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Accessible Design, Accessible Remodeling

The best way to discuss accessible design or barrier free remodeling, which includes everything from accessible kitchens, additions and accessible baths to residential elevators, and wheelchair lifts, is to share with you a recent and very satisfying accessible remodel which we are just now completing in Northwest Washington DC.

Our customer(s) two long time friends Carl and Oscar are a story themselves. Carl in his 70's as the result of health issues is now in a wheel chair and Oscar also in his 70's due to an undetected child hood injury is a leg amputee. A physically challenged odd couple that were always upbeat and interested despite the hardship of living in a whole house remodel. The house Carl has owned since the 70' is a circa 1890's Adams Morgan Row house in Washington DC. The house is 70' long, 16' wide, and is a 110 year old masonry and balloon frame constructed residence, containing four generations of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, upgrades, repairs and every prior owners version of an improvement!

Signature Kitchens, Additions & Baths, it's sister company Signature Elevator & Cab Design were particularly qualified for this challenge which was to design & install a four story residential elevator, an accessible bathroom on the second floor an accessible kitchen and powder room on the first floor and a wheelchair lift from street level to the first floor.

Accessible Kitchens, Accessible Baths

Signature Kitchens, Additions & Baths, designed and specified products for an accessible kitchen and an accessible bath on the first and second floors, just out side of the elevator. The accessible kitchen would be located in the rear of the first floor. For our kitchen design we chose Medallion Cabinetry, their Designer product line for its price point and it's flexibility in modifications. Carl & Oscar selected the door style Brookhill, in a Pecan stain. The kitchen design included modified toe kicks to 8" and cabinet heights to 32" dependent upon each cabinets anticipated use.

We used lots of pull out shelving and a fantastic blind corner pull out, specially made for handicap height, which essentially allows the user to pull out of the entire contents of a 48" deep cabinet. We added several counter top to ceiling cabinets with appliances garages for quick access.

A big part of kitchen design is the appliances. This was especially true in this remodel. We began with an American Blue Star convection oven because of its French oven doors, each side is hinged. Gaggenau & Fagor have similar side hinged door ovens.

For a cook in a wheelchair there is no door getting between you and your culinary creation! For counter top cooking we chose a General Electric Induction Cook top. Reach right over a burner on high and it is cool to the touch, unless of course you are the tin man, or that famous tea pot. To get the heat & cooking fumes out fast we installed a 600 cubic feet per minute fan by Vent A Hood enclosed & completely hidden in the Medallion Cabinetry. The kitchen is complete with a GE Profile French door refrigerator and dishwasher. We heated the floor with MAAX's 220 amp radiant flooring system under a gorgeous stone tile which we laid in a classic Versailles pattern.

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I've worked with many contractors over the years and this was the largest project I've done. Fortunately, it was also the most satisfying. Gary Case and his "Signature" companies proved to be masters of their craft. There were many challenges. The project had to meet Historic Preservation requirements and the Review Board noted that the project "strikes a perfect balance between the competing concerns" of accessibility needs and historical preservation. Space is at a premium, yet Signature drew on its incredible creativity and installed a 4-floor residential elevator while actually increasing usable living space. The accessible kitchen remodel transformed what was antiquated into a showpiece, while a previously unusable bathroom was made an accessible bathroom so precise to my needs that I no longer require assistance. Best of all, this was all accomplished largely within budget and within the scheduled time. It's hard to do better than this.

- Carl's testimonial

Carl can be reached for further discussion through his designated contact at the Signature companies:
SaraE@signatureelevators.com

Gary Case can be contacted at:
Gcase@SignatureKAB.net

Our accessible bath design included a most amazing product called the Sure Hands Lift. It is a unique patient controlled, patient lift which runs on a ceiling track. Carl with no assistance is able to transport himself from bed to toilet to tub and back again. The accessible bath design included a Toto bidet toilet, and an Easy Slide Handicapped Tub by Independent Living USA, as well as a Porcher pedestal sink. We were concerned about the room temperature; it takes much longer to get dressed or undressed when you are physically challenged. After consulting with Roger Morris at the Tile Shop in Rockville MD, about the kitchen it was clear we were going to install the MAAX 220 amp radiant floor system under the bathroom tile and the new engineered hardwood floor in Carls' bedroom.

Residential Elevators & Hoist Ways

Signature Elevator & Cab Design stated the job with a postage stamp demolition from roof to basement, making room for a home elevator manufactured by Federal Elevator Systems, the Panorama model. We modified the cab to 42"x 54" from a standard 36" by 48" to give Carl the turning radius needed to enter & exit through two elevator doors at 90 degrees to each other. We took this route because in such a thin house it was not possible to stack our elevator doors one upon the other. During the accessible design process we used a cabin wall mock up of various real dimensions to essential custom fit the elevator to Carl's abilities and his wheel chair. Our interior cab design was recessed oak walls & ceiling with hardwood flooring. An additional challenge was the third floor ended short of our proposed hoist way. We built a small addition on the second floor extending the third floor back far enough to encompass the elevator shaft. This illustrates the uniqueness of accessible design. Each customer has their own challenges which often need to be address physically not just on paper. Your best bet is to bring in an Occupational Therapist someone who understands & is an expert in the occupation of daily living.


It became obvious quickly that all of our work was Carl's quest for two results. First, he wanted to have complete access to his entire house. Second, Carl wanted to get out and drive! He had passed his drivers test for the second time in 60 years! We needed to get him back on the road. Our problem was the first floor was 6' above exterior grade and the basement was 3' below exterior grade. Our solution an outdoor residential wheelchair lift, sometimes called a porch lift. We chose the Savaria 1504 porch lift. PHOTO The Savaria 1504 is rare because it can travel as high as 23 feet. It can also be specified for an out door enclosure as well as for indoor use in a hoist way. Within its 23' it can have multiple stops and we needed a three stop. Carl can now take his porch lift from his accessible kitchen to street grade or he can take it up to the top of his detached garage where he has had a sun deck for many years.

I have been in the related real estate, building, & remodeling industry for almost 30 years. I cannot recall a more challenging or gratifying project. Carl & Oscar from the two companies Signature Kitchens, Additions & Baths & Signature Elevator & Cab Design and all its' employees Jen, Sara, Fabricio, the entire crew and myself Gary Case it was a pleasure to serve you! Good luck and safe driving!

National Kitchen and Bath Assoc.

National Assoc. of the Remodeling Industry

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National Assoc. of Home Builders

Signature Kitchens Additions & Baths, 850 E Gude Drive #C Rockville, MD 20850      Licensed in MD, DC & VA

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Accessible Design Washington DC, Bethesda, McLean, Potomac, Arlington, Rockville. Accessible Design Ideas fro Capitol Hill DC, Chevy Chase, Alexandria, Olney, Great Falls. Accessible Design Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Gaithersburg, Dupont Circle, Falls Church and Great Falls VA