Methuen, MA— When the subject of accessible design is mentioned, many people immediately think of pristine hospitals, stuffy institutions and other venues where style is often an afterthought. However, with the latest addition to their recently constructed showroom, the designers at Frank Webb’s Bath Centers hope to change this misconception.
Though Frank Webb’s Bath Centers have more than 26 locations, the showroom in Methuen has the first Accessible Living Bath Design Center. Located in an industrial area on the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the 7,000-sq.-ft. showroom is situated within a 120,000-sq.-ft. wholesale distribution center. The new Universal Design area comprises 2,000 square feet of the total showroom space.
Designer Scott Smith built the accessible living area, and based it on consumer requests for a space that combines sophisticated elements with accessible design.
The Universal Design area of the showroom takes advantage of the opportunity within the Methuen market, Smith explains. “Architects, designers and contractors are getting increasing requests for aging in place and other accessible living features. We believed it was important to provide a tool or venue for people to see these products up close and personal. Not everyone can visualize or appreciate the features of fixtures from the pages of a catalog,” he explains.
The showroom educates clients about the various assisted living products available while creating a space where elegance and function can work together.
For the team at Frank Webb, providing accessibility for all became the focus of its approach to Universal Design. “We can provide both ADA-clearance requirements as well as build in those accommodations for the general population that hold true with Universal Design. Universal Design is about small details that can make a big difference,” he says.
Over a dozen vignettes are found in the Accessible Living Bath Design Center, most of which are working displays. Within the vignettes, all amenities for the bath are included, such as curb-less roll-in showers, electronically operated hands-free faucets, tubs and toilets. With working displays from manufacturers such as Grohe America, Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath and TOTO USA, the company hopes to provide clients the ability to visualize how products will look in their home.
Product selection centers are also incorporated into the showroom with grab bars, shower chairs and various accessible living components on display. Full-room vignettes with gas fireplaces reside within the larger showroom for the client who wants a Victorian atmosphere in the bath.
Keeping with recent trends, the firm also carries eco-friendly toilets, as well as water-saving faucets and showerheads in the showroom.
Smith sees the firm’s target market as contractors, but also the design trade and the general public.
To announce the arrival of the specialized area within the showroom, the company is using traditional print advertising as well as reaching out to local, regional and national press and accessible-living health and design organizations. The company is also contacting rehabilitation facilities, the Paralyzed Veterans Association and other related organizations to offer outreach and available resources found in the showroom’s accessible living design center.