You May Have a Physical Disability, But Your Home Doesn’t Need To Look Disabled Too!

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 that I would be passionate about an interior decorating hobby. I love creating welcoming spaces around my home with soft furnishings, designed furniture placement, beautiful rugs, cushions, throws, paintings, curtains, blinds, books, flowers and any other items bringing me joy and a sense of well-being.

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…..you 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 physical disabilities.

The first event was the creation of my colostomy. Having a colostomy means having colostomy supplies and adequate storage is required. However, I didn’t want 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, two non union broken femurs, 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 legs and feet. I needed a foot stool to raise my legs, but it couldn’t be too high or too low. My husband and I worked out, after using a couple of cushions as a template, 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

More recently, I needed an electric lift recliner chair to assist me with a better quality of life. As many of you may know, these can easily look like they belong in a nursing home, not in your carefully designed living room.

Well, thankfully, those days are behind us. Working with my  occupational therapist (who I must add is just amazing), and her industry contacts, revealed a whole world of options to design a chair just right for me. I discovered these chairs do come in designs that have a little flair, and you can even choose fabric types and colours to suit your style. I love yellow and felt a splash of colour would bring a sense of fun, warmth, and not remind me of my disability all the time. I’m so pleased with the final result. The day of delivery was a lot of fun as we all saw our vision, of a very “chic” designed lift chair, become a reality.

Due to my lack of mobility, I also needed a compression cushion for my chair. They are generally pretty ugly to have sitting on top of your beautifully designed recliner. Well, thankfully, there is an amazing solution! My chair has a cut-out piece in the centre of the seat, allowing a state of the art pressure cushion to be inserted into a cushion cover made in the exact same material as the chair. I love it!

My very special lift recliner chair, complete with pressure cushion insert

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.

Not only did we need rails, but we needed lots of them. However, I didn’t want them to dominate the bathroom. 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 my previous 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, on 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 pretty 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 originally opened in a way it hit the ensuite basin, and my bone disease and disability had progressed since the original rails were installed. Navigating in the space with a walker was near nigh impossible, let alone having carers in there helping me to shower.

So, my current occupational therapist arranged to remove the shower screen door and replace 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

Don’t Forget to Style Your Outdoor Space

Often, those of us physically disabled simply can’t get out of the house regularly due to extreme pain or connected chronic disease symptoms. However, getting fresh air and enjoying nature in some way is really important.

You don’t need a big outdoor space. A small patio or balcony can become an extra living space filled with colour. It doesn’t even have to include real plants. A pretty table and chair, or bench seat with lovely cushions, and some silk flowers or artificial topiary trees, can create a special area to retreat to. You just need to design it in a way that reflects your style and personality and brings you joy.

We have a very small back garden and patio area, accessed from our living area. It’s designed to bring me joy from inside the house and when I’m able to venture outside.

The green hedge on the fence is artificial, as is the grass. Very easy care. The beautiful plants and flowers are all in pots, and at this stage my husband looks after these. If needed, I can get gardening assistance through my care package.

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. You don’t have to lose your identity.

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

Have fun and happy “disability” designing!

Sam xx

Medical Musings with Friends

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.

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6 thoughts on “You May Have a Physical Disability, But Your Home Doesn’t Need To Look Disabled Too!

  1. I LOVE what you’ve done with your home & your space to make it practical & so comfortable. I’ve come to appreciate being home so much since getting sick but it’s hard when it’s not ‘my’ home and my only space is my room (I’d definitely like a bigger one because I can’t fit all my meds and medical stuff anywhere!) I must say, I’m a bit jealous of your awesome stoma storage set-up – it looks incredible! I’ve got stoma stuff here, there and everywhere, plus extras in a plastic tub on top of the wardrobe in the back bedroom. You know, just about the most awkward and dangerous place to have to get it up and down from 😆

    Love the tips & inspiration xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The stoma supplies certainly tend to take over, don’t they. I have more at the top of our linen cupboard, which are difficult to access, but they are thankfully emergency supplies and not needed daily.
    I completely understand how only having the one room makes it so much more tricky.
    Maybe during rest times you could lie on the bed and dream up your ideal bedroom design. Who knows…dreams can come true and you definitely deserve a beautiful room because you are such a beautiful person. Take care Caz, love Sam xx

    Liked by 1 person

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