Accessible DesignInteriorssneak peeks

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible

by Garrett Fleming

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

Every morning at 6 a.m., Derek Lavender would kiss his wife LeAnne goodbye, hop on his motorcycle and head to work. Even though he’d been an avid biker for years, he never failed to text her when he got to the office. She had to know he’d made it safely. On June 15th, 2016, however, his text never came. LeAnne recalls, “At 7:13 a.m., I received a call from the local hospital explaining that Derek had been in a serious accident, and I needed to get downtown as soon as possible. I remember the neurosurgeon handing me Derek’s helmet, and a tooth fell out of the head mask. Although Derek had on a full-faced helmet and all the gear, he still managed to break seven bones, his spine and collapse his lung.”

For months the couple lived in Chicago, a three-hour drive from their home in Indianapolis, while Derek underwent rehabilitation and familiarized himself with how to use his new wheelchair. Then, upon their return to Indy, the two put their home on the market so they could move into a more-accessible rental close to Derek’s job. And so began their new life.

Many things changed on that day in June, but the twosome’s shared passion for design and DIY didn’t wane in the slightest. In April of 2017, after several months in the accessible rental, they were ready to dive into a new project and set out to find a new home to renovate. It didn’t come easy, though. LeAnne and Derek toured over 50 options in hopes of finding one that would accommodate Derek’s wheelchair. Not having any luck, they instead settled on a mid-century, ranch-style house they’ve since deemed The Quarry for its abundance of limestone. Sitting on an acre of land, the two-bedroom home didn’t have any accessible features, but it did offer them a great opportunity: The chance to rekindle their love for rehabbing older houses.

The Quarry won out because its lack of space came with a manageable price tag, and this lower cost also left wiggle room in the budget to customize the owners’ suite and create a more open floor plan. “Since Derek’s accident was still fresh and we had no experience with accessible living, designing a home around a wheelchair was a whole new ballgame,” LeAnne says. In the end, floors and walls were torn out, the ceilings were vaulted and the stairs throughout got the axe. The bulk of their time went into transforming the garage. Over the course of four months Derek and LeAnne worked with contractors to turn the space into a bedroom for themselves complete with a standing bar and accessible ensuite bathroom. The latter even boasts a walk-in shower, wheelchair-height mirrors and a vanity that’s free from lower cabinetry so Derek can get ready in the morning from his chair.

The arduous process of making the house comfortable for Derek not only resulted in a retreat he and his wife are extremely proud of, but one that helped them emotionally heal at the same time. “The past couple years have been filled with a lot of tears and a lot of laughter,” LeAnne recalls. “One thing is for sure: We never lost ourselves amidst the chaos. We merely have had to find ways to make our hobbies work for our new lifestyle. Designing and renovating The Quarry brought us back to our ‘before-the-accident’ days.” Scroll down to see all the wonderful work this couple has done to turn this mid-century house into an accessible home, and head to Lavenders Longhsot to learn more about their journey. —Garrett

Photography by Cory Phillips

Image above: In the entryway (which features original tile and woodwork), LeAnne and Derek placed two mirrors at different heights: One a little lower for those who use a wheelchair and one higher up for those who don’t.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

LeAnne, Derek and their dog Barkus Adroolius give the homes they live in affectionate nicknames. This one in particular has been deemed The Quarry because of its limestone elements.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

This grand mid-century front door is what initially drew the couple to the house. “Since we rarely use the front door, I sometimes walk over and keep it open just because it adds such charm to the rest of the home,” LeAnne says.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

The cutout to the right of frame wasn’t part of the fireplace’s original design. LeAnne explains, “During the demo portion, [the crew] discovered that the fireplace was actually incredibly crooked and leaned to the right. Instead of adding more drywall (to balance it out), we decided to create a cutout which let in more light and added an extra element to the fireplace.”

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

LeAnne and Derek had this accent wall painted a dark, brooding color to disguise their TV.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

Part of the renovation involved vaulting the dining area’s ceiling. To make it seem like it was always that way, LeAnne and Derek had the construction crew install leftover wood paneling from a demolished wall to the upper part of the addition.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

“Since we love to host, we knew the dining room was incredibly important, but we were having a hard time finding a table to fit the space and our needs. We opted to commission the table in order to meet Derek’s needs. The 10-foot table is concrete with a wood inlay. Not only is it accessible, (but) we appreciate that the wood complements the paneling without taking away from it.” – LeAnne Lavender

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

The kitchen still features its 1950s cabinetry and is open to the home’s TV room. “[That] was really important to us because when Derek gets home from work, he wants to get out of his chair. I love to cook, so I appreciate that I can talk to Derek while he is on the sofa,” LeAnne says.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

The two weren’t huge mid-century design buffs before purchasing this home, but the space’s inherent nods to the style have turned Derek and LeAnne into fans.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

“What we love most about our home: Plenty of space for the chair, our dog, and our people.” – The Lavenders.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

LeAnne and Derek’s previous home featured a detached garage which the DIY-loving duo turned into a tiny home. Their bedroom inside, unfortunately, was only accessible by ladder so the couple knew they’d have to move after the accident.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

The two clearly have a sweet spot for garages. They also turned their new home’s garage into their bedroom. They raised the floor to eliminate the steps it took to get inside and installed a standing frame for Derek. The tool makes getting ready in the morning easier.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

The bathroom off of LeAnne and Derek’s room has been amplified to accommodate a wheelchair. For example, the countertops sit higher than average and don’t feature lower cabinetry, a tweak that allows his chair to easily slip under them. The mirror is also mounted a bit lower so Derek can comfortably use it.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

The flooring in the bathroom extends into the couple’s zero-entry shower and soaks up enough water to provide traction for Derek’s chair.

A Couple Makes Their Mid-Century Ranch Wheelchair Accessible, Design*Sponge

The 1940s ranch-style home came in under budget, leaving the couple with the funds to make it accessible.

Mailbox – Deus Modern

Paint – Sherwin Williams “White Mint”
“The Quarry” round artwork – AvaBerry Lane

Living Room
Paint – Sherwin Williams “Marshmallow”
Accent wall paint – Sherwin Williams “Iron Ore”
Grey sofa – West Elm
Coasters – Cream & Concrete
Rug – RugsUSA
Rocking chairs, sofa – Article
Artwork – John Hawking
Clock – Shannybeebo
Side table – Target
Pillows – Ellysian
Fireplace Screen – Crate & Barrel

Dining Room
Table – 910 Castings
Art – John Hawking
Rug – RugsUSA
Dining chairs – Kittle’s
Captains chair, planter – At Home

Clock – Shannybeebo

Bathroom 1
Paint – Sherwin Williams “Iron Ore”
Artwork – Artifact Uprising
Towels – World Market

Bathroom 2
Paint – Sherwin Williams “Marshmallow”
Vanity – Duvall Wordworking
Turkish Towels – Weft End

Headboard, curtain – West Elm
Rug – RugsUSA
Comforter – Target
Large knitted blanket – Cream & Concrete
Art – John Hawkins
Dresser – secondhand
Doors – Artisan Hardware
Ceiling fan – Rejuvenation

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  • I love this house so much – they’ve done a great job of marrying the classical design elements of mid-century modern with a more updated take. (I have a mid-century modern, and I’m always aware of trying to preserve its history without making it look like a set piece from Mad Men).

  • Exquisite taste! Live long and prosper, Derek, LeAnne, and the brilliantly named Barkus Androolius.

  • This is fabulously designed and decorated. Thanks for sharing your story and your home. I agree with the others, best dog name ever :-).

  • So lovely and functional and a stunning couple – one of my favorite homes on DS and how about that name ? Barkus Androolius ?

  • WOW! Beautiful, warm, inviting, bright and clever home. I imagine that when people visit they probably want to stay! I think this might be my favourite Sneak Peek ever! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Absolutely exquisite! I am always so happy to see accessible design that has such great style!

    And love how you were able to keep the original cabinets but make them look modern — did you refinish them?

    • Cynthia,

      Thank you for the encouragement and a big compliment! We actually didn’t refinish them. They have the original hardware and stain, which is crazy because they are 70+ years old. I gave them a good scrubbing with some cleaner before we moved it. If you stand close they do show a lot of “character” but we love them!


  • You guys did a wonderful job on this beautiful home. It is glorious! Love the style and it looks like a fun place to live.

  • It turned out beautifully! After recently watching several episodes of “Fixer+Upper”, it’s good to see someone do such a beautiful job without painting the baseboards! Nice! I’m sure you’re ready to just enjoy making memories in it now. Blessings on your new house and your days to come making it a home. (And of course, Barkus steals the show!) ;-D God bless you both! <3

  • This was so lovely to see! Really appreciating the accessibility content you’re publishing nowadays

    • Hi Arabelle,

      I’m so glad you’re loving the content! We are working really hard to provide as much accessible content as possible. Stay tuned.

      – Garrett

  • I am designing an accessible bathroom and wondered what tile you used in the shower. I’m worried about tile getting wet and becoming too slick! Beautiful home!

    • Good morning Dianne!

      The tile is just a simple tile. I can’t remember the exact brand (I’m sorry!) but we did choose something with a little “texture” which helps Derek gain some traction. Another idea is to pick a small tile with lots of grout. The more grout, the more traction.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to email me (lavenderslongshot@gmail.com) if you have any questions or want to run some tile ideas by us.

      Appreciate the support!


  • oooo only yesterday I saw your blog on a friend’s wall on facebook. It’s lovely to see it all in a single article as a finished coherent space. it’s given me lots of things to consider for my own house and my forthcoming powerchair. I really appreciate there being information on accessibiity in housing that doesn’t look horribly ugly and clinical.

  • I finally came over from IG to check out your home and it’s beautiful . Cheers to being open to change when life moves in another direction. When I was looking for affordable, accessible housing for my folks, I realized there really isn’t any, which is kind of crazy because there are so many older folks out there. I do notice a plethora of wheelchair lifts (what we have in our apt) but the bathrooms still need work. Hopefully more folks will see that accessible design doesn’t have to end at public places (and can look good!)

  • Beautifully done! And, beautiful living into life changes. In a year where mortality has come for my own family and not all were left living, this look into positive action and enduring interests after the hard and the real brings tears to my eyes. When the joy starts to flow, I will look forward to seeing it on the walls of your house!
    And, we have a cramped 1935 bungalow with one tiny 80s-era bathroom that badly needs remodeling, and it just recently occurred to me that when we do it, accessible for our futures was how it ought to be done – and the open space required will feel great to all in the intervening years, I might add.
    So, yes to accessibility being the foundation of design decisions! May those we love be happily at home with us in wheelchairs and walkers over not alive at all. And with design this perfect!

  • Hello Garrett Fleming,
    Very Fantastic this is the perfect mobility friendly house, especially who are wheelchair users. I truly said that this is the best house for wheelchair user that I see. I really appreciate your hard work. What an idea maker you are? please keep it up.

  • Hello LeAnne,

    Thank you for sharing your story and your home. Your home is beautiful! I am writing you to let you know my husband and I story is very similar to you and your husbands. My husband David also rides his motorcycle to work everyday or at least he did. On October 23, 2018 a car ran right in in front of him and would change our lives forever. I received a call from the paramedics at 7am that morning. A call I will never forget. He now has a SCI and we are trying to find our new normal. I cannot lie it has been so hard and I have been looking for any advice from someone who is going through what we are. So if you have any advice or tips I would love it you could share. You can email me personally or write back on this website. Sammsmith7@gmail.com. I hope you and husband are doing well.
    Thank you!
    Samantha Gonzalez