a large scale: “We enjoy throwing parties…including our Memorial Day Olympic Campout we’ve been hosting for a few years now!”
- Renovate To Reflect You: “Our goal was to create a homey space that felt cozy yet worked well for Derek’s injury. I fully believe that accessibility does not mean dorky and we set out to prove that theory. The design of the renovation and also the interior decor was 100% us.”
- Simple, Clean Design: “The less clutter is better. Although minimalism is in right now, it really is a great asset to accessible homes!”
- Graded Driveway: As Derek explains “I like our garage because we don’t need ramps to get into the main level. Most accessible places still have some sort of ramp. We specifically graded the driveway so when you pull into the garage, it is level with the rest of the house.”
- Find A Ranch Style Home: Derek explains their choice in a Ranch home, “Find a ranch as a base. If you are considering adding on, try searching for a home with one less bedroom. We were able to find a 2 bedroom home and add on the accessible master suite.”
If you walked through “The Quarry,” you’d appreciate the design alone, but knowing their story, their journey, and their ability to seamlessly incorporate accessible design makes “The Quarry” that much more impressive. Combating the misconception that accessible design is ugly, Derek states: “We have found that what makes a house accessible are things that able-bodied people can also appreciate. There is nothing aesthetically unattractive about a roll-in shower, it just needs to be done well. Most people appreciate open concept homes and don’t mind a house without stairs. We tried our best to integrate accessibility into a design without being obvious that space was designed around a wheelchair.”
Join us on Tuesday, September 24th at 8:00 PM EST for a Facebook LIVE on the Homes.com Facebook page with LeAnne Lavender talking all about designing an accessible home.