Summer is quickly winding down and there is nothing that brings that to our attention quite as sharply as “back to school”. Preparation is evident everywhere and by next week in most cases those large yellow transports will be ferrying our loved ones all about. There are many things to consider when a student is in the home and one that can get overlooked is well designed home study space.
The requirements for study space have changed over the years as we have moved from large amounts of books and paper through the era of huge desktop computers to now laptops and tablets. Although the material used certainly has its effect on the space we use to study there is much more to consider when planning study space. The location and size of the space needed changes as we consider the personality and age of the student, the family lifestyle and the space we live in.
If there are very young students in the home or those who require a bit more supervision then a public space may be the best choice. If you are good at multitasking and fortunate enough to have a kitchen with a seating area this may be the ideal place for lessons to be worked on while food is being prepared. An adjoining dining room table may also work.
In either case if you know that trying to help with lessons while preparing meals would result in men in uniforms carrying axes and driving water tankers arriving at your home for dinner perhaps move the study time to line up with clean up instead.
For older children or those who require less supervision and perhaps need less distraction to focus planning a study space in their room may be ideal.
Whatever space you designate for study space there are common needs regardless of the student.
Good lighting is a must, natural sunlight is wonderful but we know in Canada chances are they will be working by artificial light so you need to be sure the space is well lit. Task lighting is directed at a small area where there is a job or “task” to be completed and it should come from the opposite side of the students’ dominant hand so it does not cause shadows in the work area.
A student also needs enough surface area to spread out a workbook and reference source which may be another book, a tablet or a laptop. It is difficult to focus on learning if you are surrounded by clutter. In some cases the study space is defined by a computer. A desktop computer will definitely limit where the study space can be located whereas tablets and laptops are more portable.
Colour actually has a proven impact on the ability to focus and take in information. Shades of Blue are considered best for mental tasks but the intensity and shade of the colour can have an impact also. Greyed tones are considered to be soothing while bright colours are more energizing. So if you are choosing a colour to paint a study space for a hyperactive child you may want to go for the soothing side of the spectrum but the brighter side may be a better choice for a child that needs a bit of encouragement to engage. Yellows are great for creativity so if your student is heading for a designing career consider adding yellows and perhaps greens to combine the two.
The height of the chair and table are important, poor posture while studying can reduce the depth of breathing making a child feel sleepy as well as having a poor effect on growth and development. Ideally a child’s desk space is 20-22” high, 24-30” wide and roughly 18” deep. For adult desks the height goes to 24” to 28”. If you are using a kitchen surface a chair or stool modified with a seat cushion may help. I have occasionally even sat little ones on books on chairs to adjust the height a little.
Where space is limited you may need to get creative to help your student develop good study habits. If the bed is the only space in the home they can use then try to be sure there is a good light source and some cushions to sit up against and use as support for a table top. Try a sturdy folding TV table by a chair or bed, or perhaps invest in a lap desk.
If you are designing a new home on the other hand you may have the luxury of adding a bit of desk space or even a built in desk in a child’s room.
Of course children are not the only ones who may need “study” or “office” space. A home office can be a little space set aside in a room or hallway or in some cases and entire room may be set aside. One of my favourite little office designs uses a corner in a room and makes a great private little space without a lot of sacrificed space. If going with this type of space be sure to add a little window for natural light.
A small child starting off at school, a teenager with plenty of essays to write, or an adult who works from home, planning your space to include a space is an important part of home design. Niched out of a small closet, the kitchen dining table, or a bedroom desk planning for an ideal space that students can focus their study efforts in is a great beginning to another school year.