A Life-Changing Diagnosis Prompts a Major Home Redesign in Devon
After their daughter was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia, this family renovated their home to make it more accessible.
The new kitchen offers countless wheelchair-accessible features, from the island’s refrigerator drawers and microwave to a retractable workspace. Photographs by Joe Kramm.
Holly Hedrick and Hans Haupt lived in their Devon home for just over a decade before they opted for a major renovation and addition. This was more than just updating and adding space. The near-total overhaul entailed making the home fully accessible to meet the needs of their 15-year-old daughter, Grace, who has the childhood neurodegenerative disease Friedreich’s ataxia, confining her to a wheelchair. “Every time there was a decision to be made, we kept saying, ‘How will this impact Grace?’” says Hedrick.
Hedrick and her husband chose Ardmore-based builder Kyle Lissack for the project. “He had so many great ideas,” Hedrick says. “His team put their heart and soul into the work.”
Part of that team was Haverford-based interior designer Barbara Gisel, whose input contributed to a finished product that’s “absolutely gorgeous,” says Hedrick. “It’s ADA accessible, but it’s not unattractive.”
Plans included raising the family room’s floor to flow evenly from the kitchen.
First up: gutting the kitchen and starting fresh with a space that accommodated Grace’s needs. Gisel went with traditional white cabinets, a top-of-the-line range, a double oven, and a paneled refrigerator plus freezer drawer. A large marble-topped island houses a microwave, refrigerator drawers and storage for Grace’s medicines so she can access them herself.
The space between the island and the perimeter cabinets is wide enough for Grace’s wheelchair, and she can help make meals with a pullout work tray next to the oven. “That was my son Henry’s idea,” says Hedrick of the tray.
Gisel stresses the uniqueness of the project. “Most clients just care about how things look,” she says. “But form should follow function in most cases.”
Thanks to the built-in bookshelves in the bedroom, Grace is surrounded by her favorite books and mementos.
For her new space in the first-floor addition, Grace worked alongside the designers, offering plenty of insight. Her suite includes a bedroom, bathroom and dressing area, with access to a new elevator. Grace wanted the suite to have the feel of a library. “She loves to read and write,” says Gisel. “The space makes her feel like she’s in her own writer’s studio.”
A large window is set between two walls of bookshelves, complete with a rolling ladder. At the foot of the bed, a loveseat is positioned in front of a round mahogany table with a pair of stools. “There is a desk area, but the table gives Grace another space to do her homework or read,” says Gisel.
The shower is outfitted with handheld sprayers,
Custom nightstands on either side of Grace’s bed have grab bars so she can get in and out of bed on her own. In the en-suite bathroom, a mechanical bathtub lifts up and down, and the window shades can be raised or lowered with the push of a button. The shower has plenty of hand-held sprayers and niches set low enough for Grace to reach soaps and shampoos. Heat lamps in the ceiling and a rack of towel warmers ward off the chill after a bath or shower.
A motorized rod system in the dressing room provides
Drawers surround the comfy window seat
In the dressing area, a motorized rod system makes outfit selection much more manageable. A window seat provides another spot to read, write or simply relax. Drawers provide storage for Grace’s jewelry and accessories.
Additional renovations were needed so Grace could navigate the exterior of the home with ease. “Her bedroom addition was built with mechanical front doors,” says Gisel. “She can open them and sit outside on a deck.”
A ramp leads to a lower-level physical therapy room. There’s also a ramp to the pool, which has a mechanical lift.
“The renovation was truly life-changing for everyone in the family,” says Hedrick. “The team really changed our world—and her world.”
Doors in the bedroom provide access to the new deck.