By Zara Stender Special to the Mercury News
Q My elderly mother is moving in with us this summer. We have a three-bedroom, two-bath home but are looking for ways to make her bedroom and bath (which have been serving as our storage rooms) feel like her own. Any suggestions on using color or interior design to create a special space for her?
A Let's say your mother is healthy and able to get around by herself. Ask her to choose her favorite colors and mementos, get a nice comfy bed and lovely window coverings and you're done. However, I would advise you to consider long-term issues concerning her health and comfort now, so that as time goes by her living space will continue to work for her.
As your mother ages, her physical condition could fail, and she could eventually lose mobility. To prepare for this possibility, before she moves in you may want to install grab bars in her bathroom and change out flooring to make it wheelchair- and walker-friendly. High pile carpet is difficult to negotiate, so changing to hardwood, vinyl or laminate flooring will make it easier for her.
Are your doorways, hallways and bathroom entrance wide enough for a wheelchair? If not, you may need to think about a more involved remodel. For more in-depth information on barrier-free living, contact the California Council for Interior Design Certification at www.ccidc.org for a list of certified interior designers who can assist you. The council also maintains a Web site
of designers and samples of their work, which makes it easy to find one in your area.
Here are some additional tips:
Incorporate photos and artwork that remind your mother of successful and happy times in her life. If she has suffered a hard life, make sure you avoid any elements that could re-stimulate unhappy memories.
Natural greens have been found to help people adjust to new environments. This could be very helpful if she has left a beloved home to move in with you.
Use pure, deep yellow sparingly, even if you like it. Broad expanses of yellow, such as a strong yellow wall, can be overly harsh.
According to feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement, you can create optimum balance and the most pleasant environment using seven colors in any living space: red, yellow, blue, orange, green, purple and indigo. This doesn't mean painting wild colors all over the place. A print, poster, artwork or floral arrangement could be all you need. The correct use of color in the home can greatly contribute to a sense of well-being.
Zara Stender is an award-winning designer, author and lecturer. She is a certified interior designer and a member of the color marketing group. Her website is www.zaradesigns.us .