Tariq Kadri – Home Builder

Posted online: February 2010

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Photo by Coral Von Zumwalt

Tariq Kadri’s projects vary—from the pro bono conversion of the former Chad’s restaurant downtown into the new home for Jodi House’s Brain Injury Support Center, to remodeling historic hillside residences and contemporary houses up and down the coast. But his own home, a 1950s Lutah Maria Riggs contemporary in the Montecito foothills, may be the best testament to his skill as a contractor. This was no ordinary remodel.

In 1996, the former attorney turned contractor and his wife of 22 years, Maxine, were in a near-fatal car accident that left Maxine with a serious brain injury and Tariq with a spinal cord trauma resulting in complete paralysis from the waist down and confinement to a wheelchair. Just five months before, the couple had completed building their family’s dream home—a two-story French Normandy house off East Valley Road. After the reality of them both being left permanently disabled, they made some modifications, but “couldn’t bear to rip it apart enough to make it totally handicap accessible,” explains Tariq. Once their children moved out—son Sharin is a senior at UC Berkeley, his father’s alma mater, and daughter Aden attends Bond University in Maxine’s hometown of Brisbane, Australia—the Kadris decided to look for a one-story home better suited to their capabilities. “The idea of universal design,” says Tariq, “is to prove to people that they can build a house that’s handicap accessible without it looking like some sort of institution.” To say he has succeeded would be an understatement.
Expansive glass doors and marble flooring throughout both indoor and outdoor public spaces ensure smooth sailing for Tariq’s high-tech iBOT wheelchair (created by Dean Kamen of Segway fame) and also serve as a fabulous backdrop for his modern art collection that includes mostly Santa Barbaran and Australian artists. He’s been collecting art since he was very young and started an art gallery in Berkeley as an undergrad. “Art says something to me,” says Tariq, who credits his childhood adventures traveling around the globe for a year with developing his love for art and architecture. “Every place we go I try to find new artists.”

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Photo by Coral Von Zumwalt

There is an artfulness to his home design as well. The kitchen features under-counter cabinets that rotate 360 degrees, and the oven and microwave are both at a comfortable height for wheelchairs. All of the cabinetry is designed to pull out on wheels, so that it’s easy to reach in and get things. “Sometimes designing for someone in a wheelchair is a compromise. Ideally, you’d set the counter heights a little bit lower, but that makes it really uncomfortable for someone who is able-bodied to work,” says Tariq, who collaborated on the design with the architectural firm DesignARC. “You wouldn’t walk in here and say, ‘Oh, this is a kitchen for somebody in a wheelchair.’”

Nor would you notice that the sleek bathrooms have handicap accommodations. The marble-floor showers have no unfriendly barriers, and the flat pedestal sinks leave room for Tariq to pull up next to them. The bars in the tub and shower look like design elements rather than adaptations, and the SureHands trolley-track system on the ceiling can lift Tariq and take him anywhere in the room. “I’ve had a lot of architects and designers through the house. I’m trying to impress upon them the idea that nobody should have to move out of their house when they get older,” he says. “If you design houses thoughtfully, people can live in them their whole lives.”

That’s the plan for the Kadris. “We knew Santa Barbara was a wonderful, beautiful community before the accident, but after we were injured, we really learned what a fantastic place it is,” says Tariq, who came to town in 1983 while working in the legal field. “All of our friends rallied around and helped us make it through really tough times. We’re lucky that we have the great medical resources that we have.” Maxine has an assistant during the day to help with daily activities, but, now after years of rehabilitation, the couple live on their own in the evenings, enjoying dinners (Tariq uses his adapted kitchen quite often to cook for his family) and visits from friends. “The idea that people in this community would have enough confidence to hire somebody in a wheelchair to be their general contractor is pretty amazing,” he continues. “It almost requires a leap of faith for people to decide that somebody in a wheelchair can build them a nice house.”

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One Comment


  1. mlstotts

    To continue to find and create beauty in this world after enduring such life altering tragedy…Mr. and Mrs. Kadri are an inspiration.

    May 1st, 2010 at 4:58 pm (Reply)

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