Inspiring study spaces
How to create the ideal environment for focus and creativity
Back to school means back to the books. But for many students, the idea of bringing them home is daunting — especially if they have trouble concentrating. Whether it’s a spelling exercise or mid-term essay, every student needs a quiet place to tackle homework. And with some thoughtful design and smart supplies, an everyday study area can become the perfect place to regain focus and get inspired.
The ideal study space could be located in any room. For Nigel Fong, a tutor based in North Toronto, the most important thing is that students “can feel like it’s their space for as long as they need.” So, the kitchen, where they might be limited due to meal preparation, or a bedroom they share with a sibling may not be ideal. The location should also limit distraction. He advises against choosing a room with a television.
Emily Dyer-Tobar, a design expert and owner of Rosedale’s popular children’s store Advice from a Caterpillar, suggests a space with minimal contrasting colours and access to fresh air.
The ideal space should also have room to display the child’s work, she adds, noting that “a clothesline where special pieces or projects can be displayed is motivating and a way to respect the child’s learning and efforts.”
Dyer-Tobar emphasizes the importance of a calming environment. If the study space is in a child’s bedroom, she suggests using a screen to close it off when not in use.
Fong agrees that a peaceful environment, entirely free from tension or arguing, is essential for successful study — a worthy goal for any space that a child can call his or her own.
On the table
Though most work surfaces can function in a study area, the ideal option provides storage and room to spread out. “A large work table is wonderful,” says Dyer-Tobar. “For ages two to eight, we love the P’kolino’s newest art table, Little Modern Table. It has a reversible tabletop that is painted with chalk paint and can open to reveal undertable storage for papers and workbooks.”
And as children grow, look beyond the dull, particleboard desk. Dyer-Tobar notes that “a harvest table, cut down slightly, can be wonderful for larger projects and study groups.” Add a smart storage component, so supplies are readily available, like a nearby bookcase outfitted with boxes and bins. Dyer-Tobar loves using small buckets to hold craft supplies: “When designing a work or study space, it is important to consider access,” she says, noting that storage should always be suited to a student’s height, to encourage staying organized.
“Good lighting can be energizing,” says Fong. He cautions though against intense artificial light, which has the opposite effect on his students. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to locate study spaces near a large window. For times when the sun isn’t shining, an adjustable work lamp is a helpful addition. Fong recommends mid-level task lighting that can be angled to shine directly onto the paper. For added concentration: “Dim the light level of the surroundings slightly, so the task light is the main light,” he suggests. “A work light is fantastic when it can be focused.”
Take your seat
Students spend a lot of time sitting down to study, so a great chair is essential. If the study space is in the child’s bedroom, he or she may enjoy picking out a fun, modern design that matches the child’s decor and suits his or her stature.
Dyer-Tobar explains that, when a work space is “easy for the child to reach independently,” it can encourage the child to use the space more often, and “take responsibility for their learning process.”
Consider choosing a chair with some seat cushioning and lumbar support, as well, as Fong emphasizes the value of creating a comfortable space for successful study at home. For adolescent students, a chair with adjustable seat height is another practical choice, as it will adapt to every growth spurt.
“Go to an office supply store and get the kids a few of their favourite pencils and erasers,” Fong advises. “It’s important, because they will spend all their time working with these instruments,” so they should be tools that they enjoy. He fondly remembers a mechanical pencil he owned as a young student: “I loved it. I think this helped me with getting my math homework done.”
“An assortment of age-specific pens, crayons and pencils are wonderful,” agrees Dyer-Tobar. “Small hands learn well with thick crayons, and pencil crayons play a beautiful role for pre-kindergarten to age eight. Paints are also important for working with colour and developing fine motor skills.”
When choosing a study space, it is all about location, location, location