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
- 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.
- 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.
- Overmatching is always a major faux pas.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!"
- It's more important to make yourself happy than to be like your neighbor.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, StaycS.com