Accessible Elegance

The Woodward family opens their home to support the Shepherd Center –

Inside this luxurious estate at Reynolds Lake Oconee, it might be necessary to point out during the Showcase of Homes tour that it is completely handicapped accessible, and that’s exactly what the homeowners were aiming for when designing and building their new home.

Price and Tammy Woodward moved from part-time to full-time at Lake Oconee following Price’s unexpected stroke in 2015 at the age of 52. They needed to be closer to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta as Price began his journey to recovery. With his left side completely compromised, everyday life became a challenge in their existing home at Reynolds and so, they reached out to DreamBuilt and Black Sheep Interiors to create a new home that would work for their family given Price’s limitations.

They knew up front that they wanted the home to be completely accessible, even though Price no longer required a wheelchair, but the challenge was making it not appear that way.

“When I had my stroke, I came to Atlanta in a wheelchair,” says Price, who now walks with a 90-degree brace which he jokingly calls his peg leg. “We never forgot that or the possibility that I might once again need wheelchair access or one our family members might need it.”

Price says they wanted the adjustments to the house to be subtle. They didn’t want a big ramp in front of the house, so they created a zero-entry doorway in the garage that opens into the back hallway and the fully-accessible bathroom on the right. The sleek toilet paper holders double as grab bars. The master bathroom with its slip resistant tile has no shower doors and features a custom made drying and dressing station. The retractable doors opening onto the back porch have no threshold.

“We wanted to make sure that this felt like any other home at the lake,” says Paige Ruhl of DreamBuilt. “We addressed the accessibility issues without being too ‘institutional’ or too obvious.”

She says this concept is not as hard as it once was and creating an accessible home is actually convenient for everyone.

“It’s really all about making clear pathways in the home, so with open floor plans, the design gives way to that naturally.”

Tammy Woodward explains their main goal was to have as much living spaces on the main level as possible which included plenty of space to entertain. The home is more open than most and balanced on either end by the living room and kitchen. Shane Meder, of Black Sheep Interiors, pulled the spaces together through distinct design.

The stark black granite steals the show in the kitchen, giving it a stylized look that is accentuated by the high-gloss wood veneer cabinetry. “It would be overwhelming in a lot of interiors, but it was what we needed to pull it all together for a big finish,” says Meder.

But the center of the home is what sets it apart. A dramatic wine cellar made from glass and metal and lit with bright blue lights anchors the home’s open layout.

“Price has always enjoyed wine and has become quite a connoisseur, so we knew we wanted a wine cellar,” says Tammy. “Most people put theirs in the basement, but that wasn’t an option for us. It was a little frightening to put it in the middle of the house, but it all came together and is now the highlight of the house.”

“The wine cellar just kept growing and evolving into something really special,” says Ruhl. “We took the steel doors at the front entrance and worked them through the house in the handrail patterns and glass pocket doors in the study, so as the cellar grew, it was natural to use the steel there.”

In front of the cellar is a floating whiskey bar accented by stunning dome fixtures made of agate stone pieces pinned to brass rods.

“It was my vision that it would feel like the Savoy Hotel in London that has a great little whiskey bar with blue in the background, so once it found its place in the house, it became all about the details,” says Meder.

The balance of textures is found at almost every angle, from the tufted leather underpinning at the bar and Tigerwood waterfall mixed with a quartzite top to the dramatic glass, metal, and wood veneers.

“This space was really driven by Tammy and Price’s love of entertaining,” says Meder. “They’ve always entertained a lot and I wanted to help get them back to that.”

Considerations were also made in the furniture arrangements with entertaining in mind. Small seating areas and cocktail tables connect each space so that no one is disconnected from the conversations.

“All of the furniture was designed for Price being mobile on his right side,” says Tammy. “Even down to the smallest things like making coffee in the morning. You can’t carry a cup of coffee when you walk with a cane, so everything was placed in a way he can move his cup from the coffee maker to the island, push it to the end, move it to one of the little drink tables, and then go sit in a chair. These are little things that you take for granted but is important for his ability to get where he needs to be.”

The entire flow of the house was designed with Price’s movements in mind.

“We really had to lean into what the client experienced every day,” says Meder.

In the master bedroom, Price has to move directly to a chair to get his leg brace on once he gets out of bed, so Meder created a nearby seating area to make it feel comfortable, not clinical. To free up space on the bedside tables for anything Price might need during the night, Meder used hanging crystal chandeliers which add elegance to the dressier fabrics and shiny, metallic finishes throughout the master bedroom.

The Woodwards put their home’s accessibility to the test this summer when they hosted a cultivation event to raise awareness of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Price spent three years at the center following his stroke and he and Tammy have been involved ever since. Price serves on the foundation board and Tammy chairs the Women Shaping Shepherd committee. Tammy says the founding family and CEO of the Shepherd Center have homes at Reynolds, so  it made sense to host an event to bring awareness to the community of what the Shepherd Center has to offer.

“We had a few attendees in a wheelchair, so it was really our first opportunity to see if the house was going to function like we expected it to,” says Price. “Everyone was able to move around and it was a wonderful evening where we were able to share our experience and make people aware of what a wonderful facility we have just 70 miles away in Atlanta.”

The Woodwards attribute their successful recovery from the stroke to the Shepherd Center and the staff there. They keep in touch and actually bounced ideas off of them throughout the building process.

“Because I was there for three years watching him do therapy, it helped me think through the house and what he would need,” says Tammy.

Now, the staff has begun connecting the Woodwards to other families in similar situations for advice on how to adapt their homes to specific needs.

“By opening up our home and sharing our story, we’re using it to move forward and help other people move forward,” says Tammy. “I’m so excited to have the home on the tour this year to share with even more people.”

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