Accessible design often gets a bad rep; it’s stereotypically thought to be heavy, unsightly, or outdated. But, it doesn’t have to be that way — just ask LeAnne and Derek Lavender. The Indianapolis-based couple is redefining what accessible design means and how it can be expressed in a space. Following a terrible accident in 2016, LeAnne and Derek needed to transform their home to make it more wheelchair-friendly, but were challenged with finding accessible designs that were also aesthetically pleasing. This inspired them to want to design their home in way that would seamlessly blend the two to create a home that not only looked beautiful, but catered to their needs. Now, they are helping others in similar situations design around their disability through Lavender Accessible Design, as well as on their blog, Lavender’s Longshot.
I caught up with LeAnne to learn more about her accessible design journey and home inspiration.
What’s the story behind your blog Lavenders Longshot?
We originally started the blog back in 2013 when we were renovating our first home, Bunker. This was a one car garage that we turned into our 400 square foot tiny house. We lived in Bunker until June 2016 when [my husband] Derek was in a terrible accident on his way to work. Within an hour of being in the emergency room, I learned that my athletic, handy husband was a T4 paraplegic with less than a 5% chance of walking again. I quickly turned our blog into a way to keep people updated on his recovery and then eventually transitioned it into accessibility. It’s certainly been a wild ride these last six years!
How did you get started in accessible design?
While designing our home, I was surprised at how hard it was to find accessible spaces that inspired me. I have always loved the process of making a house a home and felt that extra oomph to help folks in similar situations like ours. There are clever ways to integrate both design and accessibility. After we finished our home, it won a few design awards and was featured by Dwell as a top
accessible design. This got me thinking about how I can help people design around their disability and create a place they can be proud to call home. Accessibility does not mean that your space has to be dorky or clunky!
How do you define accessible design?
In its simplest form, creating spaces that can be used by everyone! For me, I specifically enjoy designing around a wheelchair or creating a space that one can age into gracefully.
Where do you get your home inspiration?
I am a big believer in taking the exterior style of your home and incorporating it into the interior! Our home is a midcentury ranch with funky tile and paneled walls sprinkled in. By researching midcentury design, I use that as my base and add in some modern pieces. One thing I find inspiring? Colors. Give me all the colors.
How do you describe your style?
Warm and homey with pops of plants.
Advice for decorating a small room?
Keep “stuff” to a minimum and have one statement piece that you love. For small bedrooms, I enjoy making the headboard and linens pop. My favorite material for headboards? Leather.
What’s your favorite room in your house?
Our dining room! Originally this space was a fully paneled den cut off from the rest of the house. We had our table created by 910 Castings and I love the way it pulls the paneling and fireplace together. In the dining room, we love playing games, hosting dinner parties, and usually have a puzzle in the works on the far end of the table!
What are your favorite colors for the season?
For winter, I love golds, blues, and greens. In the spring, I will swap out our heavy fur throws for lighter blankets and brighter pillows with hues of orange or coral.
What were a few things you envisioned in your dream home?
We then went on a long journey looking for a space that we could make accessible! For us, the ability to make something accessible is huge. Since not all places are easy to access with a wheelchair, we love to host get-togethers here at our home. We wanted a nice flat yard, an accessible master suite, and wide-open spaces for parties!
Advice for undergoing a home renovation?
Pick everything out before the construction starts. It will make life much easier when you can envision the end product at the beginning instead of making selections on the fly! Also, remember to breathe and be thankful. Home renovations can be stressful but what a blessing it is to get the chance to create a space that makes it more fun to come home at night.
If you could relocate anywhere, where would it be and why?
We are big fans of Winona Lake, IN. It is a small lake town about 2 hours north of Indianapolis. Everyone knows your name, there are tasty restaurants, and the sunsets are killer. Perhaps someday we will have a little accessible cottage near the water within rolling/walking distance of the cute coffee shop, Light Rail!
What services does Lavender Accessible Design offer?
Although the name has “accessible” in it, I work with clients who may need help refreshing a room or actually creating an accessible space. From picking out throw pillows to designing a bathroom layout, I can help!