Books take center stage in the newly updated Stratton Preschool/Lower School Library, but they’re not the only things that benefit from the remodel. Subtle tweaks and a showstopping mural wall make for a warm, inviting space that continues to be a favorite amongst students and faculty.
The Stratton Preschool/Lower School Library, it’s fair to say, needed a refresh. The much-used and much-loved space hadn’t seen major change since the mid-1980s when a gift from the Stratton family supported renovations as the school’s south and north campuses were unified. “The library needed to be updated to make it more usable for parents, students, and faculty,” said Preschool and Lower School Librarian Judy Clegg. Thanks to support from the Parents’ Association and other funding sources, the new space is much more functional, flexible, and welcoming.
One of the first items the team, which included Tara Christian, director of interior design at Uihlein/Wilson –Ramlow/Stein Architects, accomplished was to pick a theme for the space. “We quickly settled on a woodsy, forest theme,” said Clegg. “It ties together the school’s focus on outdoor education and our beautiful campus, and we thought everybody could identify with a forest.” From there, subtle changes like new carpet, paint, lighting, and shelving added up to make a big impact in the space. “Libraries are changing, but we know with this age group it’s still all about the books,” said Christian.
Work was completed last summer, just in time for the start of the school year. “When students first walked in they would say, ‘Wow! This is amazing!’” said Clegg. “And parents too, they don’t want to leave when they walk in. They just want to stay in this welcoming, tranquil space.”
Because it’s the first thing visitors see when they walk in, Christian wanted this wall to be impactful. However, a metal HVAC grill in the middle of the wall interrupted the visual. Thanks to alumna and current parent Rory Foley ’95, who hand-painted the grate, it now blends in with the surrounding forest scene.
The child-size chairs have a fun surprise: animal shapes carved into the backs. Christian opted for wood chairs stained blue, which contrasts with the wood shelving and ceiling.
The team intentionally selected carpet with distinct water and grass visuals, and they liked this carpet’s asymmetry, which is less restricting for furniture placement. The cushion underneath the carpet is comfortable underfoot and helps with acoustics.
Lower, curved shelves make it easier for small children to reach books, and for light to enter the room. Casters on some of the shelves and the circulation desk make the furniture easy to move aside to accommodate larger groups that often gather in the library.
The gradation of color in four shades, which get darker as you walk closer to the mural, invokes a sense of walking deeper into a forest, while blue paint on one side of the room and green on the other plays up the asymmetry of the space.
Previously, the beams were covered by fluorescent lighting and easy to miss. New LED wall-washing fixtures mounted behind the beams light the wood decking of the ceiling, providing brightness without covering the architectural feature.
The team wanted lighting that invoked a sense of flight and movement. Christian and the architect met on site with the electrician to place each light by hand, making sure they were irregular distances away from each other and the walls.