Loft MM – Loft unit for a wheelchair occupant
LOFT MM is an apartment created by C.T. Architects for a victim of a serious car accident. The project includes the conversion of a ground floor apartment, previously used for storage, into an accessible and wheelchair friendly living space. Establishing a vocabulary of smooth white surfaces contrasting against rough-sawn oak throughout the apartment, the architects devised unique configurations and furnishings to enable the client’s independence: the dining table angles toward the kitchen and has easily reachable built-in storage.
C.T. Architects goal for the refurbishment of this groundfloor apartment was to create a wheelchair friendly environment for one occupent. By clustering the wet areas and storage space into two compact volumes we were able to bring natural light into the long and narrow, canyon-like layout.
“A micro-loft, just 3m wide by 25m long and custom-designed for its wheelchair bound inhabitant. Jury member Sally Mackereth of Studio Mackereth commented that this beautiful project ‘sends a message to us all that we have to try harder, because as designers we are faced by constant layer upon layer of rules and regulations and not only have C.T. Architects embraced these, they’ve celebrated them in this sort of immaculate way. I give them huge credit for doing something so accomplished.” – WAN Interior Awards
In 2008 the client of this project was in a serious car accident. Brain injuries kept him in a coma for six weeks and after a three-year rehabilitation program he tried to pick up his life where he left off; like anyone in their late 20s, he was eager to stand on his own two feet. But the accident had affected his speech, hand grip and sense of balance, making it difficult to walk and talk but also to pick up items, to open and close cupboard doors and to manipulate taps and buttons – basic skills people need to live on their own.
Ironically the location that was chosen as the future living space was an old ground floor garage and storage space of a historic shophouse in the centre of the city. A space 3m wide by 30m deep.
On the outside of the building, the repurposing of the ground floor entailed changing the front entrance to create a ramp to a new communal hallway (making the upstairs apartments more accessible as well) and a new glass front door, maximizing day light access. The original entry door was also integrated so as to serve as a small service entrance, so that e.g. care givers could enter discretely.
Inside, the new micro-loft features the familiar succession of increasingly private spaces: living room, dining area, a narrow hallway with the kitchen on one side and the bathroom and storage on the other, and at the end the bedroom/study with outside patio. Shielded by oak sliding panels they create a flowing interior space defined by two solid elements which accommodate auxiliary functions. Daylight enters both from the windows facing the street and through the sliding doors that lead seamlessly out onto a patio situated half underground at the back of the project.
With the push of a button the kitchen cupboards can be lowered until they meet the counter top, making everything reachable from a wheelchair, while at the same time closing off the stove from view. A similar dual strategy is deployed in the bathroom where the toilet and sink are separated by a large pivoting panel from the area containing the shower and washer-dryer. This panel can be opened to hide the washer-dryer from view or closed, in which case the bathroom effectively becomes the guest restroom.
Almost all of the furniture and design solutions are custom-made, both for the occupant’s convenience but also in order to comply with Belgian disability codes. Careful attention was hereby given to design solutions that encouraged the clients direct personal involvement (such as he himself painting all furniture by hand). Contributing to a sense of self- awareness and self-confidence while at the same time training motor and memory skills.
In collaboration with the client, many of the furniture pieces are currently being further developed and produced by different manufacturers in order to present elegant alternatives to the world of universal design. The dining table e.g., a table for 5, has built-in shelves at both ends and juts off at an angle towards the kitchen, reserving a discreet space for the client’s wheelchair. The bed, combined with a ‘floating’ desk at the head end, contains all of the technical requirements of a hospital bed, including adjustable height for entire bed, head or feet, removable side rails, and electronic buttons to operate both the bed and other nearby electronic devices hidden.
Although LOFT MM is specifically designed as an apartment for a wheelchair-bound inhabitant, there is nothing that even hints at a handicap. This remodelling of a small ground floor storage space cum garage into a micro-loft is arranged within a 3m wide by 25m long space and features the familiar succession of increasingly private spaces: living room, dining area, a narrow hallway with the kitchen on one side and the bathroom on the other, and at the end the bedroom/study.
Almost all of the furniture and design solutions are custom-made, both for the occupant’s convenience but also in order to comply with Belgian disability codes.
Careful attention was given to design solutions that encouraged the client’s direct personal involvement (such as he himself painting all furniture by hand). Contributing to a sense of self-awareness and self-confidence after a serious car accident leaving him with diminished motor and memory skills.
In collaboration with the client, many of the furniture pieces are currently being further developed and produced by different manufacturers in order to present elegant alternatives to the world of universal design.
Project name: Loft MM
Location: Bilzen, Belgium
Type: Apartment Interior
Project Area: 93 sqm / 1,040 sq.ft (includes common entrance and terrace)
Completion Year: December 2012
Client / Owner / Developer: Private
Interior Designer: C.T. Architects – Hoogbrugstraat 9, 3740 Bilzen, Belgium
Project Team: Nick Ceulemans, Liesbet Thewissen, Ward Bergen, Robbert Errico
- Glazing: Saint-Gobain
- Doors: Reynaers Aluminum
- Hardware: Hettich; Ropox (height-adjustability system)
- Fixtures & fittings: Blanco, Fima – Carlo Frattini
- Surfaces: Mosa (tile); Diresco (solid surface)
- Furniture: Vitra (chairs)
- Lighting: Gesso (dome); Niko, BTicino, Gira (controls)
Text Description: © Courtesy of C.T. Architects, Re-thinking The Future RTF Awards, WAN Interior Awards
Images: © C.T. Architects, Tim Van de Velde