In choosing a lot on which to build, context within the city was a primary concern. We prefer the context of the older urban fabric, historic district if possible. We were fortunate in finding an odd wedge shaped remnant lot (the product of a 1934 lot spit) in a historic district (platted in 1907) ten minutes from downtown. In order to build in a historic district you go through a review process with the Landmarks Commission to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The objective isnʼt to deceive people into believing the new construction was built in the 1920ʼs but rather for the exterior design to take its clues from the many historic architectural details expressed throughout the neighborhood. The modern aspects of the architecture are blended into the established neighborhood fabric through the use of natural facade materials and its positioning on the site.
The floor plans were designed to maximize accessibility with flowing space from room to room. The second floor is accessed by a private elevator and features a living space and a large master suite which opens onto a large exterior roof terrace. Fact of the matter is in a conventional house where you have rooms connected by narrow corridors and hallways, once you put some furniture in the rooms, itʼs difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. Open floor plans allow for endless possibilities and adaptations as needs change over time.
My architect, Lon Booher, and I sat down to designed McMillan House as a collaboration. The design evolved from an idealized diagram around my abilities. As a paraplegic my life works. It just works differently. I still have all the needs of the able bodied ie. cooking, cleaning, bathing, sleeping, exercising, relaxing, etc., I just approach them differently. For discussion purposes Iʼve broken our design responses into two categories: Passive & Active design responses.
Passive design solutions involve programming spaces and processes that compliment my abilities. Once Iʼve solved a problem and/or removed a barrier I never again have to confront that obstacle in order to accomplish my goal or meet my needs. For example all three entrances to McMillan House are zero step doorways. The second floor master suite includes the master bedroom, office/study, and flat screen television area. Central to all these uses is a wet bar, an electric kettle, and a built in refrigerator with an ice maker. Once upstairs I donʼt have to return to the kitchen to make myself a hot or cold refreshment. The roof top deck is readily accessible from the hallway linking the second floor master suite to the master bath and dressing/laundry rooms. Understanding my patterns and my lifestyle choices allowed us to design spaces and functions that provide me a life of relative ease, comfort and security.
Active design solutions involve programming spaces and processes regarding the chores, the mechanics, the ergonomics of daily living ie. cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc. For example I use a front loading washing machine since I canʼt reach down into a standard washing machine. When my clothes come out of the dryer theyʼre easy to fold on the adjacent futon. My roll-in shower allows me to bathe in my shower chair without any risky transfers on wet surfaces. My kitchen has a lowered counter top and a readily available work surface which I can access from my wheelchair. The kitchen is equipped with a two bay farm sink, a drawer style dishwasher, and drawers in which to store my pots, pans, dishes and flatware as I retrieve them from the dishwasher.
Click on an image below to tour different parts of McMillan House.