Interior “Disability” Design

One of the things I have always loved is Interior Design.

After working crazy hours, when I was able to work, I would like nothing better than to spend the weekend at home. It’s always been my happy place.

As a young girl I loved creating a new look in my bedroom regularly, using different bedspreads, curtains, lamps, throws and scatter cushions. Even at a tender age, my soft toys were set out about my room in a “designed” way.

So as an adult it was no surprise I would be passionate about an interior decorating hobby. I love creating welcoming pictures around my home with soft furnishings, furniture placement, rugs, cushions, throws, paintings, curtains, blinds, books, flowers and any other items bringing a smile to my face.

My favourite style is French Provencial with a bit of the Hamptons style thrown in. Some would call my décor “Vintage” others “Traditional”, but whatever title is given, I love to create a space where I feel there’s no place I’d rather be!

No matter how large or small your home is, whether you own it or are renting, I believe if you make it a space reflective of the things you love, it will always feel like home.

A Disability Dilemma

Being able bodied gives enormous scope for creativity. It also gives you the energy and physical ability you need to achieve particular designs. When creating a new design you need to be able to step back, step forward, adjust, readjust, repeat, crouch down, go up a ladder… get the picture. It’s a workout!!

Two main events happened in my life, causing me to not only completely reinvent how to continue to enjoy my hobby, but also to consider how to re-design my home “tastefully” to adapt to a new world with disabilities.

The first event was the creation of my colostomy. Having a colostomy means having to manage colostomy supplies and adequate storage is required. However, I didn’t want was a bathroom resembling a hospital ensuite. I wanted to still be able to retain as much… I guess the word is “dignity”, within my home as possible. I wanted to be able to store my supplies in a way I would feel organised but I also wanted to enjoy going to my stoma supply cupboard numerous times a day. I needed to create a happy stoma space.

Of course this meant only one thing…. going shopping!! My husband was fully supportive about this particular shopping trip. He knew it was as important to me from a well-being perspective as it was from a practical perspective.

I found a beautiful French style cabinet, which has sat happily in our bedroom for 8 years. It matches the rest of our furniture and it’s next to the ensuite so works perfectly. No one would ever know what this little cabinet holds and I love it.

Rudolphs cupboard-open
A Stylish Stoma Storage Design

The other event to turn my life upside down was a pathological left femur break, and subsequent diagnosis of a rare progressive bone disease. It’s left me with a diseased, unstable spine, non union broken femur and multiple non union foot fractures, among other things.

This health event was particularly challenging in terms of interior décor.

The first issue I needed to think about was the best way to rest my leg as it tried to heal. I needed a foot stool to raise my leg but it couldn’t be too high or too low. My husband and I worked out, after using a couple of cushions, around 15 cms high was perfect to provide support and limit pain when sitting ( in my favourite Hamptons’ style wing chair of course).

I had previously bought some lovely cushions online and had a couple spare. My clever husband decided he could make a footstool, specific for my needs and we used one of my favourite cushion covers to upholster it. We added lovely wheels so I could easily move it, depending on what position gave me the least pain while sitting. I love the final result!!

The footstool

Kitchen and Bathroom Creativity

As my bone disease progressed and my disability worsened, it became clear we needed to think about how I could function better in the kitchen. Finding something incredibly comfortable to stand on, rather than tiles causing my legs to ache and swell and my fractured feet to scream, was soon an emergency.

The kitchen floor was an area I wanted to do well and in keeping with my style. We found a lovely indoor/outdoor mat which matched my décor and was practical, but it still wasn’t soft enough. My husband had the idea of putting a yoga mat underneath it. It works perfectly and no one would ever know.

Kitchen rug decor

The bathroom was a little more challenging. I knew I needed rails. I couldn’t stand safely in the shower, I couldn’t get on and off the toilet or stand in the bathroom to get dressed.

We needed rails and lots of them. I didn’t want the bathroom to feel like I was in a nursing home. I love a pretty bathroom. I had visions of white plastic looking handrails everywhere, and a white plastic toilet seat surround to help me get up and down.

I met with an Occupational Therapist and told her my concerns. I had design ideas to make some hand rails double as lovely towel rails, and the toilet seat rails to look like chair arms, fixed to the bathroom floor each side of the toilet. I also wanted a stainless steel look.

She listened to my ideas, and consulted with the company who was approved to provide and install the rails.

Yes….the answer was yes!! My designs were approved. Even better, the rails had a texture to enhance grip and a diamond pattern. I actually loved the look of them even without seeing them installed!

The final result though was beyond my wildest dreams. It’s coordinated, practical and, I think, still a little glamorous.

We used the same kitchen idea in our bathroom of an indoor/outdoor rug, with a yoga mat underneath for comfort. It was the finishing touch. I really couldn’t be happier.

An Elegant Bathroom Despite Disability

I also have a very small ensuite, accessible through a walk in robe. The shower door used to open and hit the ensuite basin and navigating in the space with a walker was near nigh impossible.

So we removed the shower screen door and replaced it with a shower curtain. Of course I couldn’t just leave a shower curtain hanging could I?? No way, I had to give it the Sam touch. So I found a pink headscarf in my collection and used it to pull the curtain to one side, finishing the look with a pretty bow.

From a practical perspective doing this opened the space up allowing me to use the basin area daily to style my hair and put my makeup on.

This is also my stoma bathroom. The toilet has the same designer rails as the main bathroom, everything is in easy reach and the toilet doubles as a bathroom seat for me. You’ll notice in the photo below I also have a “shaving” mirror on the wall next to the toilet. This is so I can sit on the toilet and do my hair and makeup if my legs won’t let me stand. It works so well and is very neat and tidy.

My ensuite toilet/bathroom seat complete with makeup mirror

You Don’t Have To Make Do

Your home is important, even more so when you spend the majority of your time in it due to health issues.

You don’t have to give up on making it an environment you can completely enjoy. Your taste is likely very different to mine, so your ideas to make your home “disabled” friendly will be exciting for you to see come to fruition.

The fun of interior “disability” design is the creative element. Having a project, creating a vision and finding ways to execute it, is rewarding and well worth the effort.

You’ll likely need to enlist the help of an Occupational therapist, carers, family and maybe friends to bring your vision to life, but don’t think you have to settle for stock standard.

You don’t have to make do.

Remember, chronic illness is a part of your life, not all of your life.

Have fun and happy “disability” designing!

Sam xx

If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding and friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.

My book “My Medical Musings”, is published by Imaginewe Publishers and available now to purchase as a paperback or e-book on Amazon.

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I’m also a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page

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2 thoughts on “Interior “Disability” Design

  1. If Sheryl calls and asks about the great redesigns you did, I give you permission to tell a small fib and deny you did anything. we will pretend it is like a Christmas secret (that we must never reveal). That makeup mirror thing might already be being installed.

    Remeber ichsna about the mirrora…right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rick, you are both hilarious and wicked 😅 but don’t worry your secret is safe with me and I hope Sheryl does get that new mirror 😉


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