So I was thinking that I would mostly be setting myself hypothetical projects, but then I remembered I actually have a real one which I can show you the before and after of, which is a bit more satisfying!
To give you some background, this was a volunteer project I did for a local school, who were looking to improve their Sixth Form Common Room, and inject a bit of energy into it. On meeting with the Head and Deputy Head Teachers, the main points for the brief were:
- to use the existing furniture available, which was already to regulation standard for a college. The room also had an air hockey table and football table, and a separate gaming room with X-Box, which they wanted to keep
- to provide interactive areas, where students could change displays to be in line with ongoing activities in the college
- the room had to be comfortable and inviting
- it had to feel more informal than the typical formal classroom set up
- due to physical special needs of some of the students, access around the room was key
- the room should provide a sensory area for students to engage with
- to provide options for ongoing and future developments of the room, which students could participate in choosing which they liked best
- Limited budget – re-use furniture where possible and propose cost-efficient renovations
- Limited time – New items specified should be ready-to-buy and able to be procured on a short lead time
Here are a few before photos so you can see what the original room looked like (and yes the child in the room is mine!):
Basically, whilst it was a big space with quite a lot of natural light, it still felt like your typical school room and needed something to elevate it and give it energy. Following the meeting at the college, I put together a concept board, which broadly shows the aesthetic and design features I wanted to propose for the room. This was designed to be displayed to the students, once approved by staff, to show them the overall look and feel we were going for.
The starting point was to make a feature of the Gaming Room – with its walls being lower than the rest of the room, it had the quality of a separate pod-like area. To really accentuate this quality, I proposed painting its two adjacent walls in a bright zesty orange colour, with white signage which would stand out.
From here, I tried to bring together the colours of the existing furniture and create a cohesive colour palette. For this room, it seemed appropriate that a variety of colours should be used to create the energetic atmosphere I was looking to create. Also, I feel using a few complementary colours, rather than a one or two colour scheme, means that you are able to bring in new items or displays into a room, without risk of clashing with the room. I thought this would be a good opportunity for the students to get involved, and give them a choice about which they preferred.
Next was looking at the configuration of the furniture in the room. Because I was working with existing furniture, the options were slightly limited in terms of arrangement, but I feel they were a good starting point for this room and met the requirements for what was needed. I proposed that there were a few different spaces required for this Common Room, along with the Gaming Room:
- Entry Space – A welcome to the Common Room, where general notices could be displayed, and also a Selfie wall showing all members of the Sixth Form, which was an idea that came from the initial meeting at the school
- Main Seating Space – this would be where the students could sit whilst looking at presentations or films on the TV screen, or be addressed by members of staff
- Breakout Seating Space – a more informal seating area with furniture that could be moved around/rearranged to suit the students
- Sensory Area – as mentioned before, a sensory space providing a variety of sensory experiences – for example, different textures and lighting effects
- ‘Play’ Area – this would be a space for students to use the existing air hockey and football tables
I came up with a couple of options for configuration, and again thought this would be a good way to get the students involved and choose which they preferred. Take a look at these presentations below, again designed to be presented to the students and allow them to choose which options they would prefer.
The way this project worked is that I provided the above material to the school to present for the students, and also a schedule of finishes and furniture for them to procure themselves, once the students had decided which options they would choose. I did go in for an afternoon to help lay out the furniture and also put up the cut-out vinyl signage for the Gaming Room – it is definitely more difficult to do than it looks! It is an ongoing development, but they did send me some photos of what they have achieved so far…
The photos aren’t great, but I think its a good example of house a little paint and textiles can go a long way to giving more energy to a space. Hopefully I will be working with the school on some other projects soon, so will try and get photos to show a bit more of the room!
On review, this is one of the speediest projects I’ve worked on, and so there wasn’t a lot of time to produce great renders or go back and forth on decisions, but it was fun to be a part of! Normally, with the projects I do at work, the design phase can take at least 3 months, let alone any building and fitting out time, so seeing ideas come into reality on such a quick turnaround was really satisfying. As mentioned, this is an ongoing work in progress, so I will keep you updated!