Planning Interior Accessibility in Barndominiums

Good Morning! This is Mike the Pole Barn Guru’s wife filling in for him as he takes a couple of well deserved days off from writing.

Not too long ago Mike wrote a blog discussing how to plan the interior of your new barndominium or shouse (shop/house). He had some good ideas but there are a few things I’d like to add. In discussing kitchen ideas he mentioned having two dishwashers (they rotate and keep even the pots and pans from having to be scrubbed by hand). Also his idea of having two microwaves works out wonderfully. We can both reheat leftovers in our “His and Hers” microwaves giving us time to eat together and no waiting.

Another thing we did in building our cabinets was to put the dishwashers on a wood pedestal by the seating for the bar area. Dishes are easier to add or remove at that height for both Mike and myself. I’m in a tall power wheelchair so access to appliances is paramount for me.

As an aside, Mike may have mentioned I was in a motorcycle accident almost five years ago, leaving me paralyzed from the chest down. But there’s nothing wrong with my arms or my brain so I try to be as independent as possible. The all fridge/all freezer combo is also on a pedestal a foot off the floor. Easier for Mike to access items from the top shelves as he is 6’5″. That way I can access the bottom two shelves and the drawers, as well as the door compartments.

The part I wish to add about access in the kitchen or anywhere in the home is widths for getting around in a wheelchair. You never know when someone in your household may have to use crutches, a walker or sad to say, a wheelchair.
When we built our two story barndominium, I was normal. We had our kitchen, bath and bedroom custom cabinets installed before my accident. It’s amazing how wonderful these changes to what people usually design has worked out to my ease of access and comfort.

The aisleways between an island or peninsula should also be plenty wide for two people working in a kitchen at the same time. Again, without knowing we’d need more width between counters and appliances, we designed the kitchen with 52″ between the kitchen sink and island. We used a full 5′ between the island and fridge/freezer area due to the doors possibly being open when the other one of want’s to get by. Both allow Mike and I to be working in the kitchen at the same time and he can zip around my chair if need be.

I’ll touch on a few areas in the home where a handicapped person can function easier if planning ahead for that unforeseen circumstance. These changes also allow you to entertain handicapped or physically challenged persons in your home.
In bedrooms leave a good width all around your bed. We have 5′ on all three sides which is just about right. My desk I’m writing on is up on 8″ wooden blocks so my wheelchair fits neatly within the chair hole. We left a good space between the bed and the outer wall, as we had planned for a circular stairway up to a third level loft area that looks down on the bedroom. Thankfully we never got around to putting in that stairs and instead, we have an electric lift which takes me up to my “lady lair”. I can leave my sewing and craft projects out all the time and don’t have to rush to clear off a dining room table once visitors come to our home.
The bathroom. We have a true roll-in shower. No lip to roll over like one might find in a hotel bathroom. The tile is sloped just right for the water to roll off into the drain. We do use a shower curtain to prevent the spray from going all over the vanity area and bathroom door. The bathroom doubles as a laundry area with washer/dryer at one end. These are also up on drawer pedestals. I love having them next to the bathroom and walk-in closet. I don’t have to lug dirty or clean clothes to another part of our home. I can hang up shirts, shorts and the like directly out of the dryer. It saves a ton of time and our laundry area and “roll-in” closet always look neat and organized. There is even a counter in the closet for folding clothes before easily putting them away in the drawers beneath. Baskets in the walk-in closet collect dirty clothes and I can easily sort them before washing.

Doorways. Ours are standard width. The clearance is 35″ which is too narrow. I hate to admit it, but our nice door jambs have more than one gouge from me running into them. I’m not a bad driver, but sometimes I get too close to one side or another, especially when backing up.
Lastly, NO carpeting. We have all hardwood floors, which are beautiful and make zipping around in my wheelchair a breeze.

Thank you for taking the time to see things through my eyes a bit.
Have a great rest of your day!

Judy
J.A. Hansen

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