Kindergarten Design: Buildings That Encourage Development

Mind Shaped Box

Pedagogical traditions seem to be very interested in the effects that environmental factors have on (small) people.  Over a century ago, some models like Montessori and Waldorf, which have influenced mainstream kindergarten practice as well, started promoting the idea that a great deal of attention should be put into the fabrics, the materials,  the colors and  the overall organization of spaces for children.


Fuji kindergarten exterior; photo by 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

Since I work in a kindergarten as a psychologist one day a week, I recently had the opportunity to learn more about the psychology of spaces for children. Our small kindergarten was about to get a budget-friendly makeover and we were all asked for opinions. I spent a lot of time looking for research-based guidelines for kindergarten design, as well as coordinating everyone’s personal preferences. Here I would like to share some of the findings, and  some inspiring examples and other resources I found.

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home.  Archiculture takes a thoughtful, yet critical look at the architectural studio. The 25-minute film offers a unique glimpse into the world of studio-based, design education through the eyes of a group of students finishing their final design projects. Interviews with leading professionalshistorians and educators help create crucial dialog around the key issues faced by this unique teaching methodology and the built environment these future architects will create.

An Interview with Interior Decorator: Sacha Chabros Says Design is Felt

I’m honoured to be the subject of an interview on Mind Shaped Box written by Zeljka Pacalat this week. You can read about it below. The website addresses matters of design, interior design, architecture and urbanism from a psychological point of view.

Mind Shaped Box

Sacha 2014 Sacha K. Chabros Design Felt

Vancouver-based Sacha K. Chabros is an interior decorator, a volunteer for an international non-profit group and the author of Design Felt, a blog about how different elements of design relate to how occupants feel in a built environment. Sharing her interest in environmental psychology, I was excited to learn more about it from her perspective.

There are so many blogs about interior design, most of them filled with beautiful images. As many other people, I find them to be the source of inspiration, enjoyment and, well, procrastination. But rarely do I find a blog attempting to do a little more – to make you think about design, instead of just enjoying the sight of it.

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Concrete Weekly No.8

Can’t get enough of concrete.



Hello concrete lovers! This week I would like to introduce you to another great material: wood. I will show you a few examples of how these two simple and yet so majestic materials can be combined in everyday objects, and how they can bring out the best in each other.

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Vancouver Mall Swings From “Park and Spend” To “Neighbourhood Hub”


According to Ray Oldenburg, an American urban sociologist, people have home and work, but need a third place to ‘hang out’.  This may have been the role of the library in days past then the local coffee shop or cyber café.  One of Vancouver’s most stylish shopping destinations, Oakridge Centre wants us to rethink all that.  They want to redesign the experience altogether.

“Life in the urban context is often described as lacking a sense of community; it’s not uncommon for people who live in cities to feel disconnected from the people who live right next door” say the project’s master planners, Henriquez Architects.  “City planners and citizens alike are recognizing that along with sustainable living, fostering community living is just as important to the social fabric of vibrant cities.”  Urban and space design has power to transform its visitors.   In his book, “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design” Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery laments the lack of physical social connection in modern urban centres.

By 2025 Vancouver, Canada’s Oakridge Centre will be a ‘mixed-use neighbourhood hub’ or gathering place that offers ‘retail AND community’ amenities, a place where people will want to go for interaction not just Interac ® .   An amenity building with a seniors’ centre, and library  will be next to 9 acres of public open space. This expansive area will feature activity fields, urban agriculture, quiet gardens, a reflecting pool, sport courts, a running track, and more.  A new outdoor shopping street, High Street, will add a different type of retail experience: cafés and restaurants spilling out onto the street will enliven the community after the interior retail closes for the day.

But will anyone want to hang out there if not to shop?  Oldenburg thinks so.  He believes we long for sociability even from among strangers and that people of various ages, race, gender and cultural beliefs are looking for reasons to come together and just need the right setting to do so.

Its Pretty, But Does It Work?

sachabros photoI saw something yesterday which attests to how important the Interior Design profession is.

A thin man of advanced age struggled to keep his balance on a flight of stairs up to a doctor’s office, his right hand grasping the nearest handrail and the fingers of his left curled around a cane.  With great exertion he lifted one foot.  His leg lurched in various directions.  He stabbed down with his white sneaker several times before settling it on the first step.  He shifted his weight and repeated the process with the second foot while his arched frame swayed from lack of balance.  He was like Bambi using his legs for the first time.  I stayed to help, but then wondered if his dignity required that he do it himself.  Unsure, I waited, ready to spring to the rescue.

Ironically he risked injury to see a doctor.

It took him about 5 minutes to reach the top step, the one just before the landing where a beautiful basket of flowers blocked his path.  Had he visual impairment he may have continued and lost balance.  He had no choice but to let go of the handrail to go around.  For a heart-stopping moment he swayed like a leaf in the wind.  With great effort he did reach the landing.  Ironically, he risked injury to see a doctor.

He easily could have fallen and fractured bones, such as his hip.  A hip fracture is an unfortunate but common injury that can be life-threatening.  A downward spiral, a broken hip has the potential for complications that may arise when aging adults are confined to bed.  “Because you’re immobilized, you’re lying in bed, you can’t move, you tend to get more urinary tract infections, you get more pneumonia because you can’t get up and clear your lungs, you get pressure sores, and you get blood clots,” says Dr. Michael Dunbar, an orthopedic surgeon in Halifax Canada.

“Aesthetics are an important component of any interior design project but a professional interior designer focuses on much more than appearance.”

A public building must be accessible to all persons, including the ever-growing number with disabilities like the elderly man above with mobility and strength impairment.  An Interior Designer knows this, and would not place a hazard in the path of travel.  As stated on the Interior Designer’s Institute (IDI) website: “Aesthetics are an important component of any interior design project but a professional interior designer focuses on much more than appearance.  Public health, safety and welfare (HSW) are an interior designer’s first priorities.”


Does Your Room Feel Like A Bowling Alley?

How can one shorten a long room without making structural changes?

A rectangular room is the most attractive and easiest to decorate, but what if it’s really narrow and long?  The example below shows ways to shorten it visually.  Horizontal lines like the striped rug, those formed by lights in the kitchen and the dark bulk-head behind make the eye stop, interrupting the length of the room while widening it — at least that’s the illusion.  Anything that delays or stops you from scanning the entire length of the room has this effect.  For example, the central stove in the photo is a well placed focal point.  If  it was against a remote wall your eyes would have to sweep the length of the room to see it.  What else can we do?

long rooms

As noted above the central stove is great but it would be more prominent in an eye-catching mirror finish with extra seating angled around it.   A tighter seating arrangement will improve conversation and redirect traffic flow.  Use of a square rug over a herringbone wood floor would bring attention to our focal point and break up the area into smaller sections, perhaps affording a second seating area under a group of pendant lights to divide the expanse of ceiling and demark the zone beneath.   It may include 1 or 2 sofas placed horizontally.   The sketch below shows how to do it.

Grouped Seating

Grouped Seating

Below: A 2nd seating group is placed next to the 1st (2 sofas back-to-back)

long sketch

Have you spotted the horizontal lines?

By dissecting 1 long space into 2 zones we’ve improved visual appeal and comfort.  We created more horizontal emphasis with each sofa and also by using 2 square rugs instead of one continued length.  Even the ceiling chandelier points to the room’s width.

Please follow this blog to get more of my pro tips!  You can also find me on twitter @designfelt .    – Sacha

Use Space As A Design Element

When used well, each element of design reinforces the designer’s concept.  The element Space is an expanse to arrange objects in for beauty or function.  More than just walls and floors, space is also the 3D area or volume between them.  When designing, don’t just plan for use of the space at eye level and below; think of ways to use the layer over-head.  This frees up more physical space and visually heightens the room.  Lofts are an example of this.  However, it feels more natural to view things within our horizontal field of vision.

loft_living_city freshome

Take care not to fill every bit of a space.  When you have many elements you should leave some areas free to give relief.  ‘Positive space’ is filled by objects or elements in the design but ‘Negative space’ is the shapeless empty area left over.   We move through negative spaces to reach areas of interest.  Physical space is used to both separate and connect elements in design.  Wider spaces separate elements from each other and narrower spaces show how elements are related.  Groupings of art are an example of this.

Small spaces tend to feel comfortable, intimate and private but their occupants are more likely to feel confined and restricted.

There are visual cues that create appearance of greater space.

For example, grouping similar objects simulates greater space by reducing clutter and improving rhythm.  One can cut the number of furnishings and use small-scale furniture pieces without pattern.  While smooth, reflective surfaces supply a sense of space as do light colours with little contrast, dark walls and dimly lit interiors psychologically diminish space.

Large spaces can convey a sense of freedom but they also have negative emotional impacts.  They are impersonal.  Their users may feel uncomfortable, isolated and insecure.  The formality and generous ‘negative space’ associated with expansive rooms, like those in convention centres, discourage social interaction.   Creating sub-zones, seating groups and defined areas of interest help to segment the space into a more manageable size, at least to the casual observer.

When one understands the elements and principles of design and uses them the result is a beautiful and effective space.   How did you use space in your project?

Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sacha K. Chabros and Design Felt with specific direction to the original content.

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Interior Design Elements: Colour

Colour can be used as powerful non-verbal communication to alter behaviours of people inside buildings.  It can stimulate activity, encourage socialization, increase one’s heart rate or calm the nerves and yet after a time some have the reverse effects.  Designers use this knowledge to reach project objectives.  But what is colour? And how can you work with it?

“The primary colours blue, green and red can be blended to make secondary and intermediate colours.”

Objects around us reflect various wave lengths of light that our eyes see as colour. Since all materials reflect or absorb these wave lengths differently, we perceive different colours.  A red vase, for example, absorbs all the wave lengths of visible light except red. The vase reflects the red wavelength back to our eyes. Thus, to our eyes the vase looks red. Would you like to know how to work with colour? Then obtain an artist’s colour wheel.  Once you know the position of hues on it, you can easily remember how they interact.


The primary colours blue, green and red can be blended to make secondary and tertiary colours.  Do you see the red square on the colour wheel? Spin the dial to see what happens when you add yellow, blue, white or black to it.  A preview is shown in the cut-out.  To tint is to add white but to shade is to add black.  Either will change the hue’s value.   Toning is done with grey and it reduces saturation.   Search the menu under ‘Category’ for info on colour schemes.

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