Creative use of modular furniture earns this school office an A+

Creative use of modular furniture earns this school office an A+

After moving into a former commercial building in North York for more than 20 years, the North Toronto Christian School was in need of a facelift on its main office. The new design solution not only re-establishes the school’s image, but also improves work efficiency with several sustainable benefits.

Interior Designer: Shan He, ARIDO/NCIDQ
Design Firm: Phoenix Tree Consulting Inc.
Project Photographer: Phoenix Tree Consulting Inc.

Having a welcoming and efficient main office is of particular importance to the small private school in Toronto with over 400 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 12.  As the school’s key administrative interface for students and parents, the main office was the central hub, which needed to set an image for the school as an open, progressive, and inviting place.  The primary challenge was to modernize the space within the constraints of the school’s administrative working process and limited space.  

School secretary speaks to two young students in a school office with gray floors and long white counter.

The original front desk consisted of two parts with a path in the middle, neither one was to the code or met barrier-free requirements.  The 90’s finishes, non-system furniture with separate storage units, and two worn-out workstations didn't represent the school’s ever-growing reputation or permit efficient administrative work due to uninvited interaction and conversations. 

We changed the entrance point but maintained the basic layout to minimize the impact of changes and focused on the functionality of the furniture setup and the cohesive design elements applied throughout the space, especially the school image that the new design would represent. 

Behind the counter view of school office showing off added storage and long feature wall of artwork.

Aiming for a vibrant and youthful environment, a set of complementary colours were chosen: blue and orange, which was inspired by one of the school’s outdoor education activities - surfing.  The blues provide the calm and spacious atmosphere for the overall space, while the orange adds vibrance throughout.  System furniture was the first choice to furnish an administrative office for its durability and standard elements.  To minimize the cost while maintaining the desired storage requirements, we custom designed a front counter with two heights by using furniture modules.   

Within the high counter shell lies four metal file cabinets with lockable doors, providing a secure storage for stationery. Underneath the low counter there are open shelves for large-format paper storage.   Low-panel workstations were chosen to provide minimal privacy without blocking off the admin staff.  A 10-year-old student installation art on the feature wall in the waiting area was replaced with new vertical paint stripes in blue, grey, and white that echoes the colour scheme, making a quiet yet unique statement by itself or as the background for framed student artwork. 

Long feature wall of artwork with orange and blue seating and gray laminate floor.

The most successful design solution lies in the new front counter/storage.  By using system furniture elements the project costs were minimized. Furthermore, should the front counter need to be replaced in the future, the four metal cabinets can be reused elsewhere, which is a sustainable solution. The two-colour combination of the front counter provides contrast and a fresh look of a school main office, which is normally considered serious and plain.  The double heights accommodate all visitors, including kindergarten children and wheelchair users.  

Shan He

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