Methuen, Mass. — The premise is simple: You don't have to sacrifice style when creating a bath for a person requiring accessible living features. This is at the heart of Frank Webb's Bath Centers' new 2,000-sq.ft. Accessible Living Bath Design Center here.
“In the past, the bath industry thought of ‘handicapped bathrooms’ and wheelchair access,” said Jeffrey Pope, president of F.W. Webb Co., the wholesaler who owns the chain of Frank Webb's Bath Centers throughout New England and upstate New York. “This was reflected in a narrow line of industrial-looking products that were chosen solely out of necessity and there was very little choice.
“Now there is a drive for more choice, more options,” continued Pope. “When you look at the Americans with Disabilities Act and a growing population of baby boomers who are looking at aging in place for their parents and themselves, the world changes. This generation expects more options and a higher level of aesthetics and we have created those choices in this Design Center.”
The showrooms are designed as a place that plumbing contractors can bring their customers.
“We've been in the plumbing and remodeling business for more than 25 years and have built our own showrooms, but the Frank Webb's Bath Center Accessible Living Design Center fills a very important niche by showing clients the plumbing fixtures and accessories that they are looking for in accessible living design,” said Peter Bonnette, president of P.M. Mackay Plumbing Contractors, part of the P.M. Mackay Group of Nashua, N.H. “This is a great help to us because there is a significant investment in showing these specific products and we feel comfortable sending our clients there knowing they'll be returning to us ready to design and build their project. This offers a new way for us to partner with F.W. Webb and Frank Webb's Bath Centers.”
Frank Webb's Accessible Living Bath Design Center comprises almost one-third of the company's newest showroom, and provides more than a dozen displays showcasing accessible design ideas. Frank Webb's Bath Centers are the showroom division of F.W. Webb. The chain of bath design showrooms currently has 26 locations throughout New England and upstate New York to showcase live displays of sinks, faucets, toilets, and tubs, as well as storage and accessories for bathrooms and kitchens. The showroom consultants provide personal service and a knowledge of dozens of brands including American Standard, Toto, Jacuzzi, Porcher, Moen, Delta, Grohe, Acyriline and many others.
“While companies like American Standard, Toto and Jacuzzi have created attractive comfort-height toilets and walk-in tubs, we have taken this a step further,” explained Pope. “We didn't just want to show available product options, we wanted to create bathrooms that take mainstream products and show how they can be adapted to meet accessible living needs. We want this Accessible Living Bath Center to be a catalyst for new thinking, better design and solving people's challenges.”
“I have been specializing in residential accessible design for 25 years,” said Jacqueline Dobson, founder and senior designer for Watertown, Mass.-based Solutions for Accessibility, “and this is the first resource in New England that affords my clients the opportunity to actually see the products I specify in their bath designs. Until now, though I would make recommendations for products to meet their specific needs, we could generally only review the products in catalogs.”
According to Dobson, who had a medical/therapy background before opening her access design firm in the 80's, “I am thrilled to have a resource like Frank Webb's Bath Center. It makes such a difference for my clients to visit a beautiful showroom, actually see and touch the products that we've discussed, and to talk to the showroom team about their plans. We all work together and it makes a huge difference.”
Suppliers of medical equipment are also pleased.
“It's wonderful to have someone in our own community that is also focusing on bathroom accessibility issues,” said Dennis Conlin, president of Methuen, Mass.-based Conlin's Pharmacy and Medical Equipment. “This is a great community alliance that will benefit both companies, but more importantly, truly benefit the residents of the area.”
The Bath Center showcases baths with hands-free faucets, a double-vanity where the right side has storage below the countertop and the left side leaves room for knees to fit underneath, and a removable shower seat. There are displays that show new tile shower designs that have slanted floors and drainage that do not require a lip (or curb) for someone to step over or for a wheelchair to roll over.
According to the showroom manager Danielle Frank, “We'd like to be a resource center for people to think about this in a much more elegant way.”
Frank and her staff work directly with consumers or with their designers and contractors.
“We love putting the right product together with the right application,” she continued. “While many of these products meet ADA standards, others meet requirements of aging-in-place retirees. We encourage homeowners to work with a knowledgeable architect, designer or contractor to make sure what we provide works on the installation end to provide the bathroom they imagine.”
Additional information is available at 781/325-7140 or at www.frankwebb.com.