The premise is simple: You don’t have to sacrifice style when creating a bath for a person requiring accessible living features. This is at the heart of Frank Webb’s Bath Centers’ new 2,000-sq.-ft. Accessible Living Bath Design Center in Methuen, Mass.
“In the past the bath industry thought of ‘handicapped bathrooms’ and wheelchair access,” says Jeffrey Pope, president of F.W. Webb Co, the wholesale leader who owns the growing chain of Frank Webb’s Bath Centers throughout New England and Upstate New York. “This was reflected in a narrow line of industrial-looking products that were chosen solely out of necessity and there was very little choice.
“Now there is a drive for more choice, more options,” continues Pope. “When you look at the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a growing population of baby boomers who are looking at aging in place for their parents and themselves, the world changes. This generation expects more options and a higher level of aesthetics and we have created those choices in this Design Center.”
“While companies like American Standard, Toto and Jacuzzi have created attractive comfort-height toilets and walk-in tubs, we have taken this a step further,” explains Pope. “We didn’t just want to show available product options, we wanted to create bathrooms that take mainstream products and show how they can be adapted to meet accessible living needs. We want this Accessible Living Bath Center to be a catalyst for new thinking, better design and solving people’s challenges.”
“I have been specializing in residential accessible design for 25 years,” says Jacqueline Dobson, founder and senior designer for Watertown, Mass.-based SOLUTIONS for Accessibility, “and this is the first resource in New England that affords my clients the opportunity to actually see the products I specify in their bath designs. Until now, though I would make recommendations for products to meet their specific needs, we could generally only review the products in catalogs.”
According to Dobson, who had a medical/therapy background before opening her access design firm in the 1980s, “I am thrilled to have a resource like Frank Webb’s Bath Center. It makes such a difference for my clients to visit a beautiful showroom, actually see and touch the products that we’ve discussed, and to talk to the showroom team about their plans. We all work together and it makes a huge difference.”
“It’s wonderful to have someone in our own community that is also focusing on bathroom accessibility issues,” said Dennis Conlin, president of Methuen-based Conlin’s Pharmacy and Medical Equipment. “We’ve been servicing the medical equipment needs of residents with accessibility issues in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for more than 20 years, and now with Frank Webb’s Bath Center we can actually refer clients to a resource that not only is well-versed in accessible design products for the bath, but shows them on the showroom floor. This is a great community alliance that will benefit both companies, but more importantly, truly benefit the residents of the area.”
According to the showroom manager Danielle Frank, “We’d like to be a resource center for people to think about this in a much more elegant way.” Frank and her staff work directly with consumers or with their designers and contractors. “We love putting the right product together with the right application,” she continued. “While many of these products meet ADA standards, others meet requirements of aging-in-place retirees. We encourage homeowners to work with a knowledgeable architect, designer or contractor to make sure what we provide works on the installation end to provide the bathroom they imagine.”
For additional information, call the Frank Webb’s Bath Center in Methuen, Mass., at 781/325-7140 or visit www.frankwebb.com.
All photos by John Ferrarone.