For Sheila Dearns, a former language teacher for 32 years, living with MS meant that as her condition progressed, she found her kitchen ill-equipped to cope with her changing needs.
Sheila’s home is a bungalow in the centre of Chelmsford, where she has lived since 1996. It was when her MS began to leave her with little energy that Sheila decided to retire in 2010 and since then, she is finding it harder to ‘load bear’ and now classes herself as a full-time wheelchair user.
It was when Sheila was left an inheritance from a relative that she began to consider making some practical changes to her home. The former kitchen was narrow with no accessible workspace to prepare meals. In fact, Sheila had to chop vegetables on the dining room table instead. With little energy and as a full-time wheelchair user, Sheila needed something to change in order for her to continue living independently at home.
Her friend’s sister, Teresa Shaw; who owns the company Onyx Rehabilitation Ltd that helps people with life-changing injuries, put Sheila in touch with leading designer of accessible kitchens Adam Thomas of the Adam Thomas Consultancy. It’s thanks to Adam’s input and collaboration that Freedom by Symphony have transformed the lives of so many people by empowering them with a sense of independence, enjoying accessible kitchens that are both practical to use and stylish to look at.
Adam worked with kitchen retailer Blaines Interiors to create an accessible kitchen for Sheila that now works as the hub of her home. The project began by knocking down the wall between the former kitchen and living room to create one larger, open-plan space. Sheila moved out while the work was being done and the result is a fully wheelchair-friendly area with widened access to the garden, too.
“Working with Blaines, we designed a fully functional and accessible kitchen,” says Adam, “which now includes I-move pull down baskets, allowing Sheila to access top shelves in wall cabinets without standing up from a seated position along with a 2.4m Rise & Fall worktop, a lovely feature that Sheila can adjust to suit her height so that she can use the worktop, sink with front access tap and hob when seated in her wheelchair. It’s a really flexible solution, as it can also be used by family and friends in the rise position. We also included a lowered dining table on hairpin legs for wheelchair access underneath, a pull and twist larder for easy access to dried ingredients, corner Le Mans storage and a combination oven, which suits Sheila’s style of cooking.”
Sheila and Adam worked closely with Anthony Elsey from Blaines Interiors, who was a wonderful source of inspiration and ideas. Sheila wanted her kitchen to be calm and soothing with a brightly tiled splashback to add a statement look. “As a one-stop shop, Blaines takes clients on a seamless journey from conception to completion,” says Anthony. “This includes personalised consultation, expert advice, meticulous planning, flawless installation and the final finishing touches. Our team of designers are not only creative but also empathetic and supportive, ensuring that every client’s needs are met. They take pride in designing kitchens that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also affordable and accessible to all.”
Design manager Anthony has experience in working with young people and adults with special educational needs and disabilities and is fully committed to serving Freedom clients by creating fully functional and accessible kitchens. Blaines Interiors has two Freedom showrooms with four operational displays, where customers can explore and experience their designs first-hand. Their reach extends across the entire Eastern region, serving Norfolk, Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
Sheila now has the hub of the home she really wanted. “I can now cook for myself and use all the facilities,” she says. “My energy also now lasts longer too, as everything is made so much simpler for me.”
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