In 1999, architect Michael Graves introduced high-end design to Target customers. Since a virus left him paraplegic five years ago, his belief in accessibility and accessible design has only increased.
Ten Things I Know For Sure
  1. Form must never trump function. Some objects are made to look so smooth, you don't know where to pick them up or how to turn them on. If I'm designing a garlic press or cheese grater, I need my hand to fit comfortably on it. I like to know, instinctively, how to use it.  
  2. Views are overrated; it's light that counts. I have an apartment in Miami's South Beach, and I get tired of looking at the ocean. Even that view gets old after a while. Sunlight streaming into a room—it never gets old.  
  3. Overmatching is always a major faux pas.  
  4. Architecture only does part of the work. How you fill the space matters just as much, sometimes more. I designed a beach house with a continuous living/dining area, but it had to have a table in the middle to give it a visual rhythm. Every room has a foreground and a background. But you also need a middle ground—like that table—to go between.  
  5. Sisal is an easy solution to a bare floor. It's inexpensive, simple, and doesn't make a big statement. Plus, its acoustic properties help quiet the room.  
  6. Playfulness has universal appeal. A French poet once wrote me and said, "Damn you! I'm a curmudgeon and I get up very slowly in the morning; I have to have coffee before I'll speak. But when I turn on your kettle and the rooster crows, it makes me smile. Damn you!"
  7. It's more important to make yourself happy than to be like your neighbor.  
  8. Well-chosen paint conveys richness without costing a lot. I saw a room in Sweden that was painted not just terra-cotta red, but high-gloss terra-cotta red. The way the light reflected off it and was absorbed by it was so extraordinary; you could just lick it like a Popsicle.  
  9. How you arrange furniture affects interaction. The purpose is to allow communication, and if I'm talking to someone, I really need to be able to see them. Face-to-face is terribly important: I want to know whether a person is finding what I'm saying too strident or too passionate. Think about the conversations that a breakfast table has heard—happy, sad, argumentative. It's the neutral partner.  
  10. Good design should be available to everyone—and I do mean everyone. What I spent on the wheelchair I'm in could buy a small Mercedes. It's not only unfair to me; it's unfair to someone who's indigent but has the same needs. My goal is to make all objects affordable.  
Photograph by David Turner/Studio D. Grooming, Stayc St. Onge, 


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