Full of Beans

Beanbags first came into my world in the early 80s when Mum and Dad bought me and my brother one each for our den, aka the spare bedroom, home also to our “music centre” and BBC Micro computer.  Museum pieces now, I know.  Stephen had an orange beanbag and mine was sage green.  We loved our beanbags using them not only as seats but weapons from time to time; nothing quite like having a bean bag hurled at you in brotherly rage.  I think the orange one bit the dust first but the green one, after I left for University, turned into my brother’s TV spot.  Beanbag, beer and peanuts; that was him sorted for an evening of TV viewing.

Beanbags have come back into my life since then on a few occasions; we have used them in teen bedrooms in show homes and for a couple of residential projects.  Up until recently though I had only really considered the qualities of comfort and predictably, colour in a beanbag.  All that changed when we took on a project for Young Epilepsy.  We needed a beanbag that would be comfortable and most importantly safe in a home that cared for children with severe learning difficulties. These beanbags were to provide supportive and flexible seating in a dedicated sensory area.  One of the many things I like about healthcare design is how it really makes you stop and think about the implications of design choices be it practical or behavioural.  When we started looking at beanbags for this project our tick list for suitability ruled out a number of suppliers in the standard retail market.  One company stood out for us though, Edge Beanbags.  Although they did not have an off the peg product which we could slot straight into the scheme, they were really keen to help and work with us to develop something that met all of our client’s needs.  We explained that the zip had to be sturdy and as meddle free as possible to prevent the children opening it.  The actual stitching of the bean bag could easily be picked at by the children and then further damage sustained so sturdy stitching was an important requirement.  The beanbag inner needed to be able to be removed from the cover by an adult yet in a way that did not make it easy for a child to do the same and unsurprisingly the beans needs to be super secure within the inner bag.  Being waterproof was key; the beanbag cover needed to be easily wipeable and ideally be constructed in an anti-microbial fabric.  Finally the beanbag needed to be comfortable and the sensory quality of the finished product was also important.

Catherine Hazell from our design team worked very closely with our supplier.  Keen to ensure that our client was completely happy with the proposed design, Edge Beanbags made a mock up.  Their design featured a large flap which disguised the zip so less likely to attract attention and possibly tampering.  The beanbag features an NHS approved liner around the beans and the stitching, placed on the bottom of the bag so again less likely to attract attention and possible picking, is extra tough.  The beanbag cover has been designed so that it cannot be removed by the children.  And finally working ourselves with manufacturers of waterproof and anti microbial vinyl which do not look institutional, between the two companies we were able to find a cover material which was fit for purpose but looked perfect in the rest of the scheme.

Edge Beanbags were flexible and understanding of our client needs, even going to the lengths of investing in a new sewing machine that could be used for stitching vinyl together, something they had never done before.  They were an absolute joy to work with and their open minded approach to producing a new product has offered up more business opportunities for them which I am delighted about.