Tag Archives: ergonomics

Function Before Form

Function Before Form

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Function Before Form

by Cynthia Soda

As designers, we are drawn to beautiful things. It’s easy to covet the most luxurious item in a store and online shopping makes constant temptation effortless. However, purchasing that very beautiful — very expensive item — only to find that it doesn’t fit your space is something designers are trained to guard against. It is a tug-of-war to distill and restrain and to put function first.

Assuring you meet the function requirements ensures that form solutions offer maximum enjoyability.

Selecting finishes, furniture and accessories is inconsequential if the space lacks function. Designers add value to the decision-making process well before thought is given to aesthetics. It can be disappointing when clients are halfway through a renovation and we step in to help with paint colours and cabinet door styles and see missed opportunities to add value through space configuration, sightlines, accent features, or integrated storage.

Function is at the forefront of every good designer’s mind and it’s absolutely essential to plan with people and purpose in mind. Every decision stems from the needs of the client and issues of space. Empty nesters who travel frequently and love to collect and display art have different needs than a couple with young children and weekly extracurricular activities to attend.

As a designer, it is essential to understand the clients, their current needs and their future needs. It is also important to understand the value of the space and the amount of investment that a space can withstand relative to the value of the house.

Implementing a program of requirements is a good idea, regardless of project size. This provides a basis of communication with the client and is a starting point for decision-making. Styles change, but function is much more difficult and expensive to modify once walls are built and doors are installed.

A few of the most important considerations are as follows:

Usage

Understanding behaviour is the job of a designer. How do people behave in a space? What is it being used for? How will they use the space over time? The difference between art and design is the user requirement that design demands.

Sightlines

Sightlines are one of the most important considerations to be made. Imagine sitting down to an elegant dinner and from the table your guests can see the powder room door is open with a glorious view of the toilet. Or think of the parent making dinner having to run back and forth from the kitchen to the family room in order to keep watch over their toddler playing beyond the wall dividing the spaces.

Circulation

Providing for appropriate circulation is important. Minimum distances around islands, in bathrooms, in front of appliances and around furniture is an important part of avoiding frustration. Circulation also affects the future usability of the space. It is always recommended that designs reflect the concept aging in place and thought is given to how someone might navigate the space with mobility aids.

Reach Distances and Ergonomics

There are standards in the interior design industry and for good reason. Years of research dictate cabinet heights, countertop heights, corridor widths, lighting heights and other specifications. While challenging these can be fun and provide inspiration to the designer, ultimately function must be respected and the user requirement is paramount.

Maintainability

It is easy for interiors to look great in photos. However, cleaning, maintenance and durability should be considered before any decisions are made. A lot of problems can be avoided with time dedicated to the research of what a product or finish offers to a client. Appropriateness of use is extremely important. For example, in our cold climate designing finishes and storage that withstand snowy, salty boots and bulky winter coats at the front entry is necessary.

CYNTHIA SODA is owner and principal interior designer of Soda Pop Design Inc., a multi-disciplinary interior design firm providing complete custom renovation and design services for residential and commercial clients throughout the GTA.

Soda Pop Design focuses on merging the client’s lifestyle, personality and architecture to create customized liveable luxury.

SodaPopDesign.ca
Instagram @CSodaPop
Twitter @SodaPopDesign



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Designing for Comfort

Designing for Comfort

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Designing for Comfort

by Cynthia Soda

Ergonomics is concerned with the relationship between users and objects. It sets parameters based on scientific study for designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. Practical examples of the application of ergonomic study include standard working heights of surfaces and that are comfortable (or uncomfortable) such as the desk chair in your office. We, as professional designers, almost intrinsically know how to apply these principles to our clients’ environments. The thing is, if everything around you fits and works with you, you don’t think about it. It’s when it suddenly doesn’t sit right, and your hand starts cramping at your workstation or your counters are too high, do you notice it. Designers have a distinct responsibility to all of our clients to think about the comfort of the end user.

When we set out to create functional and beautiful spaces for our clients, we are starting down a path that will ultimately lead to the optimization of our clients’ well-being and overall satisfaction. Having said that, the practical facet of designing for comfort only touches on one aspect of our design process and applies to everyone. It’s the emotional aspect of comfort that truly sets our designs apart for our clients. If you’ve created a space that works perfectly but evokes little to no emotion from the user, what fun is that? Enter — “why I love my job”. In a world that is constantly evolving, where there is perpetual change, it forces us to dig deeper. My clients LOVE to scour online resources like Houzz and Pinterest to send me ideas of what they like, dislike and covet for their space. They also have their own collections and interests that need to be incorporated one way or another and it is our duty to ensure that those cherished “things” are thought about and incorporated. After all, home is where the heart is, right?

I remember joking with my husband after we had moved into our first home together that home is really where your stuff is. It was that first feeling of visiting our parents in what suddenly became “their house” and it was time to go “home” that stuck with me. Suddenly we were without the comforts of home. We didn’t have everything that was ours at our fingertips. We suddenly felt more at ease in our own space where we could make our own decisions and mistakes and be surrounded by the colours and things that told our story. As designers, we need to tell our clients’ story through our filter. That’s why they hire us. If they knew exactly what they wanted and how they wanted it, they wouldn’t pick up the phone in the first place.

An important skill that we develop early on in our career is to listen, observe and pay attention to nuances in order to ensure that at the end of the day, our clients feel great walking through their door. They have a sense of pride of place and all the comforts of home are at the ready and incorporated in an efficient but meaningful way. The ultimate result is a well designed space that reflects our client’s personality and ensures both physical and emotional comfort for years to come.

CYNTHIA SODA is the Owner and Principal Interior Designer of Soda Pop Design Inc., a multi-disciplinary interior design firm providing complete custom renovation and design services for residential and commercial clients throughout the GTA.

sodapopdesign.ca


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