February 25, 2024
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The Littleborough egress corridor is activated with a hand-painted mural featuring new branding colors

Ebbrell Architecture + Design recently completed an early education and childcare center for Kidsborough/Littleborough, in Hopkinton, MA. Several design elements played important roles in creating meaningful, engaging, playful spaces for the different age groups such as access and scale, and using color to balance playfulness with order.

The Challenge: Transforming Preliminary Plans into Purposeful Spaces

The client approached EAD with preliminary plans in hand but asked us to rework the design with particular attention to flow and sequencing of the space. We began by listening and discussing the program requirements. Front of mind were the users and their ages and how to best support staff and parents. We also considered access to natural light, visibility between classrooms, adjacencies to support spaces, and flow and circulation patterns.

The plan evolved organically from these programmatic needs. We located the classrooms along the window line to provide access to natural light. Classrooms were also designed to meet or exceed the requirements of Massachusetts Early Education and Care guidelines for full certification of the facility.

A city silhouette, "house" nooks, and crosswalks create a sense of order and familiarity at the Littleborough main entrance

Designing for Distinctive Experiences: The Littleborough Layout

Littleborough is a new business venture for the Kidsborough team: Kidsborough is for k-4 before- and afterschool care; Littleborough is for infant, toddler and pre-school daycare. The owner was very astute about features needed to appeal to today’s young parents and children.

The second floor Littleborough space has two house nooks with benches built into the wall at the main entry, creating an ideal place for a family to get settled at drop-off or for a child to have a break if they need it. The width of the corridor was given great consideration - to maximize classroom sizes and have comfortable circulation. We accomplished both scale and order, and used familiar elements for children like houses and streets upon which the “borough” namesake is also based. We created hallways that look like roads and crosswalks that help distinguish play areas from circulation areas. The striped crosswalks are also an ideal place to line up or pause for instruction. These wayfinding and design elements help users to understand the space immediately upon entry.

Custom painted lockers were salvaged and re-used from the previous space and reflect the new brand palette

Scale and Sensibility: Designing Spaces for Growth and Exploration

Scale played a crucial factor in the design and organization of the functional spaces – the Kidsborough students (K-4 before and afterschool care) were moved up to the third floor, which is a largely open space with exposed ceilings and lots of windows. This loft-style space lent itself well to the function of the afterschool program and has distinct zones for playmaking, studying, eating, and storing but without any walls or barriers delineating these spaces.

The stair leading to the third-floor Kidsborough space

Guided Exploration: Custom Wayfinding for Young Learners

The children enter the afterschool space via a stairwell that has been branded with custom Kidsborough murals that wind up the three-story circulation core. Large numbers painted on the doors announce the levels, and whimsical lines and paper planes guide kids up to the third floor. Custom colored lockers, painted and reused from the previous fit out, are at the entry to the third floor Kidsborough space so that students can place their belongings before moving into their afternoon routines. Sightlines for staff allow the program to operate safely and efficiently.

Custom mural and "tree canopy" clouds in the infant room

The Power of Color: Creating Atmosphere and Identity

We wanted the spaces to feel welcoming and bright but also have a sense of order and appropriate scale for the users, and we used color to accomplish both needs. In the infant room, we focused on calming colors and patterns– painted tree trunk silhouettes on the wall have a lot of contrast to appeal to the youngest occupants, and the “tree canopy” made of acoustic clouds with and suspended bulbs adds softness and visual interest similar to a mobile. In the gross motor space, the wall mural was kept low so that the toddlers could appreciate the assorted colors and textures. In the toddler classrooms, bright colors and playful washable area rugs liven up the space and add soft textures to the rooms. Neutral furniture and flooring finishes allow the classroom materials to shine and not overwhelm the students. Each floor has its own look and feel to be age-appropriate, but the finish palette and brand tie a common thread throughout the levels.

The client hired Ember Creative to develop new logos, brand colors and guidelines, which were rolled into the design of the space. The wall murals, designed by Ember Creative, were hand painted in the field by Best Dressed Signs. The owner opted for painted murals vs. cut vinyl graphics both for their durability and authenticity. Little nods to this family-owned business are sprinkled throughout the artwork (e.g. a corgi outline, the family dog) and a population sign is reflective of a mural at the very first Kidsborough location.    

Hand-painted mural in the gross-motor zone is at eye-level for the youngest learners

Looking Ahead: Evolving Spaces for Future Generations

As the center evolves and adapts based on feedback and experience, EAD remains committed to refining and enhancing the spaces for continued engagement and growth. With a focus on innovation and collaboration, the journey with Kidsborough and Littleborough promises exciting developments in the realm of early childhood education and design.

Ebbrell Architecture + Design is dedicated to crafting environments that inspire and empower through thoughtful design. Explore more insights and projects on our website, where expertise meets imagination in every space we create.

Click on these links to learn more about Littleborough and Kidsborough