For people living in a house with more than one storey, stair lifts or home elevators are often a necessity of life as they get older and find it harder to get up and down the stairs. Normal stair lifts have the disadvantage of being a permanent and visible addition to a staircase, while traditional home elevators are bulky and often impractical for most homes.
A company in England is hoping their novel design will fill the gap in the market for a new kind of home elevator. Terry Lifts, based in Cheshire, have built a futuristic-looking elevator that can fit into the corner of a room and ascends through a hole in the ceiling with no lift shaft required.
"You could describe it as a high-end chair lift. People don't want, in many cases, a chair lift on their beautiful staircase and they don't necessarily want a lift; it's about looking at the lift for the long-term future proofing of the property. And unlike a stair lift which is a permanent feature on your staircase, the lift can be sent away when you don't need it - so it's never the elephant in the room," says John McSweeney, Terry Lifts marketing director.
Sally and Behram from Hertfordshire, north of London, were already in the process of packing up and moving from their two-storey house after Sally's knee problems made using the stairs difficult, especially when trying to carry items up to the top floor. They had considered a stair lift, but that option proved impossible for their home.
It wasn't until they visited a new homes exhibition while in the process of looking for a new place to live that they came across the Terry Lifestyle Lift. The couple said they realised almost instantly that it was the answer to their problems. Terry Lifts says a complete installation will take four to five days, including all building and electrical preparation work. And while the elevator doesn't come cheaply, for Sally and Behram it's allowed them to remain in their home indefinitely.
"We can stay here now for the foreseeable future," says Sally. "It's just given us the old life back that we had before as opposed to moving into something smaller which might not have met our needs quite so well."
Terry Lifts says it's their unique design coupled with industry-leading safety certification that is generating a lot of worldwide interest in the product. However, one unexpected response to the lift has been the comparison to the pod-like elevators featured in the Star Trek tv series.
"A lot of people that have come round to various exhibitions that we've been at in the UK, quite often would say it looks more like a shower cubicle. That is the first reaction. The second reaction is the pod's design does look like the, you know, "Beam me up, Scotty" - Star Trek - you know you go in, there are two people at a time maximum, usually one, and then off it disappears," McSweeney says.
And the science-fiction comparisons haven't ended there: "Well, all the neighbours think it looks like a TARDIS," says Behram, referring to the time-travelling craft from Doctor Who.
Sally adds that the elevator can be banished from a room when the extra space is needed.
"We love it. The fact that it disappears upstairs; if we have a family gathering we extend this table and take up all the space, and it's out of the way. At night-time it comes down and it's out of the bedroom," she says.
The company has exported at least 200 lifts from the UK to countries including France, China and Australia.– Reuters/Matthew Stock