Universal Design (UD) is the concept of creating a space that is accessible for anyone, regardless of the limitations brought upon by age or physical abilities. UD utilizes smart planning to help all walks of life navigate through a built environment with ease.
Vancouver-based Interior Designer, Kendall Ansell of KAI (Kendall Ansell Interiors), did a fabulous job using UD when she renovated Jenna Reed-Côté’s condo in the West Coast’s Olympic Village. Reed-Côté has lived her entire life with spina bifida which has caused her to spend all her waking productive hours in a wheelchair.
Universal Design allows access to individuals like Reed - Côté, offering a level of safety and comfort where her physical limitations would otherwise not permit it. Initially, Reed-Côté had her reservations about working with KAI, as she was reluctant to give up her attempts to assimilate to her condo’s original interior design. She had a difficult time accepting that she couldn’t “make what works for everybody else work for [her]". However, she eventually came around and accepted the idea of remodelling her home as her worries for an inevitable injury using a non-universal designed home increased.
The refurbishing of Reed-Côté’s home was KAI's first Universal Design Project. The prime motive was to create a long-lasting and usable environment that would enable Reed-Côté’s independence and safety. And with a complete reconstruction of the kitchen and adjustments made throughout the home, the firm was successful in creating a space where she can easily manoeuvre.
Within the kitchen, the KAI's team adjusted the countertop layout into a series of round angles for the easy repositioning of a wheelchair. All the major appliances like the cooktop, countertops, and kitchen sink were also rescaled for accessing them head on to avoid reaching and leaning and possible falls. The KAI team also modified the existing bathroom’s vanity to fit a wheelchair and added a bench in the shower for an increase of stability.
Reed-Côté and Kendall Ansell's team at KAI are excited to spread the word on the story of their renovations in the hopes that it continues to get the ball rolling in the world of design adapting to universal design principles. In hopes to support people of all needs, Reed-Côté said it best that “when you’re in your home, that’s when you should feel limitless”. And as a big fan of interior design and as a student of architecture, I applaud both the client and patron in this accessibility conscious pursuit and hope more Canadian designers follow their lead with the initial design of spaces.
To learn more about their impressive portfolio, visit Kendall Ansell Interiors (KAI)
All photos courtesy of Kendall Ansell Interiors.
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Researched and written by Guhar Ullah, BA Architectural Studies at the University of Toronto's John H Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.