Public libraries have long set the mood for safe, relaxing, welcoming inclusive spaces. While many are now technologically driven there is still an opportunity to take a top from our Scandinavian friends and add a touch of ‘hygge’ to the interior. Scientists at University College London found that looking at beautiful things makes us happier by stimulating dopamine so colours, materials, lighting and introducing wellbeing themes create calm and relaxing spaces.
We’re not suggesting candles and warm and cosy socks (although that does sound quite appealing) but we are always mindful of designing library interiors that place a visitor’s wellbeing at the heart of the design.
According to Signe Johansen’s ‘How to Hygge, The Secrets of Nordic Living’: simplicity of design, soothing colours and natural materials are the guiding principles of hygge design. The rise in popularity of mid century furniture and design icons adds a comforting sense of time and place: The iconic anglepoise lamp and Eames and Ercol style chairs, sofas and tables add a reflective, retro twist to a library interior evoking happy memories of times past when materials and craftsmanship set the standards for timeless design.
De-cluttering also creates a sense of calm – in a library space that can mean improved storage, pruning of stock, digitations of archives and flexible furnishings to encourage open, light and airy spaces.
And it’s not all about interiors, it’s also about doing things. Creative activities are literally therapy for the mind. According to research, the five things that can help boost our mental wellbeing: Connect: Be Active; Keep Learning: Give to others, Be mindful. We are now seeing libraries take this on board with the rise in popularity of Makerspaces and similar spaces offering all manner of creative.
For academic libraries it is important that we design interiors that balance academic, physical and mental wellbeing and support students to live, learn and earn. Young people are aware of their own health and wellbeing and, if we listen to what they have to say we can bring a holistic approach to the design and furnishing of an interior.
Public health matters and is top of the agenda when it comes to designing public spaces.