House has beauty and accessibility WEST COUNTY -- Clarksvill * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon


Mark Schlossberg is building his dream home in Glenelg.

From the fire's light reflecting off the Italian marble to the sunlight shining through the bent-glass corner window, every room of the 3,000-square-foot house has something to pique a visitor's interest.

Vaulted ceilings under three large gables are broken up by skylights that open and close electrically. Even the blinds are remote-controlled. In case someone forgets to flick the switch to close the skylights when it rains, a rain sensor does the job for them.

But the house's wide-open spaces are not just a luxury feature.

Mr. Schlossberg, 46, has multiple sclerosis. He can walk, but he said it is "very possible" the disease will require him one day to use a wheelchair.

He and his wife, Robin, designed the house to be accessible to ppTC wheelchair. A scale drawing of a wheelchair was included in the architectural drawings to show the scale of rooms, doorways and ramps.

"We also wanted a house that did not necessarily yell out, 'physically challenged,' " Mr. Schlossberg says. The house couldn't have railings everywhere or wooden ramps that looked like additions.

"Anything that's accessible, we didn't give it a very sterile, or hospital look. We made it stylish," he said.

The ramp to the front door, for example, will look like a gently sloping concrete sidewalk to the front door. Earth will be graded up to the edge of the sidewalk so that the ramp will have the same slope as the land.

Eight of the home's doors are "pocket doors," or sliding doors that disappear into walls, so that someone in a wheelchair will not have to negotiate around a door. Doorways for the few swinging doors in the house are 3 feet wide, instead of the standard 2 1/2 feet.

The 3,000-square-foot house is also low-maintenance, with no lawn and all living areas on one floor.

Mr. Schlossberg wouldn't give the price of the home, but estimated that he had to add at least 500 square feet to the house to make the halls and bathrooms accessible. He has yet to break down the cost of the additional space or other features that make the house wheelchair-friendly.

Jerry Schonemann, the project's Glenwood-based general contractor, estimated that providing accessibility would add 8 percent to 10 percent to the home's total cost.

The Schlossbergs' design project began last December, after they failed to find an acceptable home.

"It's the bathrooms and the hallways that are too small," Mr. Schlossberg said. "The tract people are 'take it or leave it,' when it comes to accessibility."

While some builders were willing to make minor modifications, such as installing a ramp for a single step, the Schlossbergs found nothing on the market that satisfied their needs.

With the help of friends, books, articles and a Massachusetts-based accessibility consultant, the Schlossbergs set out to design a house that will allow Mr. Schlossberg to be self-sufficient.

doesn't like me to help him; he doesn't like people to help him," says Ms. Schlossberg, a second-grade teacher at Guilford Elementary School.

5l ing out of the corner window in his office, Mr. Schlossberg said he hoped that the room, with at least three telephone lines and remote-controlled, piped-in sound, will allow him to work from home. He now has to drive to his job as an operations manager for AT&T;'s Beltsville office.

Ms. Schlossberg said she believed that the house would have good resale value.

"This is a very young county. As people get older, there will people people that will have special needs," she said.

Tract builders might also learn a lesson from the Schlossbergs' house-hunting experience, said Keith Harrington, a sales representative for B&K; Distributors, one of the subcontractors working on the house.

"If you were the one builder that said, 'Hey, I've got one house type that can be used for the handicapped market,' I think they would move them," Mr. Harrington said.

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