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
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 an effect on the spaces 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, 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
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
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 as well. 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
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.