Beautifully Accessible

By Mauri Elbel  ::  Photography by Siggi Ragnar

When Edward and Tracy Van Reet designed their retirement home in the quiet hills of Cordillera Ranch, they wanted a beautiful design that didn’t look or feel any different from a traditional house. But the couple also needed a home that was completely accessible and functional for Tracy, who has mobility impairments and relies on a motorized wheelchair.

Sunriver-16-Final-0615“What we wanted was a home that was wheelchair-friendly and accessible to my wife’s disabilities but didn’t look like a rehabilitation hospital,” says Edward. “We wanted it to look like any normal house, both for aesthetics and future resell value, but we wanted it to work for her and her disabilities.”

Relocating from the hubbub of Houston to the quieter landscape of the Texas Hill Country, the Van Reets set their sights on Cordillera Ranch due to its combination of country life and the nearby city conveniences.

“We wanted to be out of town but not so far out that it was an ordeal to go to the store or seek medical attention –– to be in the country but close enough to civilization so the Cordillera Ranch area worked really well for us,” says Edward.

The couple worked closely with Authentic Custom Homes, LLC to design and build a home around their needs.

“They wanted it to look and feel charming and quaint but still be accessible and contain all the things she (Tracy) would need for comfortable living,” says Adrianne Peña Carnes, director of operations.

What resulted was a spacious, single-story, 4,300-square-foot Hill Country home that blends flawless finishes with well-planned functionality throughout the main living areas, kitchen, three bedrooms, media room and expanded sewing room and laundry room. Elements like Leuder stone found on the home’s exterior and cedar stained beams on the interior ceilings further the Hill Country feel of the home.

With an open floor plan, the design features ample room to maneuver across the entire home but still maintains the visual effect of distinct rooms. The main doors into the home from the front, garage and back are four feet wide, and the majority of the internal doors and hallways are four to five feet wide to accommodate a power wheelchair.

Special design considerations remain at play throughout the home, ranging from the sliding barn door and motion sensor lights in the pantry to the touch faucets found throughout the kitchen and bathrooms. More durable, easier-to-maneuver hard flooring selections are found throughout the home. Vein cut porcelain tile is featured in the living area, kitchen and entry foyer, which has a special mosaic decorative insert that adds a sparkle as light is funneled through the mahogany-framed true divided light door from the Front Door Company. A five-inch engineered maple was selected for the bedrooms.

In the master bathroom, vanities are built at the proper height for a wheelchair to fit beneath them, featuring elegant finishes like custom clear alder wood cabinetry with granite countertops and sinks with Delta® faucets that turn on and off by the touch. The master shower allows for easy two-way access with its doorless walk-through/drive-through shower, plenty of room for maneuvering and dual shower heads including a hand wand. A patient transfer system is hidden in the ceiling which can hoist Tracy directly out of her wheelchair and into the bathroom or shower.

“It is not obvious at all; in fact, most people think it is track lighting,” explains Edward.

The kitchen is a cheery space boasting creamy yellow walls, granite countertops, custom clear alder cabinetry and drawers, stainless steel appliances and a Moen® touch faucet that pours into an apron front sink.

“The perimeter of the kitchen is stained cabinetry and dark granite, and we made the island to look like a piece of furniture in the center with painted black cabinetry and a different granite countertop,” says Carnes.

Inside the kitchen, the island boasts a built-in table to accommodate Tracy’s wheelchair; the microwave drawer is at wheelchair height; the range features controls on the front rather than the top; and vent hood controls as well as the disposal are mounted on the sides of the cabinets for easy access. Two single ovens were installed rather than a dual oven system so that the bottom oven controls remain at wheelchair height. Rather than relying solely on cabinets, an abundance of drawers were chosen due to their greater accessibility. The natural cast stone vent hood coordinates with the fireplace that sits across from it, becoming the focal point of the living room.

Other spaces provide plenty of turning space. The powder bath, ripe with texture and colors, features a Metropoli copper sink surrounded by Verde Borgonia granite and multihued crystal glass tile backsplash. An expanded laundry room provides a roomy area for Tracy to maneuver in front of machines even when the doors open.

No stairs or thresholds were used in the house other than those leading from the back patio to the yard, but there is also a wheelchair-friendly path. There is enough room in the garage to enter and exit the wheelchair ramp Toyota® van and to maneuver around two full-size vehicles. An outdoor spa and therapy pool features a handicap lift system for ingress and egress.

Home automation was incorporated, allowing Tracy to control everything from lighting and window shades to security cameras and a media entertainment system from a hand-held device.

“Besides the location of the home, I think some of the features I like the most is that it is a very open space design,” says Edward. “There are no barriers to my wife getting around in a power wheelchair which is a bit larger than a standard wheelchair and requires a little bit more room.”


Authentic Custom Homes has over 30 years of experience designing and building luxury homes throughout the Texas Hill Country. Founded by Israel Peña, the team attributes their success to their design-build approach. Truly integrated with home designers, interior designers and project managers all under one roof, the team works together from day one to develop a home plan that fits their clients’ visions. Visit their website at, or call 830.816.7100.



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