Why We Do What We Do IV: Your Safe Haven

What comes to mind when you hear the word “comfort”?

Sometimes it’s a warm cup of tea, other times it might be sitting in front of a cozy fireplace on your favorite chair. Whatever you might envision when you think of “comfort,” there’s a connection to our instincts and our desire to feel safe; things that give us a sense of “Haven.”

As humans, our sense of Haven often manifests itself as we maintain our “personal bubble.”

In this segment of Why We Do What We Do, we’ll discuss how specific furniture design elements create Haven for all users.

Hampton Banquette at Slippery Rock University

How Did We Find Haven?

We first noticed the Haven effect, as we’ll call it, with the production of our Hampton Banquette. Why do some people tend to choose the booth over the table and chairs? – The booth is not only comfortable in terms of material but it’s more comfortable because of its design. It covers your back and sides, providing a sense of Haven and security, creating separation from other families and individuals in the restaurant. The same concept applies with the Hampton Banquette – It provides a sense of Haven in a public space creating separation and protection from strangers.

Banquette seating is typically the first seating to fill up in a library setting, but herein lies an issue. Sometimes the banquette seating, meant for groups of 2-3+, is taken over by individuals spreading out their work materials and claiming the space. There are plenty of study carrels in libraries – why are individuals, then, flocking to banquette seating to perform their most difficult tasks?

Why Aren’t We Using the Carrel?

Wood Study Carrel with Seat for Libraries and Universities

A little research revealed that patrons and students preferred banquettes to study carrels because they offered a sense of Haven that study carrels simply don’t provide.

Why? It’s simple – the back is exposed. When you have your back exposed in a subway, on a bench, even at your kitchen counter, you are open to surprises and others entering your personal bubble. Your sides and front may be covered, but when you have nothing to protect your back, you feel a sense of discomfort, especially if you’re working in an open room filled with strangers.

Carrel with No Back Coverage

Similar to the zig-zag tables discussed in the last blog, we realized the solution was to put people into the furniture, this time into the carrel. Entering the carrel at the side instead of the back allows us to place surrounds at the front, back, and one side of the user, increasing the feeling of security and establishing a sense of Haven. Your back is covered and you feel more relaxed when completing your coursework or tasks at the library. The carrel becomes your Haven.

Study Carrels with Back Coverage

Beyond the personal bubble, it’s important to provide places where patrons can find Haven in a library setting. This means not only maintaining their personal space, but also feeling secure with their back covered, free from intrusions into their space. The psychological factors of personal space and Haven are the groundwork for furniture in libraries. Understanding these aspects of human behavior makes it easier to understand the functional elements of furniture and how to purchase with them in mind, as we discuss in the next installment.

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