Kitchen Opens Up for a Wheelchair, and a Chef Is Born

Kitchen Opens Up for a Wheelchair, and a Chef Is Born

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Kitchen Opens Up for a Wheelchair, and a Chef Is Born

Kathy Stice was stuck. Literally stuck. The narrow galley kitchen inside her Seattle home didn’t give Stice, who has used a wheelchair for more than 50 years, enough room to turn around comfortably, and the wheels often got wedged between the refrigerator and the dishwasher. It would take her some jockeying to get out of the jam, which “engendered a lot of nasty words,” she says. “I just wanted to forget that kitchen.”

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yulana001

What a lovely, well-thought out kitchen for your specific needs! As a standing person I have always resented having to stand on my head to see to the back of bottom cabinets, so the pull-out drawers are something I would want with no upper cabinets. I love the open shelving along your cook-prep area, the drawer dishwasher, and the oven. So happy this worked out for you!

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Beth Rosenfield Design, LLC – Associate ASID

What a wonderful story and example of how design can truly change your life! My client's son is in a wheelchair and resides with them permanently. I custom designed a dining table for them and made the apron higher on one side so her son can pull his wheelchair right up to the table to join them for dinner. It has a beautiful aesthetic (thank you Bausman Furniture Company!) to please the mother and the function they need to bring them together at dinner time.

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raccoontrails

What a lovely piece. Good ideas. Good people.


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llickers

Awesome! What brand wall oven is it? Been looking for a french door wall oven like that.

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Imelda Dulcich

Nicely done video. Great ideas for those looking to build accessible housing.


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Jac Brown

Great kitchen! I was thinking of something similar for myself, not because of a wheelchair, but because I'm 4' 11'' and it's impossible to reach anything in my kitchen. It would be nice to have more shelves/drawers and a lower counter. Very well done.

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pat1250
This is a kitchen whose idea has come. Kudos for a job well done!
I may not be in a wheelchair now, but perhaps in the near future. Thank you for this story........very inspiring.
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jfk66

I was in a wheelchair temporarily for an injury and I thought "Everyone should have accessible kitchens who need them". How, I don't know, but somehow... This is a great kitchen and she should enjoy it!

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Miriam Zimms
What a wonderful story about stylish Design for function. The kitchen is so stylish too! As a recent Addition to the ADA world not due to age, but an illness, this kitchen is so well thought out and designed. Even my husband with a bad Back could use many of the Design features here. I love how it shows ADA Design can also be so stylish! Congrats on Your New kitchen! I love the Cabinet Facing too! And kudos to Houzz for posting this great story. Congrats to all!
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Mirna Hassan
Lovely thoughts for some people special needs :) I loved it ♡ God bless this family and bon appetit :) :)
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Seating Innovations

What a great kitchen! Every detail was so well thought out to make accessible for the owner. So many of the cool features like pull out drawers in cabinets, sensor water and soap, would be fabulous in most kitchens. Well done!!!

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Sheila Williamson
shows how love between two can make things happen. God bless you both.
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packhome

Inspirational. And, really appreciate having the floor plan included in the article.

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Stephanie Rountree

What a terrific hubby and such a beautiful work of art!!!! Kudos to you both.

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Staci Rahamin

What an inspirational story!! So well thought out and heartfelt.


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Melinda Wrench

What a wonderful kitchen, what a wonderful story, what a wonderful couple! This video made my heart happy.

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crybabyme

I have a friend whose grown daughter is 4'11" and one thing she did in her home, which I thought was so clever, is customize the two-level island in her kitchen. They put in one of those islands that seat people on one side, the type that prevents you from seeing the other side at a distance, like the one pictured below. But she made the lower side about 4 inches lower than the standard height; this way she can do all her prep work -- chop, mix and even knead bread, the latter of which is almost impossible for someone short to do at a regular height countertop. It also appears this would easily be remedied if they were to sell their house, as it would only mean a modification of the island and not all the countertops. I thought it was an ingenious idea.

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crybabyme

One more thing: By putting in a type of two-level island, you could make the other side the standard height for other people in the household.

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homesilove
Love this!!!
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Devon Vargas

I'm in a wheelchair, I understand. I'm partially paralyzed, I can stand, I can imagine it's rather frustrating not being able to. My kitchen is not small or narrow but there are narrow passage ways & my wheelchair can get stuck, it's irritating. I'm glad they were able to remodel it & make things more comfortable for her!

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kms2135

llickers, the oven is by G.E.

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T Schraad
Wonderful article. Let's hope the refrigerator companies take notice and improve their design for these types if needs. We search through designs tips like this to improve our space into our old age.
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circusmoon1234

I'm 5'2" and constantly use a step stool in my kitchen. I love this kitchen.

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Penny Flatte

This presentation is exceptionally well detailed and so timely! The kitchen in the video is extremely attractive and practical; I would consider it high-end. What I wish to accomplish with this post is address some features of the base cabinets so that others of modest means might find such a design within reach.

I want to draw attention to the base cabinets. She stated that she found a 29" base cabinet/counter height to be best for her build and shoulder reach. This makes sense because her wheelchair is the same height as a dining/desk chair, and her base cabinet measurement is 29" - 31" which is commonly found in dining tables and desks. However, this measurement is also found in semi-custom cabinetry (like Thomasville and ShowPlace) where the standard cabinet box WITHOUT the toekick is usually 31.5" tall, coming close to the height used in this presentation. I noticed that there were no toe kicks used in her kitchen and if someone were to use standard cabinet boxes without a toe kick, it would look very similar. Please keep in mind that the countertop or bench will add 1 - 2 inches to the overall height.

Another option to consider in the semi-custom realm is bath/vanity cabinets applied to a kitchen design. These cabinets can be found with an even shorter box (without the toe kick, a 26" box is possible) AND a reduced depth - from 24 inches deep to 21" or even 18" deep. The homeowners in the video both stated that they needed more aisle width in their galley style kitchen in order to better maneuver around each other and not bump into the appliances. Plus, drawers rock!! There is nothing "off" or distasteful with only drawers; it actually creates a furniture feel.

So, in drawing attention to this common measurement, it is my hope that those of modest means may be encouraged to improvise affordable products into a more functional kitchen application. With some imagination, a more productive and ergo-friendly kitchen themselves - even on a tight budget - could be within reach.

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momrn5

A beautiful kitchen transformation and an even more beautiful, heartwarming story!

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kms2135

Thank you for your comments, Penny. My goal in participating in this video project was to show folks what is possible and I hoped to emphasize that, even if you can't afford to do a whole remodel, there are small to medium size things one can do that will help. We did consider the things you mention here as alternatives. The cabinet drawers, hardware and stainless steel fronts are all from Ikea. My husband built the "box" or the shell of the cabinets to get exactly the right height.


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kms2135

llickers, apologies, it's a Bosch oven. We were going to go with G.E. but switched at the last minute only because of sizing issues.


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Diaen |Kelley

/very inspiring and well thought out.

Diane

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Cassandra
As a user of a electric wheelchair, I really found this article very interesting and helpful to read. What a wonderful transformation, and congratulations to the builder who did an excellent job!
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1 AD Studio LLC
Great subject, well done video and wonderful couple. I love a challenging design that is so personal for one but still universal. Whether it’s for someone in a wheelchair, someone who is shorter or taller than average or for someone with sensory issues or memory problems. Good design can solve so many difficulties and enhance a space so that every person is comfortable in it!
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Barbara O'K

Fantastic job!

   
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capeanner

Great to see how well they were able to plan it out and create a terrific solution. Kathy must be so much happier after trying to work the unworkable all her life. I moved down to my 1st floor apartment this summer and replaced the bottom old wood (1920's?) cabinets in my much older circa late 1880's house. The kitchen and bath may have been an addition as the foundation is brick whereas the rest of the house is granite. Probably because of this along with the fact that those rooms are on the downhill side of the house has resulted in the room dipping a good inch or two. The carpenters began the cabinets at the highest point, obviously kept them plumb which resulted in base & toe kick that had to be made higher on the back (lower) wall. It's amazing how high that downhill counter top feels although it is only about 1 1/2 inches higher than normal, so I can really sympathize with Kathy having to reach so many inches higher.

I hope their story and plans travel far and wide as there as so many people than could benefit from them.

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hjagasia

Simply Brilliant!

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Bobbi Style
Awesome!
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Vanylla Bean
I love this.
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Mary Lynn Noonan-Toschi
This story made me cry. I am a part-time wheelchair user who loves to cook. I stand in the kitchen because I knew I'd have to sell my home and didn't want to de-value my home as I had done in a previous home by installing a wheelchair ramp. Potential buyers wouldn't even look at my home because of the ramp. It took 9 months to sell that lovely home and I lost thousands of dollars. This kitchen is so lovely and we'll thought out that I can't imagine any serious cook not wanting to live there. My circumstances have changed and am planning to move in about 6 months. I am in love with this kitchen and will use it as my inspiration in my next home. It's time I start using my wheelchair more. With the design ideas shown here I won't have to feel like I'm devaluing my home AND will be able to continue to cook for my loved ones. Thank you!
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Wendy Barnes
great story
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amceuen
Thank
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James Manning
Great design.
   
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gerisgrltrl
Very inspiring. Kitchen looks great and the stainless steel cabinets... what a great idea.
   
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Symone Opara
This is beautiful!! I had foot surgery seven weeks ago. It has truly opened my eyes to the challenges people can have with access issues. Kudos to an excellent job!! I love it.
   
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mammawjudy
I am in a wheelchair also! But this kitchen is so fabulous I was wondering how much money did this cost you to build? Not everyone has this kind of money to invest in a project like this!
In the future, would it be possible to see more renovations for special needs individuals and their families?

Thank you very much,
Mrs. Judy Estes
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bigflat
Excellent story. Well thought out design specifically to suit her mobility.
   
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Rosie
Awesome and accessible
   
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Tiffany Bolden
Awesome!!!!
   
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michellepazder
Very interesting
   
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Rosanna

Good drafting per a small, congested, space Not a fan of galley kitchens. This one works due to the fact, that a wall was punched out for additional space and light. I am so happy that you are able to cook, bake, and create, comfortably. And if you were not so finicky; you would not have gotten what you wanted. Good job!

   
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feryher
This is amazing!!... If you can think it, you can do it!!... great story
   
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bbhappy81

Love it!

   
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stlouisgaltoo
Kathy and her husband are inspiring! Loved the video and loved seeing a how a workspace is transformed to beautifully meet the needs of the users. Gorgeous!! They would be great design consultants for special needs! ❤️
   
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crybabyme

Penny, I think you made a super contribution to this story by pointing out how you could definitely do a revised kitchen for a not so custom price. Kudos to you for adding cost conscious elements to the mix. A male relative of mine is just about to embark on a kitchen renovation and he, too, has an alley kitchen, the shape of which he's pretty much locked into. I'm going to remind him and the friend who's actually going to do the work about the availability of reduced depth cabinetry that won't dent his budget like custom cabinets would, while adding quite a lot of needed width to his kitchen. The kitchen trade is also offering a lot more kitchen items, e.g., refrigerator drawers and dishwasher drawers, that allow a lot more design variety coupled with function which would appeal to those both with and without height restrictions. I agree with you about the "furniture feel" of such a look as well. Your ideas and common sense suggestions really added a whole new dimension to this thread!

   
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Mary Pangburn
I’ve been in a chair off and on for the last 15 years. I have MS and I’ve been interested in Universal Design. Where new homes are built with all people in mind. Like wider doors and pull out shelves in upper cabinets. I still have to sit to cook as I can’t stand for long. I do all of my prep work at the kitchen table and sit in a tall stool at the cook top. I do have trouble with my shoulders and it never occurred to me the kitchen might be why. You have a lovely kitchen it must be amazing to finally be so comfortable cooking! Enjoy!
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Jimi Streiniger

I love this creative, for someone to have come this far putting this work up for someone in a wheelchair can also do anything like any other person.. pretty amazing, sweet smile

   
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stonerchicksrule
We built our accessible home 23 years ago. I can't believe they had to work so hard but good for them! My son is in a chair but the rest we have appreciated. Pocket doors, no bumps through rooms, all entry to our house are easy to access.
Roll-in showers. I thought it would be easier by now.
Our builder did an amazing job!

Builders should do this for everyone
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luckymouse

Thank you for such an informative, helpful and beautiful video!

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Mariette Howey

you guys made me cry! very thoughtful and lovingly done... inspirational.

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Sharon Campbell
Her husband rocks!!!
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MR Direct Sinks and Faucets

What a wonderful project! I'm so glad you now have a kitchen that's accessible and effective for your needs! Everyone deserves a home that works for them. And I just love the design choices; it all looks perfect! :)

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crybabyme

Really! Kathy Stice and her husband are really dolls for sharing this video as they have. It opens up a whole new world for people. I'm going to share it with my contractor who's a Master Plumber, Master Electrician and Master Carpenter so he's aware of what CAN be done for those who need different designs -- we can spread these ideas all around so even more people needing them can benefit. Penny Flatte's economical suggestions are a very good addition to this conversation as well. I've enjoyed all the comments here, too. Love this thread!

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Blue Wren

Kathy you have created a truly beautiful kitchen. I love that you worked with the space you had - no bulldozing of walls and expensive extensions - you took what you had and created something amazing.

Yours is the first kitchen I've seen on Houzz (and I've been trawling this site for years) that is truly, perfectly functional. Because you are wheel chair bound you have thought of every last convenience, but really, all kitchens should be tailored to the individual using them. Watching your video I see a version of the kitchen I am in the process of building for myself, just with lower cabinets and shallower counter tops.

Yes, drawers! I don't know why anyone bothers with deep cupboards. You don't need acres of space to store everything, just clever design. I too have my knives on magnetic strips on the walls. When they were in drawers I rarely used them all, simply grabbing the all-round chefs knife because it was always on top. Now that I can see my knives I use them all for their specific purposes which makes my cooking experience so much more enjoyable and keeps my knives sharper than if they were in a drawer. I'm not a fan of knife blocks because they take up valuable bench space and I always end up pulling out 3 different knives before I find the ones I want. I see you have not just knives at your workspace, but also measuring cups and spoons right there and of course, spices - the exact set up I have planned for my work bench.

I loved watching you move through your kitchen with ease and economy of movement. Whether you are a walker or a wheeler good ergonomics should be paramount. I hope that all the kitchen designers and would be remodellers on houzz watch your video and learn just what well planned and executed design looks like and that functionality and beauty go hand in had.

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Nancy Herring

what a fabulous story, beautifully done. A close family member needs such a kitchen and this had plenty of ideas. She's used many of the ideas here but only as work-arounds - an induction hotplate, an electric grill, lots of prep at the kitchen table. she has long wanted drawers to replace the cupboards and cabinets and I hope she gets them one day. Thank you so much for illustrating accessibility so beautifully without creating a highly medicalized setting. You folks are great.

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celestina89

My father's hobby besides fishing was cooking. Mother was not a cook - of course, she tried...... When father had his major stroke that totally paralyzed one side he was devastated. It wasn't so much that he was confined to a wheelchair, but that the kitchen was off limits to him. I use to bring his fixin's for a salad in different bowls and put them on a table that he could reach. He could make his own salad, though I cut up his cukes and onions for him. He use to put a grin on his face that was funny because he could only grin on one side, but his eyes sparkled. I knew he was going to be OK because he could still "cook". Back in the 1980s and early 90s those who were limited just didn't go into the kitchen anymore. If my father was alive today, he would have beamed at Kathy's kitchen and would want one for himself.

I am so glad that Kathy Stice was able to get her dream kitchen and the fantastic support her husband, Dan had given her - 100%. If I had 10 thumbs they would all be pointed up! U go Girl!

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sabrown74
WOW!!! Just wow!
   
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Wahoo Walls
Love this story! Will share with 2 Wahoo Walls friends who are in wheelchairs . One will especially enjoy this since he is planning his kitchen remodel! Great ideas thank you for sharing.
   
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Custom Home Access

Please get the word around about this remodel! It is great to design new homes ready for a wheelchair, but making an existing house work is real talent. The creativity and imagination that had to go into this project is inspiring. It doesn't appear to have taken much additional space from the rest of the home. A remodel of this size is normally a test of patience for the homeowner, but I can't imagine the patience Kathy exercised trying to work in the original kitchen.

The perspective of the "before and after" shots are different, the first being a standing height and the second is from a chair. Awesome kitchen, great plan!

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MARTY WHITE DESIGN GROUP House Plans & Builders

The feeling you get as a designer or builder, or both, when your handicapped customer gets in there and starts using a space that you've molded into usable space for them, and they actually CAN USE IT ... It is simply priceless. I have had the pleasure of re-designing two renovation homes for the same family, who's family member was injured in a baseball accident. I built the first one for them, and learned so much. Seeing the mom (one of my now, best friends in the world) smile with wet eyes as she watches her son navigate their home just makes what I do for a living, that much more special ... It warms the heart to see the gratitude given, even when words are not even spoken.


Great video and kudos to Houzz for sharing this type of renovation project!

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kms2135

Custom Home Access, believe me, the old kitchen looked just as bad from my perspective! :-)

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Jena Reynolds

I am inspired! My hubby is a disabled vet and thankfully we have a fairly wide kitchen however, i still notice that the coffee area is difficult for him and the cabinets on the top are difficult for him. You've given me a lot to think about for our future! I just found Houzz for the counter tops and backsplash, but contracting on here? Who knew? Thank you!!

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Marybeth Chillemi-Franklin

What a wonderful and talented husband you have who showed his love for you! You are lucky beyond words.

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Kendrah

Such love birds! He swoons over her. How great.

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celestina89

@Jena Reynolds: Depending on the disability, it's possible your husband can still reach for items in the upper cabinet as long as they aren't heavy. A renovation would involved something like shelves that pull down. However, an inexpensive item that has been around for years is a gripper that has a rotating grip and long enough shaft. They are inexpensive, but make sure you get one that has a good grip. You can search for one " reaching or long grabber" using your browser. Many places carry them from box stores to online places.

Years ago, you saw them only in grocery and hardware stores for the clerk to reach upper shelves for stock or for industrial uses. When I worked in health care, I use to recommend them to disabled clients. During those days the only resource was industrial goods, so I started a program to buy and stock a bunch of these each year. Then I could give them to clients who needed them. Now, they are everywhere and cheaper than back in the 1960s-70s.

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kms2135

@Jena Reynolds, here is the type of pull-down shelving @celestina89 mentioned. https://www.rev-a-shelf.com/p-243-cabinet-pull-down-shelving-system-wall-accessories.aspx

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imprvpro

The kitchen that love built. Wonderful.

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Joanne Cannell Designs

A great job & a great husband:) I would have suggested having knee space under the sink so Kathy could pull up to it more directly, but it seems to be working for Kathy as is. If Kathy's husband wants to use the cooktop without bumping his head, there is a new type of ceiling mounted hood that works with a remote, but they are pretty pricey. Another option is a downdraft, but it isn't a good option if you tend to put large pots on the stove & then want to fry or do something else on the front burners that needs good ventilation. A simple thing to add would be a few roll out shelves in the pantry cabinets up to eye level. Here are the Natl. Kitchen & Bath Assoc. guidelines that include information on wheelchair accessibility: http://ocean.otr.usm.edu/~w135249/pdf/id140/NKBA%20Kitchen%20Planning.pdf


   
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Ursula Severus

Wow how wonderful, to have someone who cares about you and try to accommodate your needs husband one out of the thousand, may God Blesse you guys.

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Susan Spittle

Great story! Loved every minute of it -- right down to the sweet 3-legged dog.

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