For architect Jason King, aging in place isn’t just a theoretical design challenge: it’s personal. “As someone who is currently supporting an aging parent who wants to stay in their home, these are issues I spend a lot of time thinking about,” says King.
With a recent Fort Langley project, he had a chance to put his thinking into action—and wrap it all up in a modern architectural package for a pair of design-loving retirees.
The 2,900-square-foot building is flooded with copious amounts of natural light and long views that cut through layered spaces to make the tight lot feel more expansive than its square footage, but it’s also laid out with future mobility in mind: the living spaces are all on one level, with an open floor plan, smooth flooring and wide doors and hallways that could accommodate future wheelchair access.
“We wanted to integrate strategies for the owners to age in place, but make these strategies ‘invisible’ so that the design aesthetic takes centre stage, not the age-in-place strategies,” King explains. "They didn’t want to compromise aesthetics or create a look that implied ‘retirement home’ or ‘hospital.'"
While many of the age in place strategies were immediately implemented, others had their ease of their future implementation hidden for the time being (like blocking inside walls for mounting future grab bars).The bathroom was designed with a walk-in shower and non-slip surfaces, while in the bedroom, adequate clearance was allowed around the bed. In the kitchen, a seated area at the island allows for food prep at multiple levels; large under-counter drawers and front-mounted cooktop controls allow for easier access.
And in addition to these decisions came a million other little things that all add up to make a place comfortable for people of all abilities: light switches are rocker panels, not toggles, door levers are used in place of rounded knobs, and outlets are higher off the ground to eliminate stooping. Surface finishes were even chosen for their non-reflectiveness to avoid interfering with depth perception.
Wade ComerCustom kitchen and millwork from Backbone Cabinet Solutions. Kitchen island is Silastone, kitchen range is Miele, and chairs are Cassina. (Photo by Wade Comer.)
Wade ComerBut just because King took practicality into consideration doesn't mean that he skimped on the aesthetics. Grey-blue accents pop against the mostly white walls and ceilings, while maple hardwood floors bring in warmth. Ample light that infuses the modernist space. “The clients requested generous natural lighting, both for ease of visibility but more importantly for ‘mood’,” says King. “They knew all too well that the many grey days in the Lower Mainland could affect their emotional wellbeing, and they tasked us with providing the antidote through architecture.” King deployed skylights—which provide significantly more light than vertical glazing—to light walls and provide ambient lighting, clerestory windows to admit indirect light in varying amounts throughout the day, and windows that extend down to floor level to illuminate the ground, preventing trip hazards and providing a view out for those who are seated or wheelchair-bound.
Wade ComerDining table is custom from MTH Woodworks; light fixture is Kuzco Lighting. (Photo by Wade Comer.)Carefully placed windows allow views through the glazed courtyard at the centre and to the other side. “While sitting in the den, one could see through the courtyard to the dining room, and then through the window to the side yard beyond,” says King. It’s a trick that gives the illusion of a more expansive environment while still preserving visual privacy... and views that are going to be enjoyed for a lifetime.
CREDITS Building technology consultant, KelTec. Interior design consultant, Interior Solutions Design Group. Feng Shui consultant, Marlyna Los. General contractor, MR Build. Custom kitchen and millwork, Backbone Cabinet Solutions.
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