How a trip to the bathroom inspired Pottery Barn’s inclusive furniture line

re injured, living with disabilities and ageing in place. 

“Our mission is to incorporate accessibility into everything we do – providing beautiful, thoughtful design that makes a home a more comfortable place for everyone,” Marta Benson, Pottery Barn’s president, said in a statement. 

The collection includes accessible bath, upholstery, office, dining, bedroom and lighting products, such as pivot mirrors, grab bars, motion lift chairs and adjustable desks, and is available in select Pottery Barn stores and online. 

The move into accessible furniture was reportedly inspired by a trip to the bathroom. Benson told Fast Company that she was visiting a Pottery Barn store when she noticed the bathroom didn’t contain any of the company’s own furniture. 

She later found out this was because none of the brand’s bathroom consoles were compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires public bathrooms to have wheelchair-accessible sinks, and she vowed to change it. 

Pottery Barn worked with industry experts to adapt many of its existing products for people with disabilities and mobility issues. For instance, its Irving recliner now comes with lifting to assist with sitting and standing, and its Pacific Desk is now wheelchair accessible. 

Pottery Barn said it is the first luxury home retailer to offer accessible products in such a wide range of categories, and noted that customers don’t have to sacrifice style to gain functionality and accessibility. 

The Accessible Home collection remains rooted in Pottery Barn’s signature values of quality, style, and sustainability.

Only the tip of the iceberg

Too often, businesses that make products for people with disabilities or mobility issues overlook the aesthetic element, Matthew Skerritt, founder of EveryHuman, an online marketplace that sells fashion and lifestyle products for people with disabilities, told Inside Retail

“The fact that [the Pottery Barn collection] looks aesthetically pleasing is super important,” he said. “They’re products that people actually want to use, rather than functional products that are not necessarily all that appealing.” 

Based on industry events and expos he has attended, Skerritt believes there’s a wider range of accessible furniture on the market than accessible clothing, but most of it is positioned as medical products, or for the elderly. 

“There’s a lack of brand associated with the products,” he said. 

Given the fact that 2 billion people worldwide are estimated to be living with a disability, not to mention the rapidly ageing global population, this is a massive missed opportunity. Brands that design their products to be more accessible can tap into an underserved market. 

“It comes down to choice. Pottery Barn is offering greater choice to a wider variety of people,” Skerritt said. “It’s about going back to the drawing board and considering how to design [products] with a universal mindset that is for everyone.”

US-based household goods brand Oxo is a good example of what this looks like in practice. Founder Sam Farber started the company in 1992 after he saw his wife Betsey struggling to use a vegetable peeler due to arthritis. He saw an opportunity to adapt the design in a way that would be easy for all people to use, with or without arthritis. 

Over the last 30 years, Oxo has improved the design of countless products, from salad spinners, to scissors, to vacuum-sealed storage containers. 

Skerritt believes we’ve only seen “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to accessible products, and that mainstream brands like Pottery Barn have a big role to play in growing the market. 

“The more brands that give time and consideration to accessibility, the better for everyone,” he said. 

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