“We specialize in a field that not many people specialize in—and that’s universal design.”
Julie Picconi is in the business of remodeling and reconstructing homes to make sure they’re suitable for anyone to live in. “Whether you’re young, you’re old, you have children, you’re a millennial with grandparents, you have Alzheimer’s or any type of ailment, the home will accommodate yourself along with friends and family who visit. There are no limitations.”
Picconi founded One Eleven Ltd. with her boyfriend Eddie Leverett Jr. a little more than a year ago. The pair are experts in not only adding features that help sick, handicapped or elderly people, but also doing it in a manner that retains the beauty and aesthetics of the home or small business.
Common upgrades include widening doorways for wheelchairs, redesigning showers for easy entry (without stepping over an edge), adjusting sink heights, modifying kitchen cabinets, creating accessibility for toilets and making doorknobs easier to grasp. Sometimes it’s important to paint a door and wall the same color to discourage a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia from gravitating toward contrasting colors and wandering off.
The couple first met in high school while taking ceramics summer school back in 1986. They went their separate ways, with Picconi in Las Vegas and Leverett in San Diego, before reconnecting about 13 years later. With One Eleven, they provide more than a service. They offer compassion, education and understanding because they’ve personally experienced the frustrations and challenges connected with disabilities.
Leverett, a third-generation contractor, was an avid motorcyclist. He injured his legs in two separate accidents: one on a racetrack in 1999 and another much more severe crash in 2005 while off-road biking in the desert near California’s Salton Sea. “Me and my friends were out there screwing around,” he says. They came across a challenging jump. Leverett tried it once and may have “cracked or fractured” his ankles. But that didn’t stop him from revving his engine and picking up speed to try again. “The dirt gave way and right when I felt that, I knew something was going wrong,” he recalls. “I still had well over a hundred feet to go.”
Leverett crash-landed, breaking his legs below the knees. It took about an hour and a half before medical crews could reach the area and transport him to a hospital. “It seemed like forever. I kept going in and out of consciousness.”
He remembers hearing doctors discuss amputation, and was transferred to UC San Diego Health. “They gave me a 3 percent chance of saving my legs. I said as long as you keep everyone around me with a positive attitude and a good mindset, I’ll do everything I can on my end.”
Leverett was determined to be able to live independently. “He had to figure out how to fix his own home from his hospital bed,” Picconi says. “But he had the means—tools, workers, people who could help accommodate him.” Leverett was in a wheelchair for about a year, but worked with a pioneering team of orthopedic doctors who were able to save his legs, reconstructing them with metal plates, more than 50 screws and cadaver bone. This allowed for him to walk unencumbered, though he lost the ability to bend at his ankles making it nearly impossible to run or jump.
Picconi’s journey was different. She had roots in the food and beverage industry and started working for Kerry Simon’s restaurants in Las Vegas in 2004. She looked to Simon as a mentor and remained close friends with the late celebrity chef as he struggled with MSA, a degenerative neurological disorder.
“It’s like having a baby. You only need to go through it once to know exactly what’s happening,” says Picconi, who helped coordinate caregiving services with Simon’s already established daily living and accessibility needs team. “We would do whatever it took to get things done, whether it be a rickety ramp outside or a spoon that we could melt and bend to help him eat.”
Picconi eventually enlisted Leverett in spring 2014 to come to Vegas to officially adapt Simon’s home—at the time he was in the process of moving here any ways.
“With Eddie in the mix, he didn’t think the ramps were safe. The shower wasn’t safe. All of these things had safety issues.” Simon’s home was also renovated to suit the chef’s desire to have friends and family over. “His home was nice, and you couldn’t tell [it had been modified]. That’s where universal design comes in. You can’t tell that somebody in a wheelchair lives at the home. It looks like a normal home, just wider, bigger and more accessible.”
The pair are experts in not only adding features that help the sick, handicapped or elderly, but also doing it in a manner that retains the beauty and aesthetics of an everyday home or small business.
The experience of working on Simon’s home brought Picconi and Leverett closer together, allowing their relationship to grow. After Simon passed away in 2015, the couple combined their strengths into a business that serves a need in the community.
“He’s the contractor,” Picconi says. “I do all the marketing, paperwork and anything that has to do with communication or making the business run.” Leverett also has a degree in architecture, which allows One Eleven to cover a lot of ground, from design to renovation to construction. “You can come to us and we’ll take care of everything,” he says.
The team reaches out to hospitals, rehab centers and medical schools, staying busy with business generated by word of mouth. They also work with the Independent Living Program at Easterseals Nevada, providing safety and accessibility options to low-income families.
Picconi and Leverett have a wheelchair-friendly mobile showroom in the works, where people can pick out furnishings and designs. It’s just one way of expanding the business while staying focused on their mission. According to Leverett, their goal is make sure renovations are safe and effective, while avoiding a medical or institutional look that clashes with the aesthetics of the home.
“We offer a sense of independence, and something to be proud of,” he says.
“… and hope,” adds Picconi.