Letting the (brick) dust settle – Part 3: Opening up to nature

This week was an exciting one in the ongoing kitchen renovations as it came with the installation of one of the key components – bifold windows. The importance of this is twofold. Firstly, it demonstrates how big and bright the space will be and, secondly, it creates that direct link between the inside and outside spaces.

For both Kath and I, having that connection with nature is so important for our mental health, To be able to wake up in the morning and sit at the kitchen island with a fresh cup of coffee listening to the early morning birdsong or to relax at the dining table after a busy day at work with a glass of wine, watching the red kites circling and swooping just above the rooftops provides that moment of tranquility from an otherwise hectic family and work life.

Not that it doesn’t have its disadvantages – being so sensitive to bright light and having what is essentially a wall of glass required a lot of careful planning and design. Without a bottomless pit of money for photo-reactive glass or automatic blinds, the options to block out the light were limited to curtains or blinds. As curtains are either “on or off” and we would likely be either sitting in bright light or total darkness we determined that this wouldn’t be an option so the choice was then either vertical or horizontal blinds. Vertical blinds seemed to be the better choice as we could pull them across and angle to only partially block out the light as the sun moves across the back of the house in the afternoons. Although better than curtains, this option is still relatively inflexible insofar as it will still cover the whole wall.

Considering the options, our window fitter, Alan, suggested having the blinds integrated between the glass panels. This meant that each of the five panels would have its own blind that can be adjusted individually to suit. These horizontal blinds aren’t without their disadvantages as they do block out more light that vertical ones and as they are fitted between the panes each blade is no more than 10mm thick, resulting in a slightly polarising effect on the outside view (a bit like when wearing a pair of polarised sunglasses).

Each of these options have their good and bad points so it is very much personal preference on which is the best one for you. From a pricing perspective, there isn’t much to tell between them so, after weighing up all the options, we went for the integrated design. Despite them blocking out a little bit more light, as each panel can be adjusted separately we have so much more flexibility in what to close and by how much. The added bonuses also mean that they don’t encroach on the overall space in the kitchen and there’s no need to clean them as they’re in a sealed unit!

But it’s not just the bifolds and blinds that will bring together the whole area. When we sat down with Richard the builder it was a breath of fresh air that he has tuned into our very specific needs meaning solutions offered up are complementary to creating a safe and accessible environment. So when discussing the new patio, not only does laying it on top of the existing one save money, it will raise the level by 10-12 cms making the step down negligible when walking outside and the internal floor will be levelled to the same height for added comfort. Plus, his design to replace the winding, open steps up to the raised lawn with straight lines and, most importantly, a handrail will finally make the entire garden accessible once more.

All this work, both inside and out, will make for a truly accessible, family living space for years to come.

Happy Sunday!


If you are considering your own project and would like to find out more about making it more accessible, then you can get in touch by emailing me at chris@blindmanwithabackpack.uk

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