The kitchen at Braille Institute San Diego presented issues of both style and durability.

Braille Institute San Diego
More than just maintenance and installation concerns faced interior designers charged with specifying the flooring needs of a California school for the visually impaired.

Braille Institute San Diego is a $6 million, 28,000-square-foot, co-educational training facility for the blind and visually impaired. The non-profit organization improves students’ self-sufficiency skills while providing a recreational outlet, as well as offering classes on computer skills, Braille, cooking, arts and crafts, and fitness.

Interior designers Ann Cummings and Andrea Brehe of Design InSite chose warm hues for the facility’s overall color scheme, focusing on bright colors to increase the visual stimulation of the occupants. Additionally, the designers added striking contrasts in every room to help students distinguish the floors from the walls.

The high-traffic arts & crafts room is a centerpiece of the institute.

What to choose, what to choose...

The custom-design requirements of the project, combined with the need for a durable, easy-to-maintain flooring surface, led the design team to investigate the Azrock integrated product line. The team selected two products — Thru Quartz VCT tile and Linosom sheet resilient. VCT was used in the kitchen of the home management apartment and the large arts and crafts classroom, as well as in auxiliary areas such as storage rooms, workrooms and the machine repair shop.

“Azrock VCT was chosen for its durability, and also for the versatility the 12 x 12-inch tiles afforded for creating patterns and borders,” said Cummings. She continued the warm color palette with a tan flooring field accented by green and brown tile patterns.

“In the kitchen and the arts and crafts room, the ability to create a border on the floor provided the contrast needed to give visually-impaired students a reference point to enable them to determine where the cabinetry was located,” Cummings explained.

The large, open, 40 x 100-foot dining and multi-purpose area led to a set of design challenges unto themselves. Maintenance was of utmost importance — because students would take daily meals in the heavily trafficked room, the material chosen had to be durable and easy to maintain. Acoustics and sun glare were also factors; the ceiling is more than 30 feet high at its peak, and clerestory windows flood the room with light.

Due to the vastness of the space, the design team also felt it necessary to break the room down into smaller visual pieces. According to Cummings, Linosom enabled the designers to address the increased specification demands, without compromising style, with a field of gold with terra cotta and sage green accents.

“The diamond flooring pattern used in the multi-purpose room was designed to mirror the pattern of the ceiling,” Cummings said. “It was also used to break the space into three smaller segments. In the serving area, the pattern actually serves as a guide leading the visually impaired into the space.”

The Design InSite team complemented the custom-designed floors with walls of soft gold and sage green, and cream walls accented by cherry wood. Braille Institute San Diego was designed by architect Chris Gedrose of Architects/Larson/Carpenter, and opened to students in February 1999.

The multi-purpose dining area offered challenges all its own.

Mission accomplished

Cummings said that, to date, the Braille Institute installations have met or exceeded the expectations of both her and her client. She credits the conscientious professionalism of installer Astra Flooring and distributor Diamond W Floor Covering for the smooth completion of the project.

“We are very pleased with the look and performance of the Azrock flooring products,” said Barry Kaye, Braille Institute San Diego’s vice president of Operations. “We look forward to many beautiful years with this installation.”

Design InSite is an affiliation of certified interior design firms qualified to work with building, life-safety, flammability and disabled access code issues for interior spaces.