Independence House

One might never guess the secret identity of this house unless one knew its Owner.

She is an accomplished musician, writer, advocate, and designer. She was also born with cerebral palsy, which limits her fine motor abilities. She has used a variety of assistive technologies – from a wheelchair to an iPad with head-pointer to custom-lifts – and now this house – to live a full and inspiring life.

The goal of this newly constructed custom residence was to support her ability to live as independently and safely as possible. While every detail of the home is carefully considered and customized, it is also intended to be a house that anyone would enjoy.

The house is also energy-independent. It is off-the grid with geothermal heat and solar panels so that it is a safe refuge in the event of a hurricane or blizzard. This approach also eliminates any hazard from carbon monoxide, since the Owner would not be able to get out on her own in the event of a gas leak.

With training in architectural design, the Owner was an active collaborator. She provided KITE with keenly observed and prolific written descriptions of her daily interactions with her home environment, from eating to bathing to making music. She educated our architectural team on design techniques that best fit her abilities, such as cabinet handles that could be opened without grasping, and took on design of specific elements like the kitchen island.

The Owner’s insights spanned from the mundane to the inspirational: her moving description of stargazing from the floor of her bedroom led the architects to detail a special balcony with a clear view of the sky.

KITE also considered the multiple constituencies of those in her orbit – her large extended family who would gather for football watching, picnics, or piano sessions, and also a number of caretakers. A fully independent guest apartment was included on the lower level to make sure there would always be someone on-site in case the Owner needed assistance, but with a discreet entrance so they would not intrude on her space.

The Independence House is a tribute to the Owner’s remarkable spirit and abilities, but to the potential of architecture to allow people to thrive.