Renee and John Lane moved from a large house on 6 acres in Marine on St. Croix to a 1960s New England-style cottage in St. Paul. They knew that this next home would be an ideal candidate for modifications to accommodate John’s limited mobility stemming from health issues.
“We wanted to turn it into one-level living with a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor,” Renee said.
The couple’s long-term remodeling plan was to create spaces that were flexible and accessible for John while updating the timeworn, floral-wallpapered interiors. The first project on the list was to convert the cramped powder room into a multifunctional bathroom outfitted with a shower and grab bars to support John when he felt unsteady on his feet.
The challenge: Make a tiny powder room bigger, more accessible and easier to maneuver for a homeowner with limited mobility.
The team: Sylvia Frank and Peter Carlsen, Carlsen & Frank Architects, St. Paul, www.carlsenfrank.com, 651-227-4576. Contractor: John Beckman Construction, Edina.
The solution: Frank and Carlsen designed a floor plan that removed a wall between the existing powder room and a front-entry coat closet and hallway. This added about 20 square feet to expand the width of the newly built bathroom. Now it could accommodate a wheelchair, if necessary, and there was enough space for a shower at the far end. The new bathroom would double in size and be “perfect for my husband to maneuver around,” homeowner Renee Lane said.
Step-free. The walk-in shower is level with the floor and equipped with a bench and a hand-held sprayer. “When recovering from major surgery or having a heart issue, a small step is like a giant step,” Renee said. Frank installed four horizontal and vertical grab bars in areas that Renee’s husband, John, requested.
Earthy and elegant: The Lanes liked the multicolored slate tile floor in the nearby foyer, so they decided to repeat it in a similar pattern on the bathroom floor. It took some searching, but they found tile that matched, said Frank. “A threshold can be a tripping hazard,” she said. Using the same materials ensured a level, hazard-free transition from the foyer to the bathroom. The white-painted vanity is topped with green-hued granite and offers lots of storage drawers. Frank also added a handy narrow towel closet. “The little touches, like the painted wood trim, make the bathroom feel more elegant,” Renee said.
Let there be light: In the remodeled bathroom, an original octagon window now draws light into the new shower. To keep the window moisture-proof, the contractor installed tile trim instead of wood. Frank found two wall sconces that give out abundant light, as requested by the Lanes.
Details, details: The shower bench is just the right height, and the granite slab top has a rounded edge for comfort. “It’s important to focus on little details when a client has a disability,” Frank said.
Glad they did: The summer after the Lanes moved into the remodeled home, John had to undergo surgery. In order for him to return home from the hospital, the residence required a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor, which the couple luckily had, thanks to Frank’s design plan. John died in April. “We were thankful that he was able to enjoy the features of the remodeling and the handicap accommodations,” Renee said.
The result: The modifications made it possible for John to use the bathroom and bedroom-turned-office, which were adjacent to the living room. “It was comfortable for John to function on one floor of the home,” Frank said. “It made life easier for him.”