Abet Laminati was chosen by Perkins+Will, Chicago to supply the colorful laminate for a new community center benefiting children in the underserved Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago.
During a span of close to 20 years, Debbie Frisch served 56 children from birth to age 5 as a foster mom where she specialized in infant and short-term placements for children and families in Chicago. Most of the kids she helped were newborns to 3 year olds from high-risk homes or neighborhoods. Lacking safe and stimulating community play spaces, some of the children arrived with developmental delays that could be improved through play. Debbie knew she could do more to help.
Debbie founded HelloBaby, a not for profit organization whose mission is to support, empower and inspire families raising young children in under-resourced neighborhoods in Chicago. She then developed a community space called Hello Baby in Woodlawn, Chicago, to provide a safe, clean place for toddlers to play and for infants to crawl, walk, stand, and do tummy time.
Design firm Perkins+Will donated their professional services to help Debbie bring her vision to life. Hello Baby is near Washington Park, so interior designer Sunny Ao worked to bring the nature theme inside. The toddler-height coat hooks are designed to look like berry bushes, a green carpet evokes grass, puddle-shaped perches in blue fabrics represent water and cloud-shaped acoustic ceiling baffles tie the look together.
Architect Shannon Gedey says, “Debbie’s team came to us with a beautiful, happy color palette which we expanded into shades and tones with laminates for durability and ease of maintenance. We picked ABET Laminati for their great green laminate color, Verde Mela, which is bold and universally appealing to both adults and children. Far and away, ABET Laminati had the best, cleanest brights to match our palette. We would have sourced laminates from multiple vendors, but in the end, ABET Laminati had all the colors we needed.”
Designer Pamela Steiner developed rainbow toy cubbies clad with ABET’s laminates to adorn the space, inspiring adults to teach the children to recognize and name different colors. A cozy nook with an upholstered platform anchors the front of the space next to the windows. Rolling drawers clad in green laminate serve to store oversized toys below, while coordinating laminate shelves display smaller toys close at hand.
Debbie says, “Through my work with families, I saw that this neighborhood was a “play desert” – an area lacking in quality play spaces for children – so we created an indoor play space for kids birth to 3 accompanied by a caregiver. We wanted to provide an environment with developmentally-appropriate toys and play features so critical for brain development. We also wanted a place for caregivers to connect and for kids to socialize. The space is designed to allow play to happen organically between caregivers and their children. It’s not a day care. Parents and caregivers stay with their children and play with them, giving them the space to model the right behaviors for their little ones to practice making a friend.”
Debbie notes, “People literally gasp at the toy cubbies because they’re so beautiful. There’s a lot of little surprises in the space and that is one. People say it’s one of the most beautiful spaces in Woodlawn. It’s calming, inviting and inspiring.”
Debbie hopes to build additional spaces in similar at-risk communities and will spend the next year gathering impact metrics to demonstrate that her concept works. So far, she’s pleased with the results. “We’ve had moms from the north and south side coming to our facility because there is nothing else quite like us. Moms and caregivers appreciate that they have something close by and accessible. But we’ve also brought families of different socio-economic backgrounds together and are bringing commerce to this corridor. I love seeing the connections that are being made. Kids are connecting with other kids their age and its magic. They’re so happy.”
Photo credit: Andrews Braddy Studio
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The Wrigley Building
410 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Shannon Gedey, AIA
600 E. 61st Street
Chicago, IL 60637
Founder and President
60 West Sheffield Ave.
Englewood, NJ 07631