Occupational Therapist's View on Home Design

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

Creative, flexible, innovative, compassionate…all words that are many times used to describe the qualities of an occupational therapist. But what about the word “curious”? We would like to spend the next few minutes of your time telling you of an adventure we had and the lessons we learned as we followed our curiosity.
How the journey began
It all started when our local library sent out a newsletter to my University with a two-page article from the Kalamazoo Archives. The article was all about a local legend whose name is Caroline Bartlett Crane. Crane was possibly the most famous lady in Michigan throughout the nineteen-twenties and thirties. She was a determined woman who achieved many great things throughout her life.
Her Achievements
Among her many achievements, there was one that struck a chord in us that caused us to want to get to know her a little more. In 1924 Caroline Bartlett Crane won the Better Homes of America contest by designing a model house that met all of the needs that an average household in America had, during a time where quantity of space was seen more important than the quality of space. Crane disagreed with this mindset and set out to change the perspective to where quality of space is much more valuable than quantity of space.
Why does this matter?
Being occupational therapists, this is a concept that we concern ourselves with often. Whether it is doing home modifications, helping someone during a transition to the home, or simply making recommendations for prevention, we need to be good house thinkers!

Everyman’s House
By 1920, Caroline’s main focus lied in the need for housing reform in America. In 1924, only 45% of the people owned their own homes. Even with these homes, Caroline was concerned that the houses were not suitable for raising a family.
She became passionate about “raising the standards of the American home…” (Calvin Coolidge, 1924). After adopting two children, she remembered a promise to her mother before her death that if she ever had a family, she would be the best house maker she could be, which includes creating a space at home to be the fullest life she can make for her family, a safe, efficient, and loving place.

After Caroline won her award, she wrote a book called “The Everyman’s House” that was recommended by president Hoover. The book went into detail describing the model house design; all of the features and functions she designed to meet the needs of the American family, as well as the way to think about the house. She included a detailed explanation of each space in each room and how to utilize each surface, and she even included a chapter explaining how her model could be adapted to many different families and their unique needs.

Although the house was built in less than two months, the planning that went into the house started way before that. In fact, her interest in the quality of space in a house and becoming “a municipal housekeeper” as she called herself was not important to Caroline until after she got married at the age 38.
Thus began our adventure: to uncover the life of Caroline Bartlett Crane, and open our ears, eyes, and hearts to what we may just be able to learn from one who may be more like us than we know who lived just a century before.

The way in which we design our homes says a lot about who we are. What do you think? Did Caroline catch on to something here? What is more important, the quality or quantity of space in your home?

To see the virtual tour of “Everyman’s House” or read Caroline’s biography click here

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