Going Up

Whether it’s installed for health considerations, for long-range planning or just for sheer luxury of it all, a home elevator can add ease and convenience – and in Richmond, more people are realizing benefits from this home option.

Deb Gentry likes to joke about the elevator in her Monument Park townhouse. “You can fit two people in it – if they like each other!”

“My husband, Rick, has difficulty with stairs and we looked all over for a single-story house in the city of Richmond, ” she explains. “There just aren’t any. Our Realtor understood our dilemma and when a unit opened in this development, she suggested that we take it and install an elevator. The idea wouldn’t have occurred to us, we’ve just always lived in single-story houses. The elevator made the house work for Rick. He uses it as an essential part of daily living.”

This Monument Avenue home elevator features brass accents on Plexiglas® cab, allowing the occupants to view paintings and décor as they ride.

This Monument Avenue home elevator features brass accents on Plexiglas® cab, allowing the occupants to view paintings and décor as they ride.

Soon enough, Deb came to rely on the elevator as a part of her lifestyle, too. The townhouse is three stories high. The garage, foyer and laundry room are on the first floor, the kitchen is on the second and the bedrooms are on the third. “I use it to send the laundry up and down and to take the groceries to the kitchen on the second floor, she says. I love having it. It makes everything so easy!”

According to Leo Hergenreder, president of Ashley Corporation, a Richmond company which provides in-home elevators and stairlifts, “customers are usually people who need an elevator because of illness or accident, or who have a very high –end home with every luxury in it. But in recent years, we’re seeing a lot more people who are forward-thinking and are planning for their golden years.” Hergenreder says. “People are thinking about the high cost of their senior years and they want to stay in their homes, not have to relocate. There are also a lot of baby boomers who are bringing their parents in to live with them and planning for their futures at the same time.”

The cost of adding an elevator in order to make the whole house accessible is less than that of building an addition to the first floor. In most cases it costs less to add a second level and elevator to a single-story house than to build out or relocate, because the additional foundation and roof costs are a large percentage of the total costs.

“The cab is the least important part of the elevator in terms of functioning,” he explains, “but it’s the part that everyone sees. People usually want the design and décor of the cab to reflect the rest of the home or of the most public space that it will open into, such as the foyer or the living room. The possibilities are extensive for custom designed cabs, floors and gates.”

In Deb and Rick Gentry’s home, the elevator was placed in the center of their wrap-around staircase. The walls of the spacious, open stairwell serve as gallery space for their numerous paintings. Their elevator was customized to accentuate their home’s décor. “The house has a lot of brass accents,” says Deb, “so we picked the frame and the accordion gate in a brass finish, and three walls in Plexiglas.® It was wonderful because it blended in with its surroundings and you could see the artwork in the stairwell right through the elevator. We also had a wood floor put in to match our floors and we have lots of Oriental rugs, so we found a teeny, tiny Oriental that just fit in the elevator.”

Ashley Corporation has designed elevators with décor ranging from original Victorian trim to sleek and contemporary styling. One customer decided on a jade floor to match the jade in the surrounding foyer; another covered the walls in the cab with Oriental silk (the silk costs more than the elevator); another ordered specialty cherry and walnut to match the woods throughout his house. Elevators can be square, rectangular, round, or open. They can be finished with hardwoods, veneers, raised panels, mirrors, glass etched with artwork, and a constantly growing list of options in materials, finishes and styles.

from Style Weekly