The challenge: Eric Skarphol’s sister Kathy Skarphol had moved to Minnesota to be closer to family and live with him in his 1990s Bloomington rambler. Kathy has cerebral palsy and uses a scooter.
Eric and his wife, Anne Maimares, planned to remodel a small main-floor bathroom to add accessible-design features tailored for Kathy, but without sacrificing style. Plus the couple wanted to accomplish this within the existing footprint.
Since this bathroom would also be used by guests, Eric and Anne wanted the design to include materials and finishes that would blend with the contemporary aesthetic of the rest of the house. “We wanted a nicely designed bathroom that would also be functional for Kathy,” said Eric.
The designer: Talla Skogmo Interior Design, Edina, tallaskogmo.com, 952-746-2007. The contractor was Scott Foss, S & P Construction, St. Paul.
Ask the expert: Kathy consulted with Eric on specific features and where to position them according to her abilities. “We measured the height of the sink, handheld shower spray, shower seat and grab rails,” said Eric. They also followed the ADA (American Disabilities Act) guidelines for accessible bathroom design. “I’ve been in plenty of hotel handicap bathrooms that aren’t functional for me,” said Kathy. “Everyone really listened to my suggestions.”
Starting from scratch: The contractor tore out the impractical tub/shower combination and replaced it with a curbless tiled shower with a big opening. A partition wall was built between the toilet and shower. The corners are covered with stainless-steel edging to prevent damage and give it a sleek contemporary style, said Skogmo. “We’re doing more curbless showers in all different bathrooms because they’re so clean-looking.”
Easy access: The project’s only structural change was to widen the bathroom doorway 4 inches, to a total of 32, to accommodate Kathy’s scooter.
Grab and go: A grab bar inside the shower is positioned next to the bench for easy transfer from the scooter to the bench. A flexible hinged grab bar above the toilet is stored out of the way in a vertical position. When Kathy releases the lock, the bar drops down in a horizontal position for support. “The wall-mounted version saves space,” she said.
Tile style: The shower wall tile is a durable and budget-friendly porcelain, patterned to mimic marble veining. “The tiles are a larger size, to make the shower feel bigger, and installed in a staggered pattern for interest,” said Skogmo. The decorative border detail is made of oversized white subway tile accented with a glass and stone mosaic pattern.
Flexible vanity: A motion-activated brushed-nickel faucet is above the oval sink. The vanity has a modern curved edge and was designed with an open space under the sink for Kathy’s scooter. To keep the project within their budget, Eric reused the old mirror and light fixture.
Cool color: The palette mixes shades of blue on the wall and vanity with neutral gray and white marble-look tile.
Multifunctional shower: Two different shower heads were installed for various uses. One is high on a wall near the ceiling, and the other is a handheld sprayer on the wall by the bench for Kathy to reach to wash her hair and shower. The waterproof bench can be folded up against the wall when it’s not in use.
Savvy storage: A medicine chest is built inside the wall on the left side of the vanity for Kathy to reach and store her stuff.
Inside the shower, two recessed shelves at different heights hold soap and shampoo. The vanity has three drawers for other items such as cosmetics, soap and lotion.
Gripping grout: The floor’s pebble-shaped nonskid tile prevents the scooter from slipping when the floor is wet.
The result: The revamped bathroom is a perfect fit for Kathy. “And it looks pretty and inviting — not institutional,” said Skogmo.
Remodeling the space to accommodate all ages and abilities will allow Eric and Anne to stay in their home longer, he said. “It also minimizes the risk to Kathy’s personal safety.”
The best part: Kathy can easily maneuver her scooter inside a bathroom that’s pleasant to be in, she said. “And I value my independence a great deal.”