This was to be my third programme with the DIY SOS and certainly the most emotional, not least of all because of the heart wrenching story behind the shoot.
Davina Rivers nominated her own home to be transformed; a small terraced house in Enfield North London, where she has lived for the last 13 years with her husband Eric and three daughters aged between 5 and 14.
Just over a year ago Eric was tragically diagnosed with a Motor Neurone disease. Ericâ€™s condition is terminal with 50% of suffers dying in the first 14-18 months of diagnoses, with others living for up to 5 years. He is on various forms of medication but there is no treatment for this kind of disease.
The family were determined to stay together in their family home, and to care for Eric as his condition deteriorates. When we arrived he was already confined to his wheelchair making access to upper floors and through doorways limited. Things had to change, and after an incredible 10 days build, over 100 neighbours, friends, family and even local trades who had heard the storyâ€¦.. they did.
We redesigned the ground floor widening doorways, opening up the flow of the space. We installed a wheelchair lift to take Eric up to the first floor. A small extension was constructed at the rear to create a larger family dining area, which lead out via a wheel chair ramp to a redesigned garden space.
Upstairs a disability bathroom was installed, with wider access doors. A carefully designed shared bedroom gave the 2 youngest girls space to call their own, whilst on the 2nd floor a dormer roof was installed to give the eldest daughter a bedroom to call her own with a lounge space for her to spend precious time with her younger sisters.
Eric and Davina also had bedroom to call their own, a special space to spend time together.
The design was approached with careful attention given to accessibility so that the whole family could spend quality time together, be it in the lounge, study, kitchen dinner or garden. However I was keen to ensure that Erics condition and its spatial needs didnâ€™t dominate the design approach; I also wanted to create a warm, hand crafted â€œmuch lovedâ€ home for the whole family to enjoy and grow through these difficult times. Creating spaces to be alone was as important as it was to create social space – as it should be for any family home.
The hand crafted element came through in the use of patch-worked materials seen in the stunning armchair created by Kelly Swallow http://kellyswallow.co.uk/Â and the dining area wall paper design that we created â€“ a feature that gave me quite some anxiety but worked out wonderfully in the end!
The use of Vintage â€œframes within framesâ€ also gave a really personal hand crafted feel to the lovely family photos; reminding them all of the wonderful times they had spent together over the years.
Whilst style and aesthetic design will never be able to solve the difficult times the Rivers family are going through, it can create a calming, warm, nurturing space for them to live in – the functional reordering and improved accessibility making the whole house usable for I hope, years to come.
It is rare to get the sort of response to completed designs that we received from Eric and the family, but itâ€™s at times like this you can see the power of good design and what happens when society gets together with a common aim.