Before & After: Emily Henderson Transforms a Senior's Studio Space

Here at Apartment Therapy, we talk a lot about small spaces, but we don't often get a chance to look at design for a group of people who often find themselves living in smaller spaces — senior citizens. That's why we're so excited to share this Before and After with you. 

Designer Emily Henderson partnered with Sunrise Senior Living to make over the home of Fran Ferguson, an 81-year-old military widow, grandmother of 8, and all-around active, creative lady.  

The beautiful furniture in Fran's original space is a testament to her good taste. Emily sought to add color and declutter the room, while still leaving places for Fran to display the treasures she's collected in her travels around the world. She also strove to create a space that would be safe and comfortable for Fran, who uses a wheelchair to get around. Check out the lovely results below, as well as our interview with Emily, who was kind enough to answer our questions and tell us a little more about the project. 

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Apartment Therapy: How was this project different from others you've designed?
Emily Henderson: Unlike many of my clients who have just moved and have no furniture, Fran had a collection of pretty mid-century furniture and wonderful vintage accessories. Usually I am running around looking for vintage pieces to give a client's home a sense of history and realness, but Fran already had a lifetime of beautiful collected objects, so I concentrated on freshening everything up while keeping with her clean, modern taste.

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AT: What was your inspiration for the new space?
EH: 100% Fran. She's just a super hip lady with a really great eye, and she knows what she likes. She had so many beautiful pieces of furniture and art that I wanted to incorporate. She also has a strong affinity for color. She loves aquas and salmon pink, so I concentrated on using her favorite colors and incorporating her amazing style into her home.

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AT: What was the biggest challenge associated with designing for someone in a wheelchair?
EH: Designing a space where accessibility was such an issue was a new challenge I've never had before. Fran is an incredibly active person. She hosts a lot, she crafts a lot, and she has great style and great taste. So not only did she want a place she could get around easily and where she could reach everything from her seated position, she also wanted a space that was beautiful and hip. 

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AT: What advice would you give for others looking to design for seniors and help make older folks more comfortable in their homes?
EH: Make sure you keep their practical needs in mind (mobility, etc.) while also keeping in mind that they have likes and dislikes. Just because you're a senior doesn't mean you've given up taste. So number one is making sure they can reach everything they need and move comfortably around their apartment. Number two is making sure they feel like their space is cool, that it represents them, and that you are listening to their likes and dislikes. At any age, one appreciates living in a beautiful, considered space that represents their style. 

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Thanks, Emily! You can see more of Emily's tips for designing for seniors on Sunrise Senior Living's website here. To see more of Emily's work, check out her blog

(Images: Sunrise Senior Living)

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