Follow the ADA Road

Image of Courtesy US Department of Commerce

I recently retweeted an article from RD+D Magazine (Restaurant Design + Development) regarding changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some of you may not be familiar with the ADA (or Twitter, for that matter…follow me! @kelseyjmitch).  Briefly, the ADA is civil rights legislation that protects discrimination against individuals with disabilities.  As a designer, I follow ADA standards for Accessible Design, meaning I create public spaces that follow standards allowing for all individuals, no matter their level of ability, to be able to comfortably and safely use a space.  Elements such as ramps, larger restroom stalls, wider aisles and accessible seating are all part of ADA design standards.

What caught my eye about the article from RD+D was the fact that establishments are becoming ADA compliant not only for business reasons, but because it is a moral responsibility. Check out the entire article here:  It does a much better job spouting off regulation years and remembering the difference between swing in and clearance out…which to me, sound like the same thing.

Color Boards 101

Simply put, color boards are the adult version of science fair projects. Instead of huge, tri-fold displays on how different fertilizers affect corn production or the life span of a typical house fly, color boards are windows into the creativity of a designer. They help confirm your ingenuity and talents and show that your design education was actually put to good use. After all, you did learn how to NOT eat the glue – but actually use it – and to cut out squares with those dull, left-handed scissors. Oh, the things you learn in kindergarten…

Here’s how a design board works: find something that inspires you and work around it. A piece of fabric or carpet typically work well, but in some cases you find yourself working with existing artwork, a chandelier that reminds you of your Grandma or a 13-foot replica of the statue of Buddha. In that case, you need to use all of your creative juices to make it flow. Once you have your muse, the rest will usually fall into place. Pages upon pages of light fixtures, coordinating bar stools and parades of paint chips will be scattered across the table; while it may look like the bedroom of a 5 year old to passersby, to you it makes perfect sense. Your job as a designer is to “make it work” (in the words of fashion advisor Tim Gunn, for those avid fans of Project Runway).

Now for the easy stuff: cutting, gluing, trimming, arranging, cursing, sweating, re-arranging and more re-arranging. Make sure your picture edges are neatly trimmed, and that you’ve wiped away any hot glue strings that seem to stick like cobwebs to EVERYTHING. Did I mention re-arranging? Getting the right balance of negative space between images is key to a successful color board and it’s much easier to obtain that balance when things aren’t glued down. You usually have about 45 seconds before the glue is really affixed to the board. Any longer than that and you’ll need a new board.. and maybe a cocktail.

That’s it! You’re done! Stand back and marvel in your accomplishments. Make sure to unplug the hot glue gun and put Band-Aids on those paper cuts; you’ve earned them. I realize this isn’t the only way to put a color board together and each designer will have a different method to their madness. As of late I’ve done quite a few “digital” color boards, which has an entirely different set of rules and is often less messy (although no less complicated). I’ll save Digital Color Boards 101 for another time.

Everything but the Bathroom Sink

I lied, we did include the bathroom sink.

Lavatory. Washroom. Loo. The restroom is just as important to a restaurant as the kitchen and dining room, yet is often an afterthought when it comes to its design. I came across an article about restrooms and honestly found it more interesting than my iPad. No doubt this was written with a female perspective, which may be why I appreciated the bullet points. What follows are a list of components for successful restroom design, and can account for repeat business.

Well lit restrooms: No flood lights necessary here, but something to make us look non-ghoulish when checking ourselves out in the mirror. We have all done it, don’t deny it. We want our guacamole to be green, not our complexion.

Women’s restroom should be larger than the men’s: This is a no brainer. You could also say “duh”. The fact that we women travel to the bathroom in packs is enough to justify a larger space for us all to convene.

Ventilation: Need I say more? I’ll take the intense smell of limburger cheese over the smells that come of some restrooms. Period. (Insert gagging noise here).

Commode Style: Who knew there were various styles of toilets, other than white, off-white and bone-white? Thinking of commodes as a piece of furniture may take time, soon we may all see an IKEA-ish style catalog full of porcelain seat choices.

Hand washing area: Deeper sinks and longer faucets are the key here, to avoid splashing and creating an awkward water spot on the front of your chinos. The trend is headed towards hands-free everything. Now if only we could open the door hands-free…

As a new mother, I have a different perspective on the cleanliness and layout of restrooms and will get a bit giddy when I see the beige, floating cot that people call “changing stations” (you want me to lay my kid where?). My son doesn’t appreciate the subway tiles on the wall or the color of the soap dispenser, but at least he lets me “ooh” and “ahh” while freshening him up.

Going Green in 2013

Pantone’s recent selection of “Emerald” (Pantone 17-5641) as the color trend for 2013 sets the mark for fashion and home.  This selection will also become relevant for the design world when we see it make an appearance in commercial textiles and materials. Emerald may remind you of whimsical times in “The Wizard of Oz” or pay a certain homage to those native of Seattle (aka The Emerald City) but it is definitely a color worth paying attention to as we watch it come to life in 2013.

Speaking in terms of color psychology, green can have a calming effect and is the easiest color on the eye, which may be why various shades of green are seen in hospitals and waiting rooms. It will be interesting to see how this newly announced color will be used in the hospitality industry, specifically in restaurants and bars. In my experience, I was taught to shy away from using green in establishments where people will be eating, as the aura of green walls will subconsciously remind them of mold and ultimately deter them from finishing their plate-sized burrito. Then again, green is also the color linked to money and let’s be honest: who doesn’t like money in times like this?

Maybe instead of slathering an entire wall with a parade of Emerald tones, we can start by introducing small pieces of the color in accent materials or light fixtures. We don’t want our potential clientele to push away their antipastos quite yet…

Padded or Hard Seats?

When presenting different seating options to a customer, I’m often asked if wood seating will be comfortable.  If I were to give my honest opinion, I would say in capital letters (which could come off as me yelling, which isn’t possible since I was born with an indoor voice only), that answer no. If they were to re-phrase that question as “Is a padded seat going to be more comfortable than a wood seat?” the answer is “yes”. You don’t have to be a prodigy with a degree in seat “comfort-ability” to know that if you’re sitting your glutes on a padded seat for an hour, you’re going to order at least two more Cosmopolitans to complement your potato fingerlings. There are times, however, when using a wood seat is more appropriate for your establishment. Are you looking to have a quick turnaround at lunch time? Is the solo business person who needs one hand on a club sandwich and the other flicking pages on their iPad your ideal customer? Then a wood seat is for you. If you don’t want patrons to get too comfortable and spends hours in your bistro because you’re waiting for the next thirty customers to come through, leave the overstuffed furniture to the country clubs.

I’m not going to lie: when given the option of sitting on a padded bench or a wood chair, I will undoubtedly choose the padded bench. I usually get my way considering my husband would prefer the better view of the football game; in that case, he can spoil himself with the comfort of the wood seat.