Digging into the Details

collage of interior design detailsWhen we think about interior design, we tend to focus on the visual aspects.  Magazines, home improvement shows and retailers highlight “wow” spaces, focusing on the final touches and products deemed essential for beautiful results.  Other aspects such as functionality, comfort, ergonomics, health or safety, are often an afterthought, if we consider them at all.

However, if we think about our own lives and how we experience spaces in our home, workplace, restaurants, doctor’s offices, and so on, the importance of those other considerations quickly becomes apparent. Most of us have, at some point, experienced seating that looks attractive but turns out to be extremely uncomfortable.  Another example might be the current trend to artfully arrange bookshelves with the books flipped so the spine is facing inward and the whites of the pages create a visually appealing cohesive color palette. The end user experience probably will not be diminished if the books are simply there for display in a hotel lobby, but in an academic, office or residential setting where the books will be actively used, this look creates some apparent functional disadvantages.  And on a more practical level, safety is typically not a top-of-mind consideration when we look at flooring, however slip resistance, along with durability and maintenance requirements are critical for academic, healthcare, hospitality, or commercial spaces.

Interior Design for Academic Facilities

To illustrate the myriad of details considered for school spaces, interior designer Jacqueline Fox, has shared a checklist highlighting some of the details for two spaces included in recent renovations at Ephrata Area High School.  These spaces highlight the school colors of yellow and purple in brightly lit, vibrant settings that blend technology and 21st century learning concepts.  However, there are numerous details beyond those first impression observations.

illustration of design details for ephrata high school stairway


The addition of the stadium-seating steps alleviates the pressure on other congested stair towers and creates an additional spot for casual interaction. This new feature also allowed for the introduction of a secure vestibule behind the stair to better control visitor access into the building.

1. Tack strips for artwork display
2. Ceramic Tile
indent Cleanable/scrub-able
indent Scratch resistance 8.0 – ASTM# MOHS (American Society for Testing and Materials)
indent Chemical resistant – ASTM# C650
3. Column Tile
indent Visual abrasion Resistance 4  – ASTM #C1027
indent Through color (full body same as face)
indent 40% recycled material (31% pre-, 9% post-consumer)
4. Walk off mats in front of exterior doors to minimize dirt/water transfer
5. Movable cushions

6. 95 NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) Ceiling Tiles
7. Maintain existing tile for acoustical control

8. Ceramic tile with >0.60 DCOF (Dynamic Coefficient of Friction) for exterior and wet applications
9. Slip-resistant finish on stairs
10. Translucent windows to allow for visual monitoring
11. Guard rail tall enough to prevent falls.
12. Translucent railing panels to allow for visual monitoring

Systems Coordination
13. HVAC heating and cooling fixtures
14. Coordination of outlet locations
15. Decorative and task lighting to provide comfortable light levels.

illustration of design details for ephrata high school media center

This metal stud and drywall renovation project took the high school’s existing library and converted it into a media center resource. The design is the result of student-driven feedback and concepts that evolved during a student design competition and charrettes. The open space plan offers flexibility in future use either simply via furniture movement or changes or with emerging technology or material feature updates.

1. Translucent gradient glass
indent Writable surface
indent Reduce classroom distractions
indent Allow for visual supervision
2. Short stacks
indent Increase visibility across room
indent Provide touchdown location for note-taking or collaboration
3. Mix of seating for multiple types of working environments
4. Carpet tiles
indent Able to replace easily
indent 46.87% recycled content

5. 95 NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) Ceiling Tiles

Accessibility / Safety
6. Code review for circulation widths between stacks
7. No exposed ceiling due to fire codes, provided access with acoustical panels

Systems Coordination
8. Coordination of numerous floor and wall outlet locations
9. Decorative and task lighting to reduce eye strain

The details summarized above are just a sampling of the criteria our team considers to help provide positive experiences for those using and maintaining these types of spaces.

Jacqueline Fox, IIDA has five years of commercial interior design experience and has been involved in a number of public school, higher education and senior living projects. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Philadelphia University and has achieved National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ) Certification, the highest standard of competency for Interior Designers.

Jodi Kreider, Blog Editor