the UNIVERSAL HOME
Old House Journal|March - April 2020
the UNIVERSAL HOME
For many old houses, it would be difficult and prohibitively expensive to create accessibility throughout. That doesn’t mean we should ignore the commonsense principles of Universal Design when adding on or renovating—especially when it comes to the entry, kitchen, and bath.
PATRICIA POORE
DID YOU KNOW that Frank Lloyd Wright had a client who used a wheelchair? Long before the Americans with Disabilities Act, Wright used accessibility and “universal design” principles to design a fully functional house that nevertheless, and without compromise, looks like the Usonian model it is. The house in Rockford, Illinois, was designed in 1949 for disabled WWII veteran Kenneth Laurent and his wife, Phyllis; the couple delighted in living here for 60 years.

An exception then is more mainstream today. OHJ readers are part of the subset of homeowners who, when making changes to an existing house, consider not only style aesthetics but also the historical record embodied in an old house. We save original elements; we work toward design compatibility and appropriateness of materials. Efficiency and sustainability, too, have become considerations,

for practical reasons involving long-term costs and comfort. Before you add on or undertake a renovation, you should include another category in your design approach: functional use for yourself and others, now and in the future.

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March - April 2020