Bathroom renovation at couple’s home in Rosenburg solves leaking pipes and Huntington’s disease

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When Jon and Patricia Huffman had leaky pipes a few years ago, they agreed it was time to remodel their master bathroom.

They had thought of ways to update the room and accommodate what they knew would worsen the symptoms of Jon’s diagnosis of Huntington’s disease, a genetic and progressive brain disorder that affects movement, mood and thinking skills.

The Huffmans had met interior designer Juliana Ewer of J Squared Home Designswho helped them remodel and redecorate the living room of their Rosenberg home, so they asked for his help with the master bedroom and bathroom.

Huntington’s disease is genetic, passed down from parent to child. When Jon’s mother started showing symptoms, they learned what they could about the disease and moved on with their lives.

He started showing symptoms around 2008 and noticed that he had heavy footing while driving and had difficulty performing slow stops in the car. Patricia noted that people with Huntington’s disease often realize they have symptoms when they find themselves getting more speeding tickets.

Jon, 61, stayed on as a pharmacist for as long as he could, retiring in 2014. Patricia, too, was a pharmacist; she retired last August at age 59, wanting to spend more time with Jon and travel as much as possible until it was too much for him. Their two adult sons and grandchildren have tested negative for the disease.

Now Jon describes his symptoms as mild and he has participated in clinical trials, hoping they will find a cure for the disease in his lifetime. Patricia, however, has noticed that her gait has changed recently, shuffling a bit more and not having the stamina for longer walks. But they stay active, hit the gym and even take dance classes recommended by a physical therapist.

“With Huntington’s disease, everyone follows their own path,” said Patricia. “They say people with Huntington’s disease first seem intoxicated. Jon’s brother had Huntington’s disease and died in his 50s. He had received speeding tickets. They thought he was drunk and had a drinking problem.

For now, the Huffmans are preparing their home for the day when Jon’s condition worsens and his mobility is affected. Upgrading the bedroom and adding special amenities in the main bathroom is part of that – and all the work was done during the coronavirus shutdown.

Measures include wider doorways and more open spaces so there is less furniture to move through or bump into. They still have rugs and rugs, though Patricia knows there might be a day when they may have to remove the rugs and rugs, as they will be easy to trip over if Jon’s gait becomes more chaotic.

In the shower they added grab bars and shower controls on the end without a door, with more grab bars and the shower head on the other end making it usable for Jon to the first time in quite a while. The shower never had enough water pressure to suit either, so that was fixed as well.

Ewer found the couple a freestanding tub and designed a pony wall behind it to hold the plumbing and provide a shelf to hold soap or towels. One of the nicest touches is the chandelier they chose to hang above the tub, a Design by Regina Andrews in brass and crystal.

Stunning tiling in a creamy taupe covers the shower walls. The shampoo and soap niches have a braided ceramic tile pattern. The counters – formerly Formica – have been replaced by quartzite slabs.

The toilet area needed special consideration, with a taller Toto bidet than the standard toilet and more grab bars so Jon could stay independent. As if the bidet wasn’t fancy enough, it’s also motion-sensitive, so the lid pops up as soon as someone enters.

Even something as simple as a pocket door entry helps, tucking neatly into the wall and staying out of the way.

One change they are happy to have made has nothing to do with accessibility. There had been a window-like opening in a wall between the bathroom and the bedroom. Due to an arched window in the bathroom, sunlight streamed into the room, making it bright and uncomfortable.

After sealing the opening with Placoplâtre, the bedroom is as dark as they want it to be. For the arched window on the exterior wall, Ewer designed a metal array that rests on an opaque screen to filter the light entering the room.

The wall with the sinks transformed with Graham and Brown wallpaper in the background, Venetian glass mirrors and pretty sconces, all above the braided tile – this time used as a small backsplash.

In the bedroom, they purchased a new Bernhardt king-size adjustable four-poster bed with an upholstered headboard and footboard, and new bespoke bedding.

“The flow will be perfect no matter the situation,” Ewer said. “When we laid it all out, we thought about what might happen in the future and made it easily passable and accessible for later.”

diane.cowen

@houstonchronicle.com


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