Pat and Rich LaRussa's big 3,000-square-foot home artfully hides a secret.
What a guest sees are beautiful cherrywood cabinets surrounding a massive
kitchen island filled with handy drawers. There is a desk right in the kitchen
for bill-paying and household business.
What a guest probably won't notice is that everything is discreetly
Nothing looks miniature on first glance. But throughout the house,
cabinets, fixtures and clothes racks have been lowered and custom furniture
designed and built to the LaRussas' compact size.
She is 4 feet 2 inches. He is an inch taller. For most of their lives they
had been forced to adapt to their homes. Now their home is adapted to them.
``You really can't tell it, until you get close up,'' says Pat, a retired
human resources analyst at Sonoma Developmental Center. ``But it made life so
much easier because we're not climbing all the time. When we both worked, we'd
come home tired and then have to pull up footstools to get dinner ready. Now I
don't have to do that at all.''
The LaRussas figured out what other differently sized people also have
discovered: That even though one size doesn't fit all, you don't have to just
grin and bear it. Like a tailor can size your clothes, a good carpenter,
designer or contractor can tailor your home to fit you.
Designer Carole Chapman, who with her contractor husband owns Chapman Home
Design and Chapman Construction in Healdsburg, for one set of clients blew
everything up bigger to accommodate their height.
She was 6 feet tall and he said he was 6 feet 7 inches, although Chapman
suspects he may have been taller since he had to duck to walk through regular
``He had spent his whole adult life ducking through doorways and tucking in
his elbows every time he walked down a hall,'' Chapman said. ``He wanted a
house that was in scale to him.''
Chapman upsized the kitchen counters a half-foot taller than the standard
36 inches. She designed the ceilings to be a minimum of 10 feet high, higher
in areas where she incorporated open-beam or vaulted ceilings.
All the doorways were enlarged to 8 feet high, industry standard for
commercial buildings, not residences. A home usually has doorways that are 6
feet 8 inches high, she said.
``It's all more expensive,'' she said. ``Any time you vary from the norm,
even using standard appliances and working as much as possible with what is
available on the market, it's going to cost more.''
In fact, costs rise exponentially because the changes make the job more
complicated, she said. Sheetrockers and other tradesmen will need to work on
ladders and scaffolding.
But the cost is worth it after you've suffered backaches from bending over,
said Cappie Garrett, a Santa Rosa interior designer who had taller counters
and cabinets put into her Santa Rosa kitchen to make life easier for both her
and her husband.
She's 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall; husband Tom, a physician, is 6 feet 7
inches. Their counters range from 38 to 40 inches, with the center island a