Over the weekend I received a very interesting comment on Friday's post Tone Deaf from a correspondent who, though I had not posted pictures of the exterior, recognized the house. I deleted her name from the comment for her privacy's sake.
I had no idea when I wrote Friday's post that the house I featured was a replacement for a David Adler house - not one that had been torn down, I hasten to add, though that nearly happened - one he'd designed in the late 1930s for Mr and Mrs Louis B Kuppenheimer, Jr. As you will see from the comment, the Kuppenheimer house (see black and white photos) was saved from demolition and erected on their grounds by a family who lived across the street.
What I had passed over, dismissed perhaps, in the original magazine article - I had read it only with an eye to aesthetics - was what the author described as the homeowner's "passionate commitment to universal accessibility" and that "She is on national and local committees setting policy for the disabled, and she made it an absolute criterion that the house be accessible to everyone, regardless of their degree of physical mobility."
Here, I think, is not the place to discuss historic preservation despite what I said about the Kuppenheimer house nearly being demolished, for what really struck me on rereading the article was that phrase universal accessibility - a subject not frequently touched on in shelter magazines. Surprising, really, given what is politely called a "rapidly aging population" - and I wish it were possible to express, without inducing panic in anyone nearing forty, the speed with which aging happens - as well as the statistics on the numbers of Americans who are disabled.
What makes the room so thrilling is that – besides its beauty and refinement – it is accessible. Let's face it, this is not the picture one's mind conjures up when one hears "wheelchair accessible."
The principles of universal design are to be found here if you would like to know more about them.
Black and white photos from The Country Houses of David Adler, Stephen M. Salney, W.W. Norton and Company, 2001.
Color photo by Tony Soluri for Architectural Digest, August 1998.