Before & After: A 1952 Midcentury Becomes a Wondrous, Wheelchair-Accessible Home

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By Michele Koh Morollo
After a tragic motorcycle accident, a couple renovate their home to meet new needs, while also launching a small business to assist other individuals with designing beautiful, wheelchair-accessible spaces.

On the morning of June 15, 2016, while riding his bike to his office in Indianapolis, Indiana, Derek Lavender had a tragic accident that damaged his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down. After months of rehabilitation, he and his wife, LeAnne, began looking for a home to accommodate the couple's new needs.

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Derek and LeAnne Lavender and their dog.

Derek and LeAnne Lavender and their dog.

"After Derek’s accident, we were quickly thrown into the world of accessibility," says LeAnne. "It's amazing what you don't notice until you have no choice but to notice it. We had no idea how many homes built in the ‘80s had sunken family rooms, or all the bedrooms upstairs, which just wouldn’t work for us." Finally, after looking at more than 50 properties, they eventually came across a 1952 ranch-style home that had potential for a wheelchair-accessible renovation. 

Though this two-bedroom house did not have any accessible features, its layout presented the Lavenders with the chance to rekindle one of their favorite shared pastimes—the rehabilitation of old homes. 

Though this two-bedroom house did not have any accessible features, its layout presented the Lavenders with the chance to rekindle one of their favorite shared pastimes—the rehabilitation of old homes. 

They purchased the house, which they named The Quarry on account on its limestone foundations, and began working to transform it. Scroll ahead to see the fascinating "before" and "after" photos.

Before:

Before: a look at what would soon become a new garage addition

Before: a look at what would soon become a new garage addition

"We were initially drawn to the home because of its charm and location. The fact that it was only two bedrooms and below our budget just added to the appeal," says Derek.

Before: the carpeted living room 

Before: the carpeted living room 

They converted the two-car garage into a master suite. Because Derek’s main needs were to have everything on one level, the couple raised the floors of the master suite and then added a new garage. This way, once Derek pulls into the garage, he can seamlessly enter the house, which now has zero thresholds. 

Before: the interior spaces prepped for renovation 

Before: the interior spaces prepped for renovation 

The biggest challenge for the couple was building the fireplace. When the crew demolished the ceilings, the Lavenders discovered that the chimney was built crooked, so they worked with a concrete team to come up with a new design that featured a cutout.

Before: the kitchen

Before: the kitchen

The original house had doorways that weren’t wide enough for Derek's wheelchair, and one of the bathrooms wasn’t wheelchair-accessible at all, so they vaulted the ceilings and opened the walls to create more space. 

Before: the interior spaces during the renovation

Before: the interior spaces during the renovation

Now, the 2,600-square-foot renovated space in which Derek can lives comfortably and move around with ease.

After: 

The entrance hallway.

The entrance hallway.

The new eight-foot tall chimney. Though the cutout was never a part of their original plan, they now love this unique feature, as it brings ample light into the dining room.  

The new eight-foot tall chimney. Though the cutout was never a part of their original plan, they now love this unique feature, as it brings ample light into the dining room.  

The living room was painted in dark Iron Ore paint by Sherwin Williams to help disguise the TV and add a little division to the spaces. 

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"With Derek’s injury level, he lacks any core ab muscles, which means that he cannot easily pull a recliner handle on a sofa, so we chose a power sofa from West Elm," adds LeAnne.

"With Derek’s injury level, he lacks any core ab muscles, which means that he cannot easily pull a recliner handle on a sofa, so we chose a power sofa from West Elm," adds LeAnne.

The Lavenders commissioned Ohio–based 910 Castings to make a beautiful, bespoke table for the dining room.

The Lavenders commissioned Ohio–based 910 Castings to make a beautiful, bespoke table for the dining room.

For the dining room, they saved some of the paneling from the renovation and had these patched on to the new vaulted ceilings. "We love how the paneling really pulls in the midcentury vibe of the original kitchen cabinets," says LeAnne. 

The old kitchen was restored and refreshed.

The old kitchen was restored and refreshed.

In the new master bathroom, the roll-under vanity allows Derek to get close to the sink when he gets ready in the morning. 

In the new master bathroom, the roll-under vanity allows Derek to get close to the sink when he gets ready in the morning. 

In the bathroom, the wood shelving gives the space a more luxurious feel.

"Our bathroom cabinets were really the biggest success for us. With all the medical supplies, we needed extra storage in the bathroom. We had a very specific vision in mind, which Duvall Woodworking knocked out of the park," says LeAnne.

"Our bathroom cabinets were really the biggest success for us. With all the medical supplies, we needed extra storage in the bathroom. We had a very specific vision in mind, which Duvall Woodworking knocked out of the park," says LeAnne.

Along with a beautiful home, this renovation also led to the founding of Lavender Accessible Design, LeAnne’s consultancy business.

"Who said accessibility needs to be dorky? Handicap folks spend a considerable amount of time at home, and often the stigma is that their homes can't be beautiful. We would love to change that!" says LeAnne.

"Who said accessibility needs to be dorky? Handicap folks spend a considerable amount of time at home, and often the stigma is that their homes can't be beautiful. We would love to change that!" says LeAnne.

"Being new to the accessible-world, we were researching and coming up with ideas on the fly. If we were to ever do this again, the experience of living with a wheelchair for longer than six months would certainly be in our favor," she adds. 

"When we found a home with two bedrooms, we figured it would be way more fun to add on a master suite that would meet our needs and also style," notes LeAnne.

"When we found a home with two bedrooms, we figured it would be way more fun to add on a master suite that would meet our needs and also style," notes LeAnne.

Read more about this amazing couple on their blog, Lavenders Longshot.

Project Credits: 

Architect and builders: Corinthian Fine Homes 

Interior design: Lavender Accessible Design / @lavenderslongshot 

Cabinetry: Duvall Woodworking 

Dining room table: 910 Castings