By Michael A. Thomas, FASID, CAPS
Whether creating a residential or commercial environment, interior design always begins by establishing how a space is to function. Without defining how the interior is to work, no matter how great it looks, the space can fall short of expectations. And in those first critical steps, the designer applies their knowledge, education and experience to define how the interior is to function.
Having collected sufficient data, space planning was the next step. The new interior for the library is organized to accommodate practicality, traffic flow and storage. Fixtures, furnishings and equipment were blocked into a scaled drawing to show and demonstrate their relationship to architectural elements such as walls and columns, doors and windows.
However in the case of the interior design for the Welwood, an additional set of criteria was necessary due to the historic nature of the Class One designation by the City of Palm Springs.
REHABILITATION : A PLAN TO ADAPT AND REPURPOSE FOR THE WELWOOD
At the beginning of this design phase, it was important to refer to best practices established by national leading authorities for the design of such interiors. For this project, documents published by the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior and especially the Standards for Preservation and Guidelines for Historic Interiors were essential tools.
These guidelines clearly identify four distinct paths that designers can take.
• The first is Preservation and is defined as the process of applying measures necessary to retain the furnished interior's materials and character-defining features and use them as before. Since the library had been previously been cleared of nearly all the original furnishings and fixtures, preservation was not a consideration.
• Another possible path is Restoration. That is defined as the process of depicting the form and function of a property at a particular period of time. Since the function of the space has changed dramatically from an interior once filled with books to a space that will serve as a visitor’s center hosted by the Palm Springs Board of Tourism, a secured environment for the Palm Springs Historical Society and a micro-branch of the Palm Springs Public Library providing concierge-style services, a path of restoration was not an option.
• The third path is Reconstruction. This means depicting, by means of brand new construction, the form, function, features and detailing of a non-surviving site. Since the library exists, this was not an appropriate selection.
• The final path, and the one chosen to guide the library’s design, was Rehabilitation. This is the process of creating a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or existing features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.
Based on the criteria provided by the staff of the Palm Springs Library, the Palm Springs Library Board Of Trustees and with the assistance of Mr. Kleindeinst, the vision for the interior became clear.
Once the space plan was complete and approved, the design of the furnishings was next. With the exception of the reception desk, furnishings, cabinetry and seating have been designed with clean, simple and straight lines to honor and compliment the work of the original architect, John Porter Clark. The reception desk will follow the shape and location of the original but will adapt for computers, printers, point-of-sales equipment and accessibility requirements required by the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
SYMBOLISM PLAYS A ROLE
To represent a new use of the space, an embellishment was created: a circle in a square. This design is adapted from an ancient tribal design and represents the information, education, research and knowledge to be delivered by the three stakeholders. This symbol will be used discreetly on furnishings and cabinets to reinforce the “brand” and communicate graphically the library’s new function.
LIGHTING WILL BE BOTH SPECIAL AND SUSTAINABLE
Of particular note is the energy efficient LED fixtures that will softly and quietly illuminate the space unlike the type of lighting seen in retail spaces. Hanging pendant lights were inspired by the existing coach fixtures that flank the main entry of the building.
Classic, library-styled lamps with shades made from recycled newsprint and book ends will provide the needed task light for visitors to view their tablet computers, to check emails on their smart phones or to lounge in chairs and read the numerous newspapers and magazines the library will make available.
The design solutions for the Welwood have been created to stand up to the acid test, a requirement for projects like the Welwood. While reminiscent of the past, the timeless design of the interior when opened late in 2014 will serve the needs of many types of guests, providing locals, tourists and historic researchers with a space that is comforting, inviting and memorable for now and for years to come.
About: MICHAEL A. THOMAS, FASID, CAPS
Michael is a professional interior designer with three decades of residential, commercial and hospiltality practice. He is an award winning designer, including a Presidential Citation from Florida Southern College for his contributions to the preservation of the FSC's Frank Lloyd Wright West Campus. He is the past National President of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and is one of only 250 "Fellows" of ASID, the highest honor ASID gives to a member. In addition Michael is the co-author of the well respected book, Residential Design For Aging In Place, a "certified aging in place specialist" and founding member and current President of DAASE (the Design Alliance for Accessible Sustainable Environments).
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.