Bethesda: Cozy Clusters and Bright Colors

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Designers Meredith Ericksen and Laura Caccese of Tuscan Blue Design in Frederick had only a $2,500 budget, but the Bethesda library branch on Arlington Road already had a few nice design elements: plump modern chairs, nine-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, plenty of natural light and contemporary architecture.

The members of the Teensite Advisory Group were not shy about voicing their preferences for a calming and restful space, darker color palette and seating for both study groups and individuals. They also requested comfortable chairs and beanbags instead of sofas, which could force them to sit uncomfortably close to strangers. "People value their bubble of privacy," said 17-year-old Will Shepherdson of Bethesda, adding that one person can hog a sofa.

None of this surprised the design team. "Teens now are knowledgeable about design, colors, etc.," Ericksen said. "They know what they like and what they dislike" and try to steer away from colors associated with their youth, craving a more mature style, "but not traditional!"

The primary goal, Ericksen said, was to open up the space. That included moving extra computers and a copier out of the area and arranging furniture to accommodate teens' needs for privacy and socializing. The design team created multiple clusters of beanbag chairs, regular chairs and tables. The chairs aren't heavy, so they can be moved. And the floor plan was kept open so individuals and groups wouldn't invade one another's space.

The designers injected pattern and color with fabric panels and rugs. These touches made the space feel cozy against a backdrop of hard metal-framed windows while delineating it from the rest of the library.

Fifteen-year-old Sarah Marx of Chevy Chase liked the orange, white and blue palette. "It doesn't play down to us, and the fabric panels aren't something you see . . . so often." Plus, the beanbag chairs were a crowd pleaser. "Oh, these are too comfortable!" 15-year-old Meg Kelly of Rockville said. "I won't get any work done in these."

The branch has begun implementing the design, moving in furniture and hanging window treatments, and the space should be completed within the next couple of weeks.

Some librarians were initially skeptical of the durability of some items, including the lounge chairs and a rug that's largely white. Otherwise they said they liked the design and were excited about seeing the space brightened up.

During a shopping excursion to Ikea in College Park, the teens were genuinely interested in furniture and home accessories. They didn't necessarily think about durability and cleanliness as much as adults, but their parents' aversion to white was noted. "I notice but ignore," quipped 17-year-old Rebecca Ehrenkranz of Potomac.

It was easy for the teens to discover things they loved, including paper lantern lamps that Ehrenkranz said could be personalized, as well as items they weren't so crazy about, such as sheep-skin rugs.

"If it looks the same and I can buy faux," said 16-year-old Sneha Rao of Silver Spring, "I'd save the sheep."

Shopping List

ยท Lounger/gaming chairs in navy from the Lounge Cool Chair collection ($130 each, http://www.target.com).


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