When we found out about Kingsley, moving was one of the first things we worried about. We were told we wouldn't have to worry about it, accommodations could be made, he would be a walker, wait and see ;) We waited. We realized after his fourth surgery that he was not going to be a walker and so the ball starting rolling on a new home for us.
Our first decision was a location. If King was going to be on wheels, I wanted to switch schools. We chose the highschool, then looked at the feeder elementary schools and started looking at the areas. Our second decision was whether we would build or renovate. We came very close to buying a gorgeous house and renovating it, but when we had a contractor who specializes in accessible reno's come in to assess it, we realized it would cost nearly the same to just build from the start and make it all perfect ourselves, minus the part where we live in reno-land. Jeff knew a builder who did only custom homes, so they started to talk.
In December 2011, we put the deposit down on our lot. I googled and googled and asked and read, trying to find out what we should incorporate into this house, how to make it perfect for all five of us, both and in the future.
It's really weird to stand across the street now and see how different things look less than a year later!
Our builders, Crown Homes, were absolutely amazing. I cannot say enough how fantastic they were to work with and how amazing they are. Every single detail was attended. They listened to every request I had, worked in every element and came up with so many ideas of their own. The end result makes me want to pinch myself every morning when I open my eyes. This home is not only accessible, but it's gorgeous. It doesn't look like a barrier free home, which was something that was important to me. It's subtle, which makes it feel like it was made for all of us, not just Kingsley.
But of course, none of this would have happened without Kingsley, so a great deal of thought went into his needs and future needs.
**I have to make a disclaimer here. I found I was putting off doing this post because our house isn't 'done', by which I mean that I have all of these Pinterest-y ideas for it that haven't yet happened. It's not all decorated and pretty, like it should be. And, every time I turn around, the kids have made a mess somewhere. Then I realized, oh well, this is my house. One day, when the kids are all grown up and moved out, it'll look like a magazine cover. Until then, overlook the stuff that isn't that pretty and pretend it is. ;) I'm also not a great photographer, so sorry about that.
Thanks to our fabulous, snowy Canadian winters, the yard is not yet done and will have to wait until the ground thaws and dries out before it gets finished. Eventually, it will have a concrete driveway and walkway up to the front door that will be level with the front porch which is level with the front entrance. I was anti-ramp as they are usually a bit unattractive and draw attention to the fact that someone has mobility challenges, which entices burglars so I've read. The concrete driveway will also have a path extending around the side of the house to the back patio, etc., but I'll have to save all of that for a spring/summer post once it's done. There's also a pool, but it's currently full of ice and surrounded by dirt and snow, so that'll be later also.
We have a double garage that is long and wide. There is enough room for two vans if you wanted, with space to wheel around on both sides and in the front. We did this in case we ever got a van with a ramp, there is room for that. The entrance from the garage to the house is level. There's a bit of a lip that Kingsley currently has trouble with, but once he is a bit more adept at getting over bumps, he'll be fine.
All of the doors and hallways are a bit wider, all of the outlets are a little bit higher, and the light switches a little bit lower, none of which is not noticeable unless I point it out. The door handles are all levers. The house has an open concept which I appreciate so much now that we are here. The rooms are all big, which seemed excessive until Kingsley started to explore and had space to get around any furniture and go anywhere. He doesn't get stuck, he doesn't get trapped, he's not blocked off. It's amazing.
The house is one floor with a mostly-finished basement. Upstairs are a play room/future office, kids bedrooms, our bedroom, great room and kitchen. Downstairs is a rec room, laundry, storage, and more bedrooms. It was a given that we would need some way for Kingsley to get downstairs independently. We started this journey when Kingsley was barely two years-old and finished just before he turned three. In that time, he developed in so many ways that we had to keep altering our plans. At first, we planned on wider stairs (for a future lift of some kind) and a rough-in for an elevator. We kept the wider stairs, but ended up just putting in the elevator, then we made the elevator all automatic so that Kingsley can just use it on his own. The elevator has lost it's novelty for me, but the kids and guests all think it's cool ;) It's about as loud as a garage door opener, which is something I'm asked all the time. You can hear it, but it's not that loud. It's small, but not claustrophobic... unless you're actually claustrophobic, then it would probably be awful. All five of us can squeeze in at once with King on wheels.
Another thing that we did was a built-in baby gate, or built-in wheeler gate! Open stairways give me nightmares, so our builder had a gate built that matches the stair railings and added it right before we moved in with a latch to keep King out. It blends perfectly.
There are three bathrooms and a rough in for a powder room in one of the basement storage areas. The main bathroom upstairs and downstairs are nearly identical and fully accessible. They both have huge barrier free showers that King can roll right in (when he's older and we get a shower chair). There are two shower heads, one that is hand-held or put on an adjustable bar and then the usual one for the girls. There is no vanity, only a sink on a counter. The cabinet man said that we could add to it later on when or if we find a need. For now, we have no clue what King will want in there, if anything. There's also a wheelchair parking space beside the toilet and space to spin around if he wants to do that. I imagine we will do shelving in there at some point, hooks, something Pinterest-y. ;)
two faucets in the shower - one for standers and one for sitters
Our ensuite bathroom is not barrier free. He can get in and move around just fine, but we have a regular vanity, a regular bathtub and a shower with a lip. It's the only non-accessible place in the house, although he loves playing with the bathtub faucets and opening and closing my drawers.
There are three bedrooms upstairs and three downstairs. Currently the girls are sharing a room, but they have the option of moving downstairs whenever they want. They're both terrified of being away from us, so I don't see this happening for a few years. Their bedroom is technically accessible, but the amount of clothing and toys on the floor makes it notsomuch.
if I had any skills at all, I would've been able to make this photo overlap better. but I don't.
Kingsley's bedroom is big enough that he has plenty of space on either side of the bed and a play/therapy area on the floor. We had the ceilings reinforced with extra... blocks of wood? I forget what they were called. Anyway, this was just in case we ever needed a lift or support of some kind for him. Another SB mom recommended we do this. We added a lower bar in his closet and a few shelves to make it functional for him.
I cannot get decent pictures of his room. it's messy and very sunny.
There is another bedroom in the basement that Kingsley can make his own if he also wants to move down there. The basement has big, low windows, so as long as we figure out a way that he would be able to get out in an emergency, he'd be fine. The elevator only goes down in a power outage or fire, not up.
The kitchen was so hard to do. In the end, they suggested that we plan for accessibility on the cabinets against the walls and do an island. If we find that Kingsley wants more use of the kitchen when he's older, we can renovate the island without having to gut the whole kitchen. With that in mind, we chose a side-by-side fridge/freezer with water and ice on the door, which is easier for King to get at than a freezer on the bottom or at the top. Beside that is a bar sink with counter space that is open underneath. Along the other wall is all drawers instead of cupboards that he won't be able to reach into. The microwave is down low, also. The stove is a regular stove, but we can replace it with one with knobs on the front when King and Cor are a little less adventurous. On the island is the regular double sink, a bar-height counter and the dishwasher. The dishwasher we bumped up a few inches so that he can reach in better. I kind of like this for me! There's also a pantry with adjustable shelves so that we can put things he will need within his reach. The rest of the cabinets are tall and barely within my reach, so we will put things he won't need up there.
We have a large mudroom since the laundry is in the basement. I couldn't commit to shelving/cubbies yet, so we will wait a while before we do that. I get a little obsessed with Houzz and Pinterest, trying to plan the perfect mudroom and I think I have it, then I'll see another. Those sites are like crack! I do plan on having hooks, benches, and somewhere for King to wheel right up and store his stuff along with the rest of us.
A big thing that took me so long to decide on were the floors. There's a lot of flooring here. I ended up insisting on laminate over hardwood. It looks gorgeous and so far everyone has told us we've made the right choice (or they've just been nice and lied to us). Kinger is now indoor/outdoor with his wheels and the thought of how scratched up and dirty hardwood would get made me ill. There is also big tiles in the front foyer, bathrooms, laundry room, and mudroom. I have no idea what kind of tile, these details are totally wasted on me. It's pretty ;) The lower level has carpet, which took us a lot of time and searching to pick out. I wanted something durable like in offices, but not industrial looking. I think we ended up with a berber kind of carpet. It's nice. He can roll over it pretty well.
There's an office in the front of the house that we are currently using as a playroom. I like having the kids all on the main floor for now. When they're a bit older and have less toys they can move downstairs and make the rec room their own. It's technically accessible, but man oh man, those kids sure know how to make a mess.
For some reason, I felt really guilty asking for things for ME when we were building this house, but I did manage to toss in some totally guilty pleasures in with all this practical stuff. I got a laundry chute (how else will King get his dirty laundry down there??), those sweeper vac's that suck up your dirt without having to use a dustpan, and a laundry room that made me squeal like a 1950's housewife getting her first vacuum. Oh, the things that thrill me now...
welcome to laundry heaven. there's a folding table with baskets for sorting to the left there. and an iron/board that I'll never use.
We moved in two weeks ago and the difference it has made in our lives is nothing I could have imagined. I recently visited our old house and only then could I appreciate how closed in and narrow it all felt compared to what we have now. Kingsley can and does go ANYWHERE in this house, he has total freedom in his bumbobile, wheelchair, and dynamic stander. In our old house, if Kingsley disappeared it was because he had accidentally trapped himself in the bathroom and was sitting in the dark waiting for us to find him. In this house, I can hardly keep track of him. He loves 'New House' and still gets excited every time we pull in the driveway. I am just so disgustingly happy and grateful that we were able to do this and that we met all the right people who made it happen. This is definitely our forever home.