Internal layout of wheelchair-accessible house

A couple of months ago I decided to try designing a wheelchair-accessible Small House using SketchUp, the 3D design software. I posted about it here in WordPress. I did both a single-storey version, sized 83 sq.metres (about 890 ft2) and a double-storey one. This post is about the internal layout of the double-storey one, featuring 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. As I wrote in the previous post:

Why a Wheelchair-Accessible House?

  • I think that if one builds a house, might as well make the layout and size of rooms wheelchair-friendly to make it more inclusive.
  • Even if there are no wheelchair users in the household, the extra space incorporated will be appreciated.
  • In the meantime, the extra space can be configured to different needs.

As for the size, I started off drawing a single-storey Small House, which is a residential structure that is considered to be up to about 1,000 ft2 (93m2), as featured in the previous post. The double-storey house featured here is about 160 m2, so it’s not considered ‘Small House’. To recap, in any case:

Why a Small House and not Tiny House?

  • Tiny Houses are up to 400 ft2 (37 m2), too small to accommodate the usage of a wheelchair comfortably.
  • Small Houses, bigger at between 400 ft2 and 1,000 ft2 (93 m2), would also offer the amenities of a typical house, like a ‘more regular-sized’ kitchen and bathroom.
  • The single-storey version of the house featured here would be 90 m2 (about 970 ft2). This includes the ramp outside. An additional small single bedroom or study can also be added where the stairs would be in the double-storey house.

I did a double-storey version for additional bedrooms. I’m thinking that, even if the wheelchair user is single and lives alone, an extra bedroom might be useful or even necessary if he or she wants or needs a live-in carer.

I did not feature the internal layout in the previous post because I had arranged it using furniture and fittings from SketchUp’s wonderful 3D Warehouse. As I’m not sure about permission issues regarding featuring them in my post here, I decided to play it safe and draw my own furniture and fittings instead. Just some basic designs. It took me a long time, especially the kitchen appliances. An hour here, a few hours there, but I’ve finally done it.

First, some points on the changes to the external look of the house.

  • Windows and sliding doors were changed to look more Art Deco since that is what inspired the design of the house.
  • Ramp is now longer. With research I now know better about standards such as a 1:12 slope, for safer wheelchair use.
  • The above meant having to reduce the number of side access doors, from two to one.

Dimensions:

  • House structure only, without ramp: length 15 metres (49.2 ft), width 4.7 metres (15.4 ft)
  • Ramp and its top landing deck: width 1.3 metres (4.2 ft)
  • Pool Module (pool, decks and planter): total length 14.5 metres (47.5 ft), width 3.6 metres (11.8 ft)
  • Pool only: length 8 metres. (26.2 ft)

Ground Floor

The ground floor consists of a double bedroom, bathroom, sitting area and kitchen.

Plan View of Ground Floor (featured with Pool Module on the right). The circles in the Plan View above indicate diameter of 1.5 metres (59 inches), space for a wheelchair to turn.

Here is a closer look at the ground floor which is wheelchair-accessible:

Double bedroom for the wheelchair user (and partner). There is space to trade the right bedside table for a writing desk.
Bathroom. The white rectangle in the shower area is a collapsible seat.
Sitting area.
Kitchen with dining table next to the sitting area. The space below the sink and stove is made void to serve wheelchair users. Among other things, the height of the fridge and microwave oven is factored in for wheelchair users. 
The kitchen, dining table and sitting area all look out to part of the Pool Module where outdoor dining can be located. These sliding doors also serve as the access point for wheelchair users.

Upper Floor

The upper floor consists of two bedrooms, both with ensuite bathrooms as well as balconies overlooking the Pool Module below.

Plan View of Upper Floor (featured with Pool Module on the right).
Master bedroom. As with the bedroom directly below, there is space to trade the right bedside table for a writing desk. This room also has a second balcony which is directly above the front door of the house.
Ensuite bathroom of the master bedroom. Instead of the cabinets on the right, there can be space for a bidet. Or, instead of the bidet, put the toilet bowl closer to the wall and trade the shower for a bathtub.
The other upper floor bedroom, with a small ensuite bathroom. There is space in front of the bed for a sofa or chaise lounge, and a writing desk beside the sliding doors of the balcony.

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It’s been very interesting doing this. For the next house, also with Small House proportions, I’ve set my mind to drawing a flood-proof house, what with global warming, rising sea levels and the increasing incidents of hurricanes.

Wheelchair-Accessible Small Home

A closer look at the Pool Module, here shown beside a Double Storey House. The planter at the front is ideal for tall shrubs and other plants, for a curtain of privacy if desired. The deck space beside it is big enough for two loungers and a side table in between them. The deck space at the far end is ideal for a dining table, big enough for 10, great for barbie dinner parties. And the border of the pool is wide to serve as seating so guests can sit and mingle all around the pool. Yes, I’m a lousy cook and it’s a Small House, but I still dream of gatherings with friends and family when I dream of a dream house 🙂

I decided to try designing a Small Home, using SketchUp, the 3D design software. My SketchUp skills are pretty rudimentary, but what the heck, I thought. Just give it a go, and if I’m stuck with something I don’t know how to do, just give it a quick Google search to see if that leads to help.

Why a ‘Small House’?

I’ve been fascinated with the Tiny House movement for some time now. I just love the idea of how having minimal living space will greatly benefit the environment by us acquiring and consuming less things, and generating less trash. Having fewer possessions also means spending less to maintain fewer things, which means more time and money for more fun and meaningful experiences, like travel, for example.

However, apparently what constitutes a Tiny House is a residential structure under 400 sq.ft (37 m2) which I feel is too small to accommodate the usage of a wheelchair comfortably. The bigger-than-tiny ‘Small Houses’ which are considered to be between 400 sq.feet (37 m2) and 1,000 sq.feet (93 m2) would be more suitable in size. They also offer the amenities of a typical house, like a ‘more regular-sized’ kitchen for example, while still offering the option to live in a smaller space than the average typical home.

Why a Wheelchair-Accessible House?

Why not? I’m not a wheelchair user or personally know one, but I’ve always felt that if you’re going to build a house, you might as well make it wheelchair-friendly. It’s not just about being inclusive. Even if there are no wheelchair users in your household, the extra space already incorporated would always be appreciated by anyone, wheelchair user or not. The space can always be configured to different needs.

And if you ever want to sell it, not only are you offering a more readily-viable option for wheelchair users, as the seller you also benefit by having a wider market to pitch the house to. As long as the space and general layout are there, the wheelchair user may only need to modify or add a few things. For example, a ramp long enough for a gentle enough gradient, to lead to an entrance door that had been put in a location precisely with that possible future ramp in mind.

Single Storey House. Length 15 metres (49.2 feet) by Width 4 metres (13.1 feed). Area: 60 square metres (646 square feet). Dimensions exclude ramp and deck area, which are 1.5 metres wide (4.9 feet).

The Single Storey House features 1 double bedroom and 1 bathroom, both with space for the wheelchair user to manouvre around. The same space consideration is also given to the kitchen and living room.

I don’t have the internal layout to show here because I came up with that by arranging furniture and fittings from SketchUp’s brilliant 3D Warehouse. But then I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to feature them here on my WordPress post and other social media like my Instagram. So I’ve decided to slowly make my own furniture like I did the house, along with bathroom and kitchen fittings. Nothing fancy or complicated because frankly I lack the skills, but just simple basic forms to serve their indicated function in their selected dimensions: ‘chair’, ‘dining table’, ‘toilet bowl’, etc. I’ll probably make another post or simply update this one when I’m ready with the internal layout.

(*Update: I’ve done all those things and an internal layout! Here’s the link to that post. And I’ve also now done a flood-resistant version of a wheelchair-accessible house. Here’s the link to that one.)

This is the ‘Pool Module’ : (consisting of Pool + 2 Deck areas + Planter) It’s 3.6 metres wide (11.8 feet). The pool is 8 metres long (26.2 feet). The substantial border of the pool is because my idea is to have it serve as seating all around, for like guests to sit around if there’s a party or whatever. It’s 30 cm wide (just under a foot), so that leaves 7.4 metres in length (24.2 feet) by 3 metres in width (9.8 feet) for the internal of the pool.

Single Storey House shown with Pool Module
Double Storey House. The upper floor features 2 double bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.
Double Storey House shown with Pool Module

The following gallery is a series of combination pairings that share the Pool Module. I especially like the middle one featuring one each of Double Storey and Single Storey houses. I’m visualizing the Single Storey one being used for in-laws, visiting guests, even adult children who have come back to live with parents (in this economy!) or as an office. The perfect home office for the Covid19 nightmare times we are in right now.

And when things get better (Things gotta get better, right? Please, God), it can even be a showroom for the merchandise of your home business. Or a space to hold classes, whatever is it you teach. So many different uses.

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The Single Storey or Double Storey house, or any of the combo pairings above, is also ideal for holiday chalets or resort villas. Wouldn’t it be grand and so cool if the hospitality industry have such accommodations, or more of them, with the wheelchair user in mind?

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I’m going to improve this design as I go along, as and when I have the time. I need to create the furniture and fittings for the internal layout, and I’m excited to see how to put in more Art Deco-inspired touches, starting with the windows and sliding doors for sure. And that ramp definitely needs to be longer so it can be less steep.

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