After Jim and Kylie purchased land on a long and narrow site in Downers Grove, Illinois, they approached Chicago-based firm, Kuklinski + Rappe Architects, to design a home optimized for accessibility.
They wanted easy access to the outdoors, to open communal living spaces and, perhaps most significantly, access for their two special needs daughters who rely on wheelchairs for mobility. While their daughters’ needs would understandably demand the most attention during the design phase, Jim and Kylie didn’t want the home to look and feel as though it had been designed around their needs alone.
With an active, 13-year-old son and their own leisure and professional pursuits to account for, the home had to be inclusive of all these competing interests. With these parameters in mind, Kuklinski + Rappe thoughtfully applied the necessary functional requirements of accessibility to an open, light-filled plan surrounded by serene, landscaped courtyards that provides an ideal balance of form and function, want and need.
Courtyard Residence is a home that’s not only accessible in the traditional sense with wide hallways and low-profile thresholds, but one that’s accessible to the splendors of the outside world, to light and to the elements. Of course glass played a big role in bringing the broad idea of accessibility to life. Large Marvin windows and doors with big expanses of glass animate interior spaces with warm natural light, and provide ever-changing views as you move through the home’s open, connected spaces.
Nowhere is the connection to the outdoors more powerfully realized than in the sixty-foot cloister that runs along the main courtyard. This dramatic hall of glass uses 7'-6" x 7'-6" floor-to-ceiling Marvin direct glaze units with 1/2" steel reinforcing plates between each to minimize the thickness of the vertical mullions and maximize the connection to the courtyard. The interplay of the rich walnut hall, oversized glass and serene courtyard beyond lends the corridor a warm, therapeutic quality.
Because the homeowners’ daughters spend a lot of time on their backs, clerestory windows throughout allow light to fill living spaces and provide views to the outdoors, allowing the girls to experience the ever-changing world beyond the home’s walls. The abundance of glass and light makes it easy to imagine the changing of the seasons altering with light and shadows the home’s contemporary shapes and forms. The sheer amount of glass allows the home to breathe the dynamic energy of the outside world. As the environment changes, so too does the home, slowly on the seasons and on a whim when a storm rips through.
Large 8-foot Marvin Sliding Doors at the entry points similarly dramatize the architect’s commitment to blurring the line between indoors and out. These stunningly large doors seamlessly unite the interior living spaces with the adjacent courtyards. Outside, paved walkways meet plank wood decks in seamless transition, a mingling of texture and form that provides free-flowing accessibility into and out of the home. Low-profile performance sills on the Marvin doors accentuate the smooth, uninterrupted transition between interior and exterior. The home’s many accessibility features not only make it easier for Jim and Kylie to care for their daughters, but work to deepen its connection to the site, as if it were rooted there.
While much of the design focus was on creating big, open spaces for communal living, giving each member access and means to explore their own interests was just as important.
The home’s large professional-grade kitchen doubles as a workspace for Kylie. As a culinary professional, this allows her to operate her successful catering business from home. Downstairs, a recreation room with basketball hoop provides the owner’s 13-year-old son with a dedicated space where he and his friends can hang out. And a home office tucked away off the front entry offers enough separation from the rest of the home to allow Jim to work without interruption.
And of course, the home’s tranquil landscaped courtyards, which can be accessed from every room, offer instant escape from the everyday chaos of family life.
By pushing the definition of accessibility beyond the expected, Kuklinski + Rappe were able to skillfully adapt the disparate needs of this dynamic family into a design that responds to each in equal measure. This deft balancing act of want and need is precisely what makes Courtyard Residence such a stunning example of inclusive design and contemporary architecture.