You are here

Design with Down Syndrome in MInd

A California home plays to the needs of a special family

Written by Sally Finder Weepie

Details make a difference, especially when creating a home for a family that includes a child with Down Syndrome. So Modesto, California, designer Wendy Glaister emphasized the practical as she also brought on the pretty—and the just plain fun—for Jon and Dawna Rebiero and their kids, Gianna, Genevieve (who has Down Syndrome), and Joseph.

And why not start with the fun? Inquisitive Genevieve loves to explore, and her little brother Joseph is one huge fan of toy John Deere tractors. "I thought, Why not build a fort under the island with LED lighting?" Glaister says. It turned out to be one of the kids' favorite play spaces.

The kitchen as a whole plays to mom Dawna's desire for a white kitchen—with some artful twists. Glaister used limed oak for the island base and for glass-front dish cabinets to add interest. Tough quartz used on the countertops and backsplash introduces a touch of gray veining. Bar stool upholstery brings in a hit of blue and a touch of softness that Genevieve loves—in a durable package. "I didn't even look at fabric that wasn't performance fabric—it has to be durable to meet the needs of a young family," Glaister says. "I used Fabricut Crypton throughout the house, and it works great."

More soft and soothing Crypton fabric covers roomy settees that pull up to the farm-style dining table, joining also-durable wicker side chairs. Drawers tucked under the window seat cushion hold the children's books, making storytime ultra easy. Floors throughout the home are luxury vinyl tile that can stand up to anything. Ingeniously, its color is also perfect for this family, whose business is growing almonds—the hue is the ultimate disguise for any almond dust that accidentally gets tracked in. Locks on doors leading to the patio—and all the home's doors—are high enough so that Genevieve can't inadvertently wander outside without supervision. Similarly, Glaister installed locks on closets, the pantry, and the laundry to prevent unexpected messes. "Genevieve loves to unload closets and cupboards," the designer says. The pantry also has shelving strapped to walls so nothing will fall on Genevieve, a fearless climber.


While Dawna is hard at work in the office, the kids can do art projects at an adacent workstation. Cabinets provide lots of room for art supplies, a copier, and drawers for completed art projects.

Dawna had Glaister design the master bath as a sanctuary that gives her a place of respite, but also with the girls in mind. "She wanted a space where she could do the girls' makeup and hair for dance or special occasions," Glaister says. Quartz countertops shrug off everything, including lipstick smears. "Genevieve loves lipstick," the designer says with a laugh. Hidden outlets were installed for Dawna's styling tools.

Genevieve will be one step closer to party dresses and up-dos this fall, when she starts school. "She's such a cutie—she gives you huge hugs," Glaister says. "It's been a project of a lifetime for me to love a family through this process."


Photography by David Duncan Livingston

Architecture by Joe Smith, API Architects