HEWI Hinged Shower Seat With Backrest

July 30, 2014
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Shower Seats Come In A Surprising Variety Of Shapes, Sizes, Styles And Prices!

For most people with mobility issues, a shower stool, seat or bench is an absolutely crucial piece of kit. Probably because they’re in the sweet spot of catering equally for the elderly and less able markets, a wide choice of ways to approach adapting your shower, stylishly and effectively, for reduced mobility has grown. At one end of the price spectrum you have the option of in-building a granite or tiled bench unit; at the other end you could use a portable stool.

To say that not all are stylish would be an understatement – there’s plenty of dull-to-ugly models out there – but we’ve found some of the most attractive options. We’re not going to look into inbuilt models as they’re so varied, but we’ve looked for stylish stools and fixed seat units and found that even here the price range is over £1,000!

A portable stool makes more sense if your shower is too small for an inbuilt seat. They also save the effort and likely the cost of having to get someone to install them. With many of the more stylish options they can double up as stools to use elsewhere in the house if and when necessary, but, as they’re not fitted to the wall, they’re possibly less stable.

Most shower stools are like this - effective but a bit of an eyesore

Most shower stools are like this – effective but a bit of an eyesore

The bog standard white plastic shower stool costs around £40 and there are probably plenty of people who’d say “it’s just a shower stool, nobody’s going to see it, why pay more?”, especially when all the more stylish options we’ve found are more expensive. But we think style is more than just what you show off to your friends – it’s a way of life – so it’s worth paying a little more for something a bit trendier.

If you want something more stylish but don’t want to pay too much, this Yannis Bathroom Stool (£69) is a great choice. They’re not much dearer than the average (dull) shower seat but they’re a lot cooler. These stools were created by designer Lucidi Pevere and awarded the prestigious Good Design Award 2010 by the Chicargo Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design. They come in a funky range of orange, blue and green or a more understated black or white option is also available.

yannis_stool_orange_for_BC

Yannis Bathroom Stool

The other popular option to avoid wholesale structural changes to an existing bathroom is to go for a wall mounted seat. These are more expensive but in many ways more convenient as they fold up against the wall when not needed, so you don’t have to move a stool into the shower but nor does the seat get in the way for other users. It’s with these seats that the prices really start to range. We start with this Milano Sapele Folding Shower Seat with a dark wood finish that costs just £89. Good value but a little basic.

Milano Sapele Folding Shower Seat

Milano Sapele Folding Shower Seat

The Impey SlimFold Shower Seat costs rather more (£175 RRP plus VAT) but looks more supportive and potentially longer lasting than the model above. It is available in 10 colours, with each item coming supplied with a double curvature wall mount, cross bracing support and triangular structures capable of supporting weights of up to 40st./300kg. A good, stylish, budget option.

Impey SlimFold Shower Seat

Impey SlimFold Shower Seat

Back to portable stools with this Decor Walther Acrylic Shower Stool (£179). It has an ergonomic design with “gentle curves and highly finished surface”. It’s very sleek and would transfer well to other areas of the house if you wanted.

Decor Walther Acrylic Shower Stool

Decor Walther Acrylic Shower Stool

KEUCO Tip-Up Shower Seats with Backrest (£390) give extra stability whilst maintaining a sleek minimal style. It folds up completely out of the way when not in use. The price is noticeably steeper but the comfort from the backrest and general design may justify that. The wall and seat supports are chrome plated meaning it looks better, for longer and these can carry weight up to 110 kg.

KEUCO Tip-Up Shower Seat with Backrest

KEUCO Tip-Up Shower Seat with Backrest

Now we enter the lap of luxury with the HEWI range. Firstly, there’s the HEWI Hinged Shower Seat With Backrest which costs £1,029. The surface of the seat is slip resistant, the seat is curved for user comfort whilst the seat edges have been rounded for safety. The backrest provides additional support and when not in use, the seat can be folded up unobtrusively against the wall. It is probably the best looking and most comfortable model we’ve seen but it’s also a hefty amount of money to part with.

HEWI Hinged Shower Seat With Backrest

HEWI Hinged Shower Seat With Backrest

Finally, the HEWI Hinged Shower Seat With Arm Rest (£1,095) is the most expensive model we’ve found, without having something purpose built just for you. The shower seat has a warm touch surface which is comfortable for the user and a hygienic opening in the seat for the water to drain from. Ergonomically shaped seat with supportive arm rests. Again, it’s the probably the best on the market but one has to work out if it’s worth it or not for them self.

HEWI Hinged Shower Seat With Arm Rest

HEWI Hinged Shower Seat With Arm Rest

As you can see, the range of shower seating options is wide but one positive is that there are many stylish options available. Whether you go for a fold out seat, a stool or go down another route and have something purpose built, it’s just about finding the model and price that works best for you.

Please let us know what you think works best or if you know of any other stylish models we can add to this list!

Castle Terrace

July 28, 2014
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Castle Terrace – Tom Kitchin’s Second Edinburgh Kitchen Triumph

Castle Terrace is Scottish chef Tom Kitchin’s second restaurant in Edinburgh. Following the success of his first Michelin starred restaurant, The Kitchin (some people become chefs, some are born chefs and some people are born with names that force chefness upon them), The Castle Terrace opened in 2010 with his mate, Dominic Jack, as head chef.

Both restaurants share a philosophy, summed up in the slogan “From nature to the plate”. The two chefs aim to take fresh natural ingredients and put them together in a way that lets them thrive. In their own words “Castle Terrace presents modern British cuisine influenced by learned French cooking techniques and an appreciation of the best ingredients available from Scotland’s outstanding natural larder.”

Since Castle Terrace opened it has received its own Michelin star as well as rave reviews. For instance, The Guardian said that “Jack takes superb Scottish produce for a spin, but gets it to the diner in recognisable form” and only complained that there was too much food! The public also agree, giving Castle Terrace the number one Trip Advisor ranking for restaurants in Edinburgh and a 91% rating on Urban Spoon. All in all it’s doing rather well, we’d have to say.

Accessing the restaurant is very easy. There is step free access at the entrance and, although the doors are rather heavy, a member of staff will be on hand to hold them for you. Inside there should be no problems and they have an adapted toilet for people with reduced mobility.

We give Castle Terrace a provisional 2.5 BBS Ticks. We’ll have to give it a good check before seeing if we can move to 3!

Amaya

July 23, 2014
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Amaya – Accessible Indian Restaurant In Knightsbridge Is Still A Stand Out

Amaya is a Michelin starred Indian restaurant (something of a rare honour) in Belgravia, London.

Having opened in 2004, the restaurant received outstanding reviews and won a series of awards in the mid-noughties before ever so slightly fading from attention. That’s not to say that the standard of food ever slipped – they still serve a fantastic range of stylish pan-Indian tapas – just that everyone naturally moved onto the next hot new thing.  More fool them because Amaya is still amongst the finest purveyors of Indian food going.

To this day the chefs at Amaya continue to conjure up exciting and flavoursome dishes, cooked in the open kitchen with a view of chefs working the clay tandoor, charcoal grill and griddle and served in sharing sized portions. The food is non-traditional Indian (or at least non-traditional ‘British Indian’), featuring grilled dishes and kebabs. It’s delicious as ever and, although it is rather pricey, the restaurant remains stylish and comfortable too with “black granite, dark wooden fitting, terracotta statues and a splash of modern art”.

The restaurant is wheelchair accessible with accessible walkways from Lowndes Street and Motcomb Street. The entrance is on street level and although the main toilets are downstairs, they have an easy access toilet near the entrance of the restaurant which is adapted for wheelchair users.

In these days of instant technology and a constant search for the flavour of the moment longevity is often treated as a handicap rather than the asset that it is. So it’s good to see that Amaya is still serving quality Indian flavours and is accessible too. We give them a provisional 2.5 BBS Ticks.

Sclavis-Rolling-Chair-by-Sergio-Calatroni-Artroom-4

July 21, 2014
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Yet More Brilliant Wheelchair Designs: Will Some Be Available To Buy?

There are so many new exciting wheelchair designs out there that we’re forever finding more examples of design concepts from the last few years. Not many are available to buy at the moment but it’s always good to keep abreast of the latest updates and to simply sit back and enjoy the style and creativity of the latest innovative models. Here are a few more concepts we’ve come across in the few months since our last update:

This extraordinary automated, self-balancing personal transport chair was entered into the Michelin Design Challenge by Mohamad Sadegh Samakoush Darounkolayi in 2011. Rather than running on wheels the Supple ‘ballchair’ has a single self balancing omnidirectional ball. As a recent Dyson vacuum has shown this gives you an increased ability to turn and manoeuvre and looks futuristic if impractical in other ways at the moment.

Supple 'wheelchair'

Supple ‘wheelchair’

The HXC is inspired by the design of a BMX and was tailor made for extreme wheelchair rider (or ‘hardcore sitter’) Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham. It’s not a huge leap from a traditional wheelchair design but the frame is all one piece, giving it extra rigidity, as well as multi-link suspension, with dual coil-over shocks. The designer had a working prototype back in 2010 which he sent to Aaron Fotheringham, and to Colours Wheelchairs, the company that made the athlete’s chair. However, there is now no trace of the HXC on the Colours website and Fotheringham uses a custom made Box Wheelchair these days.

HXC Wheelchair

HXC Wheelchair

The frame and mechanics of this wheelchair are pretty standard but the patchwork covering really stands out. The Sergio Calatroni Art Room in Milan customised the wheelchair for their Italian art director, Fabrizio Sclavi, a few years ago. The textile patchwork seat is really interesting and, although it may be a little loud for some people, in our opinion it’s very cool. It definitely gives the chair a bit of style and panache that it may otherwise lack.

Sclavis-Rolling-Chair-by-Sergio-Calatroni-Artroom-4

The Muto is a concept for a funky wheelchair which can be folded up to a brilliantly transportable size. The wheelchair frame is made from a lightweight aluminium that not only appears sleek and streamlined when unfolded but has been engineered to safely accommodate loads up to an impressive 130kg. It’s a fantastic concept which we’d love to see go further. The only concern may be about the apparent lack of a footrest.

muto

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Speaking of footrests, this concept has a new approach with a Japanese kneeling posture being used rather than the standard sitting position. The model is called the Seiza and was designed by Vera Kunhartova. This new stance and positioning has many benefits including allowing the pressure to be transferred, which can bring a positive result on the user’s health (better blood circulation, activation of different muscles, etc.) and works positively for prevention of additional injuries (pressure ulcers, thrombosis, etc.).

The chair also looks really good too (like many of these chairs, opting for some bright green colouring) and has been going through lots of testing in the last few years. It’s not available to buy yet but hopefully it will be soon. It’s an innovative new design which could be really comfortable. It is something you’d want to test out and it’s a shame that it’s so difficult to try wheelchairs before you buy.

seiza

Finally for this update, Parafree is a sleek, minimalist wheelchair that offers a functional, stylish & sporty look. We’ve seen in many of these designs that green is the new black but the Parafree reminds everyone that black is still the original. This is very sleek and stripped back giving a modern and slick appeal. With one front wheel and a device at the back to prevent falling backwards, this design makes for a more well balanced and agile experience whilst looking cool too.

Parafree

Parafree

Once again we can see that wheelchair design is going places – designers love to solve problems in creative ways and the less able market is an ideal place to do that! Cross your fingers that at least some of these ideas make it to a more mainstream market soon!

stannah

July 18, 2014
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Let’s Talk About Steps – New Ways To Adapt A Property With A Staircase.

Let’s talk about steps. That might not be an opening sentence to inspire confidence or to get the mind racing but steps are, for people with reduced mobility, something that are a real nuisance and a routine source of frustration. They’re a pain but for many less able people there’s no way around it, even at home, you need to get upstairs. You need to get a stairlift.

For years stairlifts have been mocked and maligned as ugly, slow and intrusive. There’s no doubt that even the clunkiest stairlifts are essential and life changing mechanisms for people who need them, but why couldn’t they look a bit less sterile and clinical? Can’t we have a little more style on our stairways?

Clearly the answer to that question is yes because we’ve found that, as with all mobility equipment, there is an increasing number people out there who have thought the same thing and have found stylish solutions to steps.

A classic stairlift - helpful but dull and ugly

A classic stairlift – helpful but dull and ugly

Possibly the most ingenious solution comes from Sesame Access who design ‘invisible’ lifts for building entrances. The mechanisms hide underneath retractable flights of stairs until needed. Then when somebody wants to take the lift, the stairs disappear and a platform lift emerges to lift them upstairs. The retractable flights of stairs – normally only up to 1.5 metres in height – are designed to fit in seamlessly with the original architecture of the building so that, if you weren’t looking, you’d never spot them.

Sesame lifts have been used at Kensington Palace, UK Supreme Court, Apple stores and France and Germany, Sotheby’s in Paris, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Tate Britain and The Barbican Centre and were recently featured on the BBC programme Building Dream Homes. Most of the lifts have been used at entrances but they also work inside. Take a look at this video, which recently went viral, that shows how these remarkable lifts work.

Another alternative to a traditional stairlift comes in the form of Stiltz Lifts. These are two person lifts which can be installed in your house and powered by a standard household plug. It uses a unique dual rail system or ‘stilts’ which create a completely self-supporting structure. The weight of the structure and lift car is carried in compression through the rails into the floor of the home with no extra weight burden on the house. They only take a day to be installed and because they can be put almost anywhere in the house, despite their considerable size, you can put one somewhere discrete.

stiltz

Stiltz Lifts

But what of old school stairlifts? Well, it’s not just that we now have alternatives, the stairlift companies have begun to address the issue of how their products look too. Growing demand and the increasing number of stairlift providers has forced them to up their game and improve the way that the chairs and rails look.

For instance, Stannah, one of the more recognisable names in the world of ‘alternative staircase transport’, have brought style and colour to their systems, as seen in the picture below. It’s always tricky with these showcase photos to ascertain how much it’s the product on display that you like or if it’s just the amazing decoration around it that ‘lifts’ it up. But the colourful patterned chair and fairly unobtrusive mechanics really fit in like part of the furniture, which is exactly what it should be. Indeed, that’s exactly what it is!

stannah

Stylish Stannah

Something rather similar could be said about this model of curved stairlift. In fact, the idyllic family scene being played out makes it even harder to take the stairlift at face value. Although, having said that, we’ve seen plenty of other chair models which take the approach of putting a stairlift in what would otherwise already be a ‘dream home’ and it still looks clunky and out of place.

With a monorail style track and swivel chair mechanism this Flow2 single rail stairlift can fit on any almost any staircase and can even work on spiral staircases! Another example of how stairlifts can fit in easily to existing environments.

Innovative-Modern-Cool-Facinating-Stair-Lift-1 (1)

Monorail! Monorail! The Flow2 Stairlift

Whether it’s a stairlift or an emerging alternative design, there are some interesting and eye catching new ways of negotiating stairways. Through a combination of innovation and realisation that elderly and less able people value aesthetics the industry is making improvements. There’s still a way to go but it’s good to see that style is now being considered and we hope to find more developments in this area in the future too!