Reprinted by kind permission of Wood for Good.

Accessible space brings new hope for family life.

New and recycled timber featured extensively in the design of the home, both inside and out. Image credit: Oliver Heath Design

New and recycled timber featured extensively in the design of the home, both inside and out. Image credit: Oliver Heath Design

Oliver Heath Design was challenged with creating a balance of spaces for a family of four who had dramatically changed needs and lifestyles.

Following a tragic turn of events, Darren was left paralysed from the waist down. After the death of his wife, he was left to be the sole parent looking after his three sons; Harvey (14), stepson Mike (24) and adopted son Ollie (17) who is severely disabled.

Working within the confines of a regular home and garden, the designers needed to create accessible spaces for the family to be together, tempered with quiet, personal, and reflective areas for each of them as individuals.

The project was filmed for the BBC TV series DIY SOS and can be viewed on BBC iPlayer.

Biophilia and the circular economy: nature at the heart of the home

Biophilic principles were central to the project. On the ground floor the initial area that needed attention was the family’s multi-functional kitchen and dining space. The previously inaccessible kitchen was overhauled; the kitchen units were dropped and fitted with wheelchair accessible appliances topped with a practical timber worktop.

In the dining area the designers installed a wood burning stove to act as a social focal point where the family could gather. Materials were re-used where possible and timber cladding made from recycled pallets was added to the walls to offer a sense of warmth. This was balanced with blue wallpaper, reflecting the colours found in nature.

From the sanctuary of the dining space, the team created enticing views into the garden, coupled with easy access in and out for the whole family.

Meanwhile, the layout of the upper floor was altered to incorporate a wheelchair lift and accessible bathroom. The focus within the bedrooms was to introduce an interior design scheme that would create respite sanctuary areas for each member of the family.

Outside in and inside out

 The garden was critical to the overall design as it offered numerous opportunities for the family to be active, socialise, relax, and recuperate.

Central to the design was a timber pergola structure that subdivided the garden and separated the key areas. These included a breakfast café table, a fire pit, a log chopping area, and the jacuzzi – essential for Ollie’s physiotherapy.

Beyond the pergola at the far end of the garden the team reinstated Darren’s shed with an accessible workbench and tools. An exterior covered dining area was also created in addition to a hangout space for the kids.

Introducing colour, texture, and sound

Each area was further subdivided using colour and texture including the striking patterned garden floor tiles. The pergola and surrounding planters allowed for the inclusion of gently swaying plants and flowers (many of which were reclaimed from the existing garden).

In addition, the team installed a water feature to introduce the calming sound of water which also helped to mask the noise from a nearby dual carriageway.

Use of timber

 Both new and recycled timber featured extensively in the design, both inside and out. In the dining area, reclaimed timber pallets were used to create a striking design where they were used to clad the walls. A timber table and bench were installed alongside a wood-burning stove. The theme continued into the kitchen with a warm timber worktop.

Meanwhile, the garden was crafted with timber planters, seating, and a pergola. This was softened with careful planting to offer a relaxing and uplifting space for the whole family.