Disabled In Design, Building the Kitchen of My Dreams

Kitchen before and after done in gold frames

When you’re asked what it is that matters in this life, what’s something that you value that losing it would completely change who you are and how you view your life? For me, that answer has always been: Independence.

There isn’t much I value more than my own space and my solitude.

It’s been two and half years since my health reached a point where I couldn’t continue on the path I had intended, and this stripped a few major aspects of my independence away from me. This time last year, I was out on my own again, working to carve out a space for myself in this world where I could function independently. My plans were shot up into the air, and I assumed a new path that would bring me back to the state I was born in, living with my parents again, disrupting my plans for independence rather indefinitely.

My parents however, generously included the promise of a separate mother in law suite in their house hunting, breathing some life back into my future.

We settled on a home that would require an incredible amount of labor to get my space to be livable, and since June of 2020, we have been hard at work turning my plans into a reality.

This is a story you may come across, as variety of versions of it already exist. Simply put, disabled people often have to find spaces that they have to fix, or build themselves to have accessible homes. Renting is often something that is too expensive or inaccessible, and many individuals already living in poverty have to fight to purchase run down, foreclosed properties, that will provide them with housing. For me, accessibility is independence – so much of the management of my conditions revolves around food and occupying a kitchen. When that kitchen becomes shared space, the management becomes much more difficult.

I am incredibly fortunate to have my parents, who were able to provide not only the space, but financial support, and labor involved in giving me the independent living arrangements I needed for my physical and mental wellbeing.

This is my story, of my kitchen.

We started here:

Blurry photo showing old basement with carpeted floors and a small bar area.

Twenty four feet by eleven feet. Large French doors leading out onto a concrete patio below a wooden deck. A small set of cabinets with a sink. Ample space to create the perfect kitchen and have room for a small adjacent coffee lounge.

Our first order of business – after the previous owners moved out of course – was to rip up the floors and see what we were working with. I’d initially considered leaving the concrete exposed and doing a painted tile pattern to save on costs, but the condition of the concrete and the thought of how cold concrete would be in winter lead to planning for something a bit nicer.

After getting the carpeting up, it came time to design. I had already selected black cabinetry, with white marble tops, stainless appliances, and gold handles. I’d also previously purchased two large black pendants that would end up above my island. I had existing barstools to work with. It came down to either a light blonde wood or a deep espresso.

Original rendering of kitchen space, showing cabinetry lining the existing wall with plumbing and the wall next to it, with a long island in the center of the space.

The original rendering of the space best showed the first batch of work we needed to complete. Where the stove would go, there was a full size door that had to be moved, in addition to proper electrical needing to be run for the stove.

My dad moved the door around the corner, cut it in half, and closed up the wall. The door leads to our water softener, water shut off, and some storage, so we couldn’t close off the space entirely.

The next step was getting cabinets.

Because of budgetary restraints, we purchased fully unfinished cabinets. I spent days sanding them down to prep for paint and then painted them in a slightly matte black deco cabinet paint.

After painting, my dad and I moved them into place and then we learned how to mount cabinets.

Our process was delayed multiple times due to stock issues, so the final few cabinets – including the sink base, were painted in place.

Before starting on the floors, appliances had to be installed.

Stainless steel electric stove with front controls installed where door once was, and a new dishwasher sitting next to it.

We really lucked out on appliances and got really good deals. The fridge was moved downstairs from my parents kitchen as they wanted a different one, so the cost of a fridge was eliminated.

With appliances delivered, we waited on the last few cabinets to arrive before installing them – which involved a lot of heavy lifting and building in additional supports into the storage closet so cabinets hung on the wall would be sturdy.

While completing that, my dad and I would start the next portion: floors.

The only easy part about installing vinyl plank flooring is putting down the blue underlayment. It took a lot of sweat and tears those first few rows to figure out how to attach each board without leaving any seams and without dislodging other planks.

After working through the first few rows, I’d gotten the hang of it and my dad and I worked together to efficiently lay the rest. I connected the boards and pounded them into place, while he cut the planks to the proper size. This took awhile as the work is hard on our hands and frankly, exhausting. The final stretch of flooring was the hardest. We couldn’t place appliances or cabinets onto the vinyl so my dad had to make precise cuts to get the boards into place.

With the floors finished, my dad installed quarter round around the edges of the room and, black quarter round matching the cabinetry around the the base cabinets and island – this hides the edges of the floor that aren’t super even allowing the vinyl planks to expand and contrast without causing the floor to buckle.

The last large part was getting countertops – which was proving to be difficult. Initially we had hoped to use in stock options, but the plumbing situation forced us to build a kitchen with a corner sink, required an L shaped counter with an angled portion for the corner sink cabinet.

We were able to measure for counters prior to finishing the floors. I found some intricate art deco brackets for the L section of my island that would serve as a place to eat.

My dad then engineered the L shaped supports with metal fenceposts that he cut, and then screwed the art deco brackets into place. These were then installed the same day counters were installed. We opted for a white marble laminate for the counters, and the company who built them for us absolutely did not disappoint.

The final portion of the kitchen came together with some electrical work and plumbing, courtesy of my dad:

The plumbing was a bit finicky as we had to work with the existing height of the plumbing from the small bar that had been here prior. With the sink positioned further away and at an angle, we were able to get a garbage disposal installed. One of the benefits of the corner sink was opening up space to have a dishwasher installed – which for a chronically ill person, this is makes a huge difference on saving energy.

Lighting was an important part of the overall design, because as you can see in the photos the room is equipped with rather harsh florescent panels. The island pendants serve completely as ambiance lights. The light fixture over the sink combines ambiance with task lighting, shining proper light to do dishes, but not too bright. Then we installed under cabinet lighting between the sink and the stove for additional task lighting.

This is my largest accessible design feature specific for me. It allows me to cook and prepare food during even my most severe migraine attacks.

And finally, after 6 months of work, we have an incredible kitchen that I can call my own.

For now, the work is done. This spring we’ll likely add a tile backsplash. For more detailed pictures of the finished product head on over to my Interior Design Gallery.

The kitchen came together even more amazing than I could have ever imagined, and I’ll forever be grateful to have had my parents support and assistance in creating this space for myself.


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