Why Nature-Inspired Classroom Design Matters
The Sense of Place preschool furniture collection is beautifully and intentionally designed to inspire preschooler's wonder and to nurture their growth and development. It not only celebrates the spirit of place but rejoices in the wonder of childhood. Woven throughout this collection are four design beliefs that I consider essential and are the underlying foundation for the creation of this spirited collection.
Nature is our greatest teacher. Nature reminds us each and every day about the power of beauty–from the smallest seashell to the giant oak tree. Nature's patterns, swirls, vibrant colors, and the natural progression of life cycles teach us about continuity, expectations, and nourishes our souls. Most importantly, nature teaches us about the strength in softness, especially in its beautiful curves and lovely spirals.
The patterns and curves of nature are right before our eyes; all you have to do is look closely. Once you pay attention to the patterns of nature, you will find there are very few angles or hard lines in nature. The curves of nature are never haphazard, always intentional and it is within these rounded natural elements that we can find important lessons in designing classroom furniture.
Research has shown that free-flowing curved forms are more compatible with the human mind. These curved or circular lines provide relief to the eyes and balance the harshness of straight, angular lines. With that notion in mind, think about your own classroom for a moment. Take a mental inventory of the rectangular shaped furniture or furnishings (i.e., tables, cubbies, rugs) in your classroom. Are there more rectangular than circular-type elements? Are there more angular lines than curved lines? Probably so. Does this mean that you need to do away with all your rectangle tables and replace them with round tables? Absolutely not. Because it is impractical and financially infeasible to replace perfectly good rectangular for circular tables, consider infusing other types of curves and soft, rounded shapes into the classroom:
- Find a small stool or round ottoman to place in the library corner. Not only does a small stool add a soft curve to the classroom, it doesn't take up much room and certainly offers a special place to sit.
- Add curves to the classroom with oval or round rugs. Use small round rugs under the home living table or to anchor a piece of furniture in the middle of the room. Half-circle rugs are also an option for infusing curvilinear shapes into the environment. Because half-circle rugs are typically smaller in size, they work great in front of small shelving units, under a small rocking chair, or in front of the kitchen sink in the home living area.
- Place a circular pillow on the couch or a round wicker placemat to the table in the home living center.
- Obtain an inexpensive circular end table (the smaller, the better) at a resale shop, bargain store, or garage sale. If the size is perfect but the height isn't, simply cut down the legs.
When designing the Sense of Place furniture collection, I looked to nature for inspiration. For example, the furniture's design includes many rounded elements such as the gentle curves on curio cabinet's shelves, kitchen island, oven's backsplash, oval table, and the fireplace's mantel. As opposed to straight edges which serve as boundaries, curves invite children into the space. Another example of nature inspiration is the color palette for the Sense of Place rug collection. Natural colors were intentionally selected to reflect the beautiful blue hues of the Earth's waters and calming colors of nature's greenery. Beautifully crafted pieces using solid hardwood birch and authentic natural materials in the seagrass baskets invite children to touch, interact, and explore.