Date: July 29, 2019 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Stephanie Maxwell Newton |
Modern minimalism and accessibility go hand-in-hand in this Northwest Arkansas family home
Ginny and Matt Mooney live in a renovated ranch-style home in Fayetteville just blocks from the University of Arkansas campus. The finishes are sleek and modern, the palette as simple as possible—black, white, and wood tones abound, both inside and on the exterior. But inside the walls, it’s a symphony of chatter and laughter, bake-sale prep and Nerf basketball games, and music and dancing.
All that activity can be attributed to Anders, 9, Hazel, 10, and Lena, 12, whose communication and motor skills are affected by autism. With this in mind, her parents decided to approach their home renovation and addition project in such a way that would continue to serve Lena as she becomes more independent. “What happens a lot of times with people with disabilities is they live in isolation,” Ginny says. “The world isn’t set up for them like it should be. For our family, most houses would work fine for Hazel and Anders, but we wanted to think more long-term—into adulthood—for Lena.”
To that end, Ginny and Matt recruited their neighbor, architect Bradley Edwards, and friend, builder Lucas Cooper—both of whom had worked on projects at the Mooneys’ previous house—to help them create a home truly suited to the family’s needs. There were three main considerations in achieving this: First, all the details of the home, from the drawers in her room to the kitchen and bathroom design, would be chosen with Lena’s needs and her ability to grow more independent in mind—a concept Ginny refers to as “projected independence.”
Second, that the home would feel comfortable and safe to Lena. “We think she’s a gift to her community and those around her,” Ginny says. “The easiest way for her to connect with others is in her space. That’s part of the big, open floor plan. If we have a place where people can come over, she’s automatically a part of the action.”
Lastly, that the home would not only be accessible for Lena, but also to friends with disabilities in the wider community. “That’s part of why the house is all one story,” Ginny points out, noting that there are no steps at the home’s entrance, either. “A big part of living with autism is that Lena’s communication skills and the way she lives in the world is affected,” Ginny says. “Behaviors are really high. That was the drive behind the decor and neutral color palette. A space that’s cluttered and colorful and has a lot of stuff, can feel really chaotic to someone with autism. Our life as a family already has a lot of energy and chaos,” Ginny laughs. “It’s a beautiful chaos, and I love how colorful our family is. But I did want the house to feel calm and peaceful, to be a place we could all continue to learn and grow.”
Clean Kitchen Design
It just so happens that many of the aspects of this home that are conducive to accessibility—the open floor plan, the minimal colors and décor, the simple lines and furniture—are suited to Ginny and Matt’s aesthetic. “I love the uniformity of the black and white, but I wanted a pop of warmer wood in there, too” Ginny says, pointing to the open shelving and a wood-wrapped accent shelf as examples. The wood is cypress, the same as the exterior of the house and a nod to Ginny’s family in Louisiana. Sleek black cabinets reach from floor to ceiling, and matching panels cover the refrigerator and dishwasher for a seamless look.
The streamlined style of the Joybird sectional and vintage media console against a far wall in the living room are indicative of the Mooneys’ influences. “Before kids, most of our stuff was less modern and more midcentury modern,” Ginny says. “Matt and I have always loved the magazine Atomic Ranch, and the homes in this neighborhood were all ranch style originally.” “All of my old architecture professors built houses around here back in the day,” adds architect Bradley Edwards. “It’s an interesting neighborhood for architecture history.”
A piece by local artist Samuel Gray serves as a meaningful focal point in the living room. In 2007, Ginny and Matt founded a nonprofit organization, 99 Balloons, in honor of their first-born son, Eliot, who passed away at 99 days old. “We started the organization because we wanted someplace to live out the belief that every life has worth,” Ginny says. This piece, which depicts a boy drifting into the sky holding balloons, was auctioned at one of the nonprofit’s early fundraisers, where a friend bought it and gifted it to the couple.
At the center of the home’s C-shaped layout is a two-story screened-in deck complete with a lofted “crow’s nest” for the kids. “Because of the trees overhead, it stays shaded even on hot days. We eat almost every meal out there,” Ginny says. After the family moved into the house, Ginny called on her friend Heather of Heather Davidson Design to help style and accessorize the home.
“Every life is worthy of being included. We spent all this time and energy on the house because we think people with disabilities should be welcome everywhere.”
— Ginny Mooney, homeowner
Peace and Calm
Lena’s room reflects the clean and simple settings where she feels the most relaxed. “She really likes things picked up; there’s a whole wall of storage that can be closed off, but she can access it independently if she wants,” Ginny says. “She has room in there to sit and read books, to dance, and to work with her therapist.” The bed linens are from Ginny’s family business, Gattle’s, a fine-linen company founded in Michigan more than a century ago.
The house is laid out so that Anders and Hazel’s rooms, their bathroom, and the kitchen and living room are in the original part of the house, and everything else is part of the addition. Bradley drew the master suite and Lena’s room on the other side of the house so that both rooms could have peace and quiet when needed. In the master bedroom, geometric patterns in the light fixtures and pillows play off the vintage rug, a find from a rug shop in an area of Michigan the family visits every summer. “We had the rug before we had anything else in the room. We started with that piece and built around it,” Ginny says. The coverlet and Euro shams are from Gattle’s.
The same black tile used as a backsplash in the kitchen appears in the shower in the master bathroom (above), and a similar white version is used for the shower in Anders and Hazel’s bathrooms (below), which features dual vanities. Glass panels rather than shower curtains make the rooms appear larger.
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