All posts by delaramartdesign

About delaramartdesign

I am an Interior Designer and a Fine Artist. I received my Bachelors degree in Interior Design from IUPUI In December 2015 and currently work as a Creative Designer for a furniture manufacturing company Facility Concepts Inc. I am a board member of ASID (Amercian Society of Interior Designers) and serve as a Communication Director. I enjoy spending my free time drawing, painting, and teaching art to children & adults

Using design to curb aggression

Michael J. BerensThursday, November 08, 2018

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Using design to curb aggression

Within the past five years, American society has become increasingly angry, belligerent and aggressive. It may be due to the intense stress of daily life, to fallout from the last recession, to income or racial inequality, to political and regional polarization, to the nature of much popular entertainment, to the fractured news media, to the no-holds barred invective popular on social media — or due to all of them.

Whatever the reasons, as a society we need to look for ways to alleviate and prevent aggression, especially in public spaces. Research shows design can help.

The impact of interior design on inciting or alleviating anger and aggression has not been widely researched. However, some seminal studies have identified key factors that designers should take into consideration when creating spaces for groups of occupants.

One of the earliest is MacIntyre and Homel’s 1997 study of the link between crowding and aggression in nightclubs, entitled “Danger on the Dancefloor.” Based on observations conducted at 36 nightclubs, they noted that aggression tended to increase in venues where crowding was exacerbated by inappropriate flow patterns, particularly around high-use or high-density areas, such as entry and exit doors, bars, restrooms, and dance floors.

They recommended that building standards be established to reduce the number of pedestrian cross-flows to minimize abrupt physical contact that could result in an angry or aggressive response.

In addition to crowding, a 2001 literature review of research on violence and crowding by Kumar and Ng found lack of privacy and personal control also could trigger aggressive behaviors. Examining the characteristics of the built environment that affect the mental health of occupants, Evans (2003) also cites studies showing the negative impact of noise, poor indoor air quality and inadequate lighting, as well as crowding.

Interestingly, despite the number of studies and articles on the effects of color on mood and cognitive performance, Evans finds no evidence of color having a negative impact on mental health.

Heerwagen and Hase (2001), in their paper on integrating principles of biophilia in the built environment, discuss how elements from nature associated with threats or vulnerability — what they term “biophobia” — can give rise to occupants’ sense of apprehension or anxiety. These include enclosed spaces, heights, and a sense of gloom caused by poor lighting, and ill-lit perimeters or corners.

Along similar lines, Parashar and Sikawar (2018), who were looking at ways to increase the amount of positive space in an interior environment, warn against creating negative space (such as space that is non-functional), avoiding colors that have a negative association for the occupants, and the use of sharp or pointy shapes. In their study on people’s reactions to objects encountered in the physical environment, Bar and Neta (2006) also conclude that people prefer curved visual objects, as sharp or pointy objects and sharp transitions in contour may convey a sense of threat.

These findings have practical applications for how spaces can be designed to curb emotions that can trigger aggressive behavior. An independent post-occupancy study of a redesign of the accident and emergency department in two British hospitals found that improved signage, wayfinding and spatial clarity contributed to cutting aggression against hospital staff by 50 percent and reduced the incidence of swearing and other offensive language by 25 percent.

A team led by Roger Ulrich recently published the results of a study they conducted in Sweden using a conceptual model developed to reduce aggressive behavior in a psychiatric ward through design of the physical environment. Drawing on previous research demonstrating the link between crowding, stress and aggression, they identified 10 “evidence-grounded” stress-reducing features and compared them against an environment that lacked most of these features.

Staff in the model environment reported a decrease in the use of injections and the use of restraints used to control aggressive behavior. Among the features included in the model are noise control; individual patient rooms with private bathrooms; more personal control in patient rooms and communal areas with movable furniture; nature views, gardens and nature art; and use of daylighting.

By eliminating or diminishing environmental factors that contribute to occupants’ sense of displacement, fear and anxiety, designers can help defuse the negative emotions that can trigger anger and aggressive behavior. At the same time, through positive design, these spaces express a recognition and respect for occupants, acknowledging their needs and preferences, and thereby connecting them to the humanity of others around them.

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Home sales weaken as buyers back off

Home sales weaken as buyers back off



Michael J. BerensTuesday, November 13, 2018

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Home sales weaken as buyers back off

Increased inventory and declining prices were not enough to seal the deal for some prospective homebuyers in September. Sales of both new and existing homes were down from August’s rather lackluster performance. Although demand remains high, concerns about rising mortgage rates and a shortage of entry-level properties kept buyers at bay.

After a modest gain in August, sales of new single-family homes dropped 5.5 percent in September, the lowest month-over-month decline since December 2016, and were down 13.2 percent from the same period last year.

In a reverse from earlier in the year, the median sales price of a new home ($320,000) was down 3.5 percent year-to-year, and the supply of inventory rose from 6.5 to 7.1 months. Yet, at an average price of $377,200 and with mortgage rates approaching their highest level in eight years, many would-be buyers cannot afford to purchase a new home.

Sales of existing homes extended their slump for the sixth straight month, sliding 3.4 percent, to their lowest level since November 2015. Overall, sales are down 4.1 percent from a year ago.

Inventories increased slightly, but the median home price ($285,100) is up 4.2 percent from a year ago, which is keeping many first-time buyers out of the market. Single-family home sales fell 3.4 percent from August and are down 4.0 percent from last September. Even sales of more affordable condos and co-ops ($239,200) declined 3.4 percent and are 5 percent below last year’s figures.

Some of the softening in sales can be attributed to the impact of hurricane activity in the South and Southeast regions of the country. But affordability remains the biggest challenge for the industry.

Weakening sales in recent months have begun to curb, but not reverse, rising home prices. At the same time, rising mortgage rates are eating away at whatever savings prospective buyers may have hoped to gain from more favorable prices.

Even though consumers are optimistic about their prospects and the economy as a whole, they are losing confidence in their ability to purchase a home. According to real estate website Redfin, early stage homebuying activity increased 11.2 percent from August to September, but the number of those making offers was down 13.7 percent from a year ago.

Fannie Mae reports that after increasing 5 percent in September, the net share of respondents to its Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) stating “now is a good time to buy a home” dropped back 5 percent in October, the second largest decline in the survey’s history. The net share of respondents stating “now is a good time to sell a home” also fell by 3 percent. October’s overall score was the lowest in a year.

Weakening sales also are impacting builders. New home construction activity (in number of units) fell by 5.3 percent from August to September, with single-family home starts dropping by slightly less than 1 percent.

Completions also were down, by 4.1 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. Requests for permits were off by about half a percentage point overall, but single-family permit requests rose 2.9 percent.

These current trends suggest that while homeownership remains a goal for many Americans, buyers are no longer willing to pursue that goal at any cost. And that will have consequences for both sellers and builders. Noted NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz in announcing the results of the association’s October Home Market Index (HMI), “Unless housing affordability stabilizes, the market risks losing additional momentum as we head into 2019.”

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Continue reading Home sales weaken as buyers back off

5 Challenges You May Face if You are in the Interior Design Space

Contemporary doesn’t really reflect a time period or era, it is the pop culture of design trends which basically blends a multitude of different time periods as an aesthetic.

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Remodeling growth levels out but remains strong

For the past several quarters, the remodeling industry has experienced exceptional growth. That trend may have run its course, though.

Industry indicators reveal activity during the third quarter of this year remained relatively flat. Experts project that demand is likely to remain strong, but that the rate of growth will taper off in 2019.

According to the latest BuildFax Housing Health Report, data from the past three months indicate the pace of remodeling is leveling out after several years of steep increases. The report finds that while remodeling activity in the third quarter of 2017 was up 1.7 percent year-over-year, activity in the third quarter of this year was down 1.77 percent.

Nonetheless, the annual rate of remodel volume, states the report, had increased by 2.39 percent as of the third quarter.

The National Association of Home Builders Remodeling Market Index (RMI), which peaked at 60 in the fourth quarter of 2017, has remained fairly constant this year, hovering between 57 and 58. It came in at 58 for the third quarter, the same as the previous quarter.

Remodelers participating in the index reported a slight increase in demand for both major and minor additions or renovations, as well as for work committed. At the same time, expectations for future market conditions stayed flat, project backlogs dropped, and requests for appointments or new proposals declined.

Among the results of the second quarter 2018 Home Design Trends Survey, the American Institute of Architects stated that single-family residential activity, while strong, slowed in the second quarter. Billings, which include additions and renovations, dipped to 57.9, compared with 61.7 in the first quarter. New project inquiries also fell, from 68.3 in the first quarter to 57.9 in the second.

The trends that have created the boom in remodeling are still in play. Many homeowners are choosing to remain in their current homes and update or improve them rather than shop for a next home.

Homebuyers, unable to find the kind of property they want, are purchasing a less desirable home and renovating. Plus, a shortage of skilled labor has created a backlog of committed projects and waiting lists for professional services. Those trends likely will continue next year and into 2020, but will gradually soften over time as the housing market changes and the number of delayed home improvement projects declines.

In addition, countervailing trends also are beginning to put a drag on demand. High prices and rising mortgage rates are keeping some would-be buyers out of the market. Fewer homes changing hands means less pre-sale and post-sale demand for remodeling services. At the same time, a recent slowdown in the growth of home prices have made some owners cautious about borrowing too much on their home’s equity, causing them to put off nonessential improvements.

Taken together, these trends suggest demand will continue to stay positive in the year ahead but not at the robust pace of the past few years. In its latest Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) forecast, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (JCHS) projectsremodeling and home improvement will achieve 7.7 percent annual growth this year, but then will begin to slow in the first quarter of 2019, dropping to about 6.6 percent by the third quarter.

It is important to keep these projections in perspective. First, because of unusual conditions in the housing market, demand for remodeling services has been at near-historic levels in recent years. But what goes up eventually will come down. Second, as JCHS notes, even with the relative year-over-year slower growth, remodelers can still expect higher-than-average gains next year.

The key take away from the latest industry data is that remodelers and designers should plan on consistent demand next year. However, they may have to work a bit harder to land those projects.

Continue reading Remodeling growth levels out but remains strong

The newest, award-winning trends in luxury interior design

Irrawady House in Georgetown Malaysia

Give me a decent budget to renovate my house, and top of my list would be some new curtains, a walk-in pantry and loads more storage.

But the finalists in the Society of British Interior Design (SBID) awards, which took place last week in London and celebrated the best of the UK’s creative minds, showed rather more ambition. 

A home complete with a “sky city for cats” – an entry into one of the three residential design categories – is a contemporary home for a mother and daughter in Taiwan with soft lighting, modern wooden beams and a Scandinavian feel.

One room was created with a discerning feline client in mind: a scratching pole runs up the wall, connected to an obstacle course on the ceiling, with hanging wicker hammocks.

It was up against a beach house in Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, which is half a home, and half a teen den with attitude. A sign in scrawling blue neon letters hangs above the glass-fronted fireplace reading, “Nobody is worth your tears and the one who is won’t make you cry”.

To top it all off, a stainless steel slide runs down from the games room on the first floor into the open-plan living area. 

The most luxurious of all the entries was the £10?million renovation of a 5,000 sq ft, four-bedroom duplex penthouse on the 22nd floor of the Neo Bankside complex on London’s South Bank. The clients – described as “a professional couple with global business interests” – wanted the interiors to reflect their love of red and tigers. 

The designers, Hill House Interiors, installed a baby grand piano in red lacquer, a 300-bottle wine cellar under the stairs, and a super-sized dining table that has been crafted out of recycled sugar wood.

It is accompanied by 12 red velvet dining chairs, and above it hangs a Sharon Marston coral and silver chandelier. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a life-size tiger pictured on the couture rug in the living room.

Glass houses: the red-themed interior of the Neo Bankside flat 

The most successful projects at this year’s awards – which also celebrate the best hotel, restaurant and bar transformations of 2018 – were more palatial than playful. Entrants came from all over the world.

The winner of the award for the best residential house under £1?million was the Irrawady House in Georgetown, Malaysia, by the design firm Nevermore. Lavish and contemporary, it boasts a floating black staircase, an Italian marble counter in the kitchen, and gold finishes throughout the house. It’s described as having old-school opulence and contemporary cosiness mixed under the same roof. 

The judging panel – which included Sir Michael Dixon, the director of the Natural History Museum, and Helen Brocklebank, chief executive of luxury trade body Walpole – named a family home in Mississauga, Canada, as the winner of the award for the best residential design over £1?million.

This waterfront property took two and a half years to renovate, and has been designed to emulate a manor house with classical lines and a double-height hall. The serenity of the subtle colour scheme, of greys and blues with veined marble feature walls, reflects the sparkling waters of the lake.

An international design firm also scooped the third residential category, the award for the best residential apartment under £1?million. It went to Elliot James, an Asian consultancy, which created a party pad in Singapore that was elegant yet edgy, with graffiti-backed dining chairs sitting on polished marble flooring and specially commissioned artwork. 

The list of nominees for the awards was dominated by stylish British entries, most of whom created real, liveable spaces, rather than show-off designs. It included Peter Staunton’s Flint Hall – a 15,000 sq ft rural mansion in Warwickshire, which the designer describes as “classic country style with a modern twist”. 

Peter Staunton’s Flint Hall

“We chose natural materials that age well and add warmth and character, such as the sweeping staircase made from wrought-iron spindles,” says Staunton. “But rather than featuring a crystal chandelier above it, we hung glass pendants at different heights to add a talking point.” 

Staunton used lighting to differentiate each space, with Venetian-style chandeliers in the dining room and Flos pendants in the kitchen. 

He is scathing about the interiors in new developments in London where he believes the design palette is becoming “ubiquitous”.

He aims to be more eclectic, mixing style, character and colour. An example of this is his use of inventive, modern materials to highlight certain aspects of the rooms, such as a silk wall covering by Phillip Jeffries that looks like brushed brass from a distance, and accents a shallow chimney breast. 

Another nominee at the awards was Lucinda Sanford, who, with her one-stop renovation shop in Bermondsey, will tackle everything in a build, from the local planning authority to choosing soft furnishings. She shares his contempt for the default “greige” colour schemes of new homes.

Her entry, a Victorian terrace in Fulham, bucks this trend, with Cole & Son forest wallpaper running up the stairs and a black limestone parquet flooring throughout the hall. The utilitarian feel of the home’s Crittall-style windows is softened by her choice of greys, creams and floral prints.

A bathroom in a Hertfordshire home by Claire Gaskin

“People have got braver,” she says, citing the tie-up between heritage brand William Morris (famous for his prints) and high-street retailer H&M.

“Five years ago they would experiment with a feature wall, and now they’ll paint all four. Not enough is made of the link between fashion and the home; if you’re bold about what you wear, you’re more likely to be bold indoors, too.” 

Another look that was nominated for an award was designed by Clare Gaskin, who transformed a 10,000 sq ft outdated property into a sleek family home. Her brief was to create a country house set against a very British backdrop – bucolic Hertfordshire – but with a hint of Miami. 

The outside was as important as the inside in the design of the home, Gaskin explains. “Consideration of the exterior is often overlooked, but on this project, the star of the main living area is the floor-to-ceiling window with views of the garden beyond.” 

A beach house in Shoreham-by-Sea

She created a large entertaining space on the patio outside with voluptuous sofas, which give the place a pool-party vibe. Stretching out from the living room are landscaped flower beds set around mature trees, which step up to statues of stags standing proud on the horizon. 

Inside, practical meets pageantry: there’s a plush cinema and snooker room, and an illuminated wine vault built into the wall by the dining table. Storage was also a key part of the brief, with the provision of clever bespoke solutions to discreetly hold the family’s belongings. 

“The eaves in the master bedroom were built out behind the bed to store luggage and sports equipment. In the daughter’s bedroom, made challenging with low ceilings and shallow eaves, we installed joinery into the perimeter to make the space usable, with a daybed-style social area – perfect for sleepovers – and which has deep drawers,” says Gaskin. 

She used pops of colour throughout, such as hints of fuchsia pink, giving a slice of fun to the property, and echoing the style and attitude of her peers Sanford and Staunton – and their backlash against “greige”. 

Continue reading The newest, award-winning trends in luxury interior design

The beauty and benefits of tinted glass

Tinted glass helps to regulate a building’s temperature as it is designed to absorb energy from the visible light spectrum.

NOVEMBER 06, 2018 |


The design applications of glass are as limitless as the imagination. Glass coatings and colors can be applied primarily for aesthetic purposes, yet the performance benefits are an added – sometimes necessary – bonus. Tinted glass is one type that satisfies both of these considerations, enhancing the appearance of a building façade while improving its solar performance. From the exterior, tinted glass is distinctive, reflective, and can make a statement when applied to the majority of a building envelope, or if it is contrasted with other façade materials. Tinted glass can be used to form a curtainwall, and is most often used in commercial applications, offices, and other large facilities. It is ideal for storefronts, atria, skylights, and also interior designs.

Performance-wise, tinted glass helps to regulate a building’s temperature as it is designed to absorb energy from the visible light spectrum. It has the capability to reduce glare, and offer unobstructed views when looking from the inside out. Since tinted glass can be specified in a range of colors, it also has the ability to make an additional aesthetic statement on top of these performance capabilities. Popular colors for tinted glass include bronze, greys, blues, and greens, and can be specified from leading glass manufacturers like AGC Glass North America, whose tinted glass product, Solarshield®, is crafted using the float glass process. This results in a perfectly flat, smooth, glass surface.



In keeping with modern demands and trends, AGC Glass is now enhancing its line of offerings to include Majestic Gray, a subtle, soft grey glass that lends itself to myriad applications, providing solar protection, and a unique look that works in tandem with other building materials.  In fact, one concern with most tinted glass products is that they offer a pronounced contrast from other elements of the building façade. This can work to the architect’s advantage if they want to make the glass stand out as part of their design. However, if they require a more muted façade where all elements unite, then Majestic Grey can offer an advantageous design solution.

As construction and design trends shift away from all-glass facades, a solution like Majestic Grey can be ideal for use with other materials. Because of its unobtrusive, subtle hue, this light grey glass can complement stone, tile, steel, metal plate, and other products to work in harmony. Additionally, it is a versatile, light grey glass from the world’s largest glass manufacturer, offering 65% visible light transmission for plentiful natural light – a necessity for many contemporary structures and one that satisfies the overarching focus on wellness and access to the outdoors.

The unification of performance and aesthetics is entirely possible with products like Majestic Grey, and such glass can be a means to achieve superior light transmittance, top aesthetics, and be current with contemporary design trends.

Continue reading The beauty and benefits of tinted glass

Scandinavian Design Brings Simplicity to the States


On the 11th floor of the Merchandise Mart sits a Nordic design hub of activity and excitement – even when the showroom is utterly devoid of people. One may have noticed the new Scandinavian Spaces location during NeoCon as tides of onlookers flowed through, lounging on the sofas, having conversations in the moss alcove and seemingly conducting meetings over a series of seating systems. But even if you missed the NeoCon introduction, the bevy of awards and mentions in the short few months since June has left many in the industry wondering whether the Scandinavian furniture company appeared seemingly overnight.

The answer: yes and no.


Brothers and co-owners Thomas and Robert Jönsson have been working diligently since 2011 to grow the Scandinavian Spaces brand. After seven years of attending NeoCon, they invested in their own showroom in Chicago. The electrifyingly colorful showroom, designed by Ghislaine Viñas, won Best Small Showroom and introduced the brand to the wider commercial design market. Since then, they’ve increased their sales team and reach, utilizing the momentum gained through the annual trade show.

Things have moved quickly.

However, the Jönsson brothers grew up with an entrepreneurial father who saw modernistic simplicity – a hallmark in their native Sweden – was missing from American office designs. Although working in tech sales during the ‘90s, the elder Jönsson decided to tap into the demand for upgraded corporate interiors after the dot-com burst.

Thomas and Robert grew up helping their father’s fledgling business, assembling furniture on weekends.

Both moved on to other fields in college; Thomas received a chemical science degree from University of California, Berkeley, while Robert moved to Austin, Texas, to pursue a finance BA and accounting MA from University of Texas.

As Robert puts it, laughing at the irony, “I said there was no way in hell I was going to continue our father’s work.”

The stock market once again had other plans for the Jönssons. Robert called Thomas, convincing him to move to Austin from Stockholm, and together they approached their parents in purchasing the company with the goal of bringing Scandinavian design and furniture to the States.

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Today they represent nine Scandinavian companies – all of which currently come from Sweden. While their heritage and ties stem from Sweden (where they both were born and lived until the ‘90s), Thomas said the use of the term “Scandinavian” was intentional. They have plans to continue expanding as far as possible and decided from the beginning not to create constraints on their brand. The future of the company can see the inclusion of design from around the Scandinavian regions.


Already that expansion is evident. In 2018 they leased the newly available 11th floor spot in the Merchandise Mart just in time for NeoCon.

They admit they may have jumped the gun, and waiting another year to settle into a showroom space could have been helpful (particularly as Thomas’s first child was born in April), but fortune tends to favor the brave.

It also favors those who know how to surround themselves with those who can fill the gaps in their abilities and knowledge. They hired Ghislaine Viñas to design the showroom, and her strong grasp of interiors and colors pulled the space together, sometimes even against the brothers’ initial opinions.

In Scandinavian countries, bright hues are often used, which gave Viñas a wide berth for her designs. “I remember when she came to us with the original color schematics and we were like… oh man…” laughs Robert, recounting their nerves over designing the showroom.

Thomas adds, “I remember opening it up and saying ‘Rob! It’s a yellow sofa!’”

“What made me nervous were all the tones of yellow,” Robert continues. “I wasn’t sure and asked, ‘Can you do this?’ I remember [Viñas] said: ‘Robert, I’m an expert at this. You’re colorblind. Let me do my job.’”

That trust earned the Best Small Showroom award at NeoCon, and the multi-tones of yellow not only ended up working but have become the most noticeable aspects of the space.


Much has been said over the years regarding the importance of wellness in workplace design, as well as the reemergence of Modernism in America.

The history of design in the Scandinavian region has always centered around wellness and Modernist aesthetics, however. According to the United Nations, Norway, Denmark and Sweden were three of the top five happiest countries in the world, alongside their Nordic neighbors Finland and Iceland. (Scandinavia is defined as Norway, Denmark and Sweden, while Nordic countries are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and their associated territories.)

Known for being the birthplace of IKEA, Swedish design has often been associated with clean, simplistic lines and utilitarianism. IKEA began selling mail-order furniture in 1948. The flat-packages meant convenient and cheap shipping, and the self-assembly aspect of simplistic furniture allowed even the most impoverished citizens to buy and personalize their furniture and living spaces. The no-nonsense of furniture highlighted by whimsical, bright and colorful accessories and textiles has continued to be a hallmark of Swedish design.

Robert points out that looking at Swedish design history, one would see the same aesthetic further back in time.

Additionally, while America is debating what constitutes wellness in the workplace – as well as sit-stand desks and the open office versus closed office question – Scandinavian design has been at the forefront of health and wellness. Pointing to KINNARPS’ Polaris and Series[P] sit-stand desks, Robert mentions that the company sold its first sit-stand systems in the early ‘90s. “Scandinavian design is about 10 years ahead of the rest of the world.”


Of course, being the first doesn’t automatically mean most successful, but the Jönssons are hoping that some of their more extreme pieces will be seen as innovative classics by history – even if they aren’t currently flying off the shelves.

That hasn’t been the case for their Vagabond by Materia system that began selling immediately after being presented. Robert says they were shocked by the reception at first – they were prepared to wait months or years after a product is made available for it to start to gain traction in the industry. Vagabond’s success has helped the brothers find their feet in a market they admit they don’t have an educational background in.


What lies at the heart of Scandinavian Spaces, beyond the aesthetic, bright colors and awards, are the ideals of the Jönsson brothers that they are currently learning to disseminate throughout their fast-growing company. Creating a company culture is hard, they admitted, but it’s an important aspect of creating longevity for their brand and emboldening their employees.

When asked what’s on the horizon or if they needed some time to absorb all the changes in the last year, they laughed and answered “a little bit of both.”

[ More Design News | How This Wildlife Refuge Created the Top Restroom of 2018 ]



These easy-to-place acoustic panels give designers a wide variety of customizable options through color and how they are arranged on a vertical surface.


Available in 15 colors, the Pixel collection is made of natural Reindeer Moss. Environmentally friendly and fire-resistant, the moss can be laid out on horizontal or vertical surfaces, providing sound absorption and an eye-catching detail.


Blending seating, work surface, and the ability to swivel, Innovation C is the next thing in informal task seating.


Goodbye to boring trash bins! Bin from Materia takes inspiration from paper lanterns to create a sculptural vessel for tossing waste.


Saving space doesn’t mean sacrificing design. With the Gap table from Blå Station, each table nestles into each other, stacking away quickly and easily.


Within the Scandinavian Spaces Chicago showroom is an example of the Poppe chair in bright yellow. Lovingly referred to as “The Banana Chair,” the thin seat and high-back of the Poppe provides an eye-catching silhouette while the shape gives optimal lumbar support.

Continue reading Scandinavian Design Brings Simplicity to the States

Designing environments for memory care residents

How can architecture decrease frustration, increase the feeling of self-worth, and increase the ability to re-connect?

NOVEMBER 07, 2018 |

A recent study finds that by 2050 the number of individuals in the United States age 65 years and older with Alzheimer’s disease will nearly triple, from 5 million to 13.8 million. Because of this, there has been an increasing shift in design trends for memory care facilities, incorporating more thoughtful designs that heighten a resident’s experience while living there. As a result, this calls for architects and designers to gain a better understanding of the special needs that we are designing for.

Individuals with neurocognitive illnesses display a decline in the ability to manage activities of daily living, to recall and remember events, and to engage in problem-solving. Behavioral issues are common and include emotion dysregulation, navigational trouble, and wandering. Leading us to consider: How can architecture decrease frustration, increase the feeling of self-worth, and increase the ability to re-connect?


Rendering of Riverview Retirement Community, Spokane, Washington, activity spaceAt Riverview Retirement Community’s memory care addition, all resident rooms open onto a large living/dining/activity space. This shared area was designed to support continuous circulation, which encourages interaction among community members and decreases chances of a wandering resident getting lost. – NAC Architecture.

Designing a layout to increase social interaction and decrease resident frustration is important. Normal circulation paths can provide opportunities to engage with other community members. Running into another resident may lead to conversation, which might be the highlight of a person’s day. Ideal space planning will include continuous circulation, which eliminates dead ends in the corridors and common areas. When a wandering resident encounters a dead end, they will often stand there in confusion, which leads to agitation. With a continuous pathway, memory care residents will continue to wander without frustration, and ultimately encounter other staff and community members along the way. If a dead end cannot be avoided, the strategic use of offset pictures or murals helps draw the resident’s line of sight around the corner or back to the hallway. Additionally, staff should have a clear line of vision to all spaces, allowing them to provide support for a resident that may need to be reengaged.


Another important design consideration for memory care facilities is actively engaging and leveraging sensory awareness and wayfinding to encourage self-care and autonomous mobility. Using color, graphics, and materials to create a well-thought out environment that allows a resident to keep their independence for as long as possible enhances their self-worth and engagement in life.

Sensory elements

The aging eye cannot distinguish colors as well, can have difficulty focusing, and has decreased depth perception. Using distinct colors can support some of these visual limitations. Differentiating between the walls and the floor, distinguishing the seat of a chair from the flooring, or contrasting a table edge can make it easier for residents with impaired vision to take a seat or navigate through a space without help.

In addition to using easily distinguishable colors, it is also important to pay attention to the shade or hue being used. Flooring transitions that are a high contrast can cause an individual with dementia to think the darker floor is a hole, and they will not step on it. For example, a resident that will not use the bathroom without assistance may be struggling because the bathroom might have a dark floor material that is adjacent to lighter carpet in the rest of the room.

As people with cognitive difficulties often experience confusion, it is also important to remember that texture and graphics should not be misleading. If something looks like wood, it should feel like wood; when something is not what it appears to be it can lead to uncertainty. All pictures should be realistic, not abstract. Images that represent nature or evoke a memory can be calming. Additionally, artwork should be framed with non-glare acrylic not only for safety, but to avoid reflections in the glass. There is a story of a resident who was continually frightened by the “old lady that is following me.” But it turned out that she was merely seeing a reflection of herself in all of the glass-framed artwork.

Riverview Retirement Community, Spokane, Washington, hallway with artwork and wall mural and chairsLarge wayfinding imagery along hallways at Riverview Retirement’s memory care facility not only helps orient residents, but these realistic pictures can be calming and often evoke memories. – NAC Architecture. Wall imagery created by Complete-Office. Photo courtesy of Bouten Construction.


Wayfinding is another strategy that can lead to decreased frustration and added independence. When a resident may not remember where they are, simple wayfinding can help recognition. Distinguishing the entry into a resident’s room helps community members recognize their space, and helps prevent them from getting lost. Providing space to display personalized items is an additional way for someone with limited language skills to identify which door is theirs. These can be pictures or items that represent the activities they enjoy, or photos of the resident in earlier stages of life. These items should remain the same over the course of a resident’s stay. They should also be placed about four feet above the floor, eye level for them.

Larger imagery may also be used along hallways to help get a resident headed in the right direction. In a larger facility you might find 20 doors all in a row; using pictures or murals can help the resident associate a specific image with proximity to their room.


The design of memory care facilities should provide opportunities for residents to reconnect, be it with activities that they once loved, or with their friends and family.

Memory Stations

Having an activity that is a personal memory can calm a resident that is agitated or disruptive. Memory stations serve as a way to engage residents and help support cognitive function. These stations should be located in easily accessible, public spaces and remain flexible enough to be personalized for the current community residents.

Good themes for memory stations include gardening, a school or office desk, a nursery, a laundry basket with warm towels, or a rack containing hats and scarves. A retired shoemaker might find self-worth and experience calming memories through the act of polishing shoes. A knitter may not be able to count stitches, but rolling yarn in balls can induce memories and support a feeling of productivity.

A shared kitchen can provide multiple opportunities for engagement. The space alone will evoke memories of preparing and eating meals, and when used the aromas of bread or cookies baking can stimulate the appetite. This is always a challenge with the elderly, as their taste buds are disappearing and food just doesn’t taste as good. Kitchens can also allow a resident to help prepare meals. They can wash vegetables or load the dishwasher after dinner. These tasks will lead to conversations about favorite meals or memorable events that happened in the past; once again, providing that feeling of self-worth and engagement in the life that they have.

Riverview Retirement Community, Spokane, Washington, memory stationsMerrill Gardens uses memory stations throughout their facilities to engage residents and help support cognitive function. The shared kitchen provides another opportunity to evoke memories, encourage interaction, and let residents participate in meal preparation. – NAC Architecture.


An individual suffering from memory loss is still the same person they have always been; however, oftentimes dementia causes them to recall their earlier lives as if it was the present. Providing community spaces where families feel welcome to spend time and interact with residents can lead to new discoveries about their loved ones’ past, and provide opportunities to get to know them better.

Designing destination spots within a memory care community provides an additional starting point for dialog. Outdoor spaces are a good example of this; they offer a great place for a stroll with a visitor, and they support a meaningful connection to nature. Even if a resident cannot remember a family member’s name, they get social stimulation just sitting with a caring person and discussing the weather outside.


Whether a school, a hospital, or a senior living facility, architects have the ability to positively influence behavior and impact well-being through the spaces we design. Designing for memory care is a special opportunity to support one of our most frail populations. With special understanding of the unique needs and limitations of the cognitive-impaired, designers can make a significant difference not only in the lives of the residents, but in the lives of their friends and family members, as well as the staff that care for them.

Continue reading Designing environments for memory care residents

Acoustic Lighting Offers Defense Against Noise Pollution

Good design is not only easy on the eyes, it can also be easy on the ears. It comes down to acoustics. Good acoustics tend to make the space feel right, people can hear and speak comfortably, and the design elements that are making that possible fall into the background. 

“People don’t even think there’s a solution there anymore, it just becomes incredibly natural,” says Ryan Smith, president and creative director at LightArt, a 3form company, which recently expanded its Acoustic Collection.  

“It’s much different than traditional design where you solve a problem with design and people look at it and go, ‘Wow this is a great design, we love it.’ You’re constantly reaffirmed by it.”


Public spaces tend to be loud with sound reverberating off hard surfaces, flooring, glass and the ceilings. This leads to uncomfortable ringing in ears and can be determinantal to human health, productivity and well-being.

Understanding the powerful role that acoustics play in a space, LightArt decided to modify its current custom lighting offerings (using the same materials) to create the Acoustic Collection, starting with two products, Static and Echo, and later adding the Acoustic Ring, Acoustic Box and Acoustic Drum.


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Photos courtesy of LightArt, a 3form company

“We understood the decorative space for lighting and most of our fixtures had scale and presence in the space,” Smith says. “When we started thinking about acoustics, we said, ‘Well there’s this real problem out there, and we’re probably positioned pretty well to deal with this because we’re already in this space.’”

The ring, box and drum are scalable and come in over 40 sizes, making it possible to alleviate sound issues in densely populated, large indoor areas that range from restaurants and bars, to airports, open offices, hospitals and classrooms. The fixtures can also provide an acoustical solution without obstructing architectural elements, such as covering a decorative wall with a sound-deadening panel, which Smith says may deter companies from addressing the issue.

“If you can imagine a big ballroom space with a copper ceiling or a big rotunda type space, you can hang one of our big rings in a space like that and have it actually look interesting, but have it completely leave the architecture of the space alone,” Smith says. “That was also a real component to how we thought about the design of these pieces.”


As a starting point, all the fixtures use energy-efficient LED modules, with two directional lighting and have 1 percent dimming capabilities. Additionally, all are made with 40 percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Sola felt, are available in 15 color options and come with an adjustable 24-inch to 96-inch suspension system with custom lengths available. Smith says they’re also pursuing a variety of other eco-friendly, LEED qualifiable options, including:

  • Using post-consumer recycled content in the panel
  • Using Red List free cords
  • Testing diffusers made of recycled content
  • Using a Declare Label certified powder coat

“We make all of our fixtures in the U.S., and we have a lot of steps that we take to be transparent along the way about how we’re doing it, that’s how we were able to get the Red List free fixture,” Smith says, adding that they’re also pursuing the Living Product Challenge through the International Living Future Institute.  

[More to Read ? Why Red & Blue Drive American Politics]


As LightArt stepped into the realm of creating acoustical solutions, they tested their products using acoustical testing labs near Chicago and Seattle and found that the product’s acoustical performance ranged from 20 sabins per fixture to more than 250 sabins per fixture.

Wanting to test the Acoustic Collection in the real world, LightArt teamed up with a Seattle-based restaurant and a bar that they were familiar with and filmed before and after videos. 

“Everyone’s been in a space like this, where you almost can’t talk to the person next to you,” Smith says. “They’re popular spaces, so people want to go there but they sort of leave with their head buzzing. So, we wanted to figure out how to solve that and it was very cool to see that kind of after effect because it was like night and day.”

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Continue reading Acoustic Lighting Offers Defense Against Noise Pollution

Nonresidential spending retains momentum in September, up 8.9% year over year

Total nonresidential spending stood at $767.1 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate in September.


NOVEMBER 02, 2018 |


National nonresidential construction spending fell 0.3% in September but remains historically elevated, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data released today. Total nonresidential spending stood at $767.1 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate in September, an increase of 8.9% on a year-ago basis.

Note that August’s estimate was revised almost a full percent higher from $762.7 billion to $769.1 billion, the highest level in the history of the series. Private nonresidential spending increased 0.1% in September while public nonresidential spending decreased 0.8% for the month.

“Virtually no weight should be placed upon the monthly decline in nonresidential construction spending that occurred in September,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Rather, we should focus on the massive upward revision to August’s spending data. That revision finally aligns construction spending data with statistics on backlogemployment and other indicators of robust nonresidential construction spending. On a year-over-year basis, nonresidential construction is up nearly 9%, an impressive performance by any standard.

“Unlike previous instances of rapid construction growth, this one is led by a neatly balanced combination of private and public spending growth,” said Basu. “Among the leading sources of spending growth over the past year are water supply, transportation, lodging and office construction. This is not only consistent with an economy that continues to perform splendidly along multiple dimensions, but also with significantly improved state and local government finances, which has helped to support greater levels of infrastructure spending.

“Given healthy backlog and indications that the economy will continue to manifest momentum into 2019, contractors can expect to remain busy,” said Basu. “The most substantial challenges will continue to be rising workforce and input costs. That said, there are indications of softening business investment, which could serve to weaken U.S. economic growth after what is setting up to be a strong first half of 2019.”  



Continue reading Nonresidential spending retains momentum in September, up 8.9% year over year

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