It’s definitely a house party! Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon (RMH BC) recently saw several spaces within its Vancouver-based House redesigned, including renovations to the playroom and teen lounge as well as a vibrant mural installation in the outdoor sport court, all made possible through contributions by members of the B.C. building and design community. Says RMH BC’s CEO Richard Pass, “We aspire to offer engaging and inspiring play spaces for children of all ages, as part of our core mission to support every family that stays at Ronald McDonald House. We are so grateful to our community and many donors who made these transformations possible. Many moments of joy and excitement await kids and families, now and in the future, as they explore these refreshed and reimagined spaces.” We chatted with Jamie Banfield, Cathy Radcliffe and Elyse Dodge, the designers/artists behind this project, to learn more. —Noa Nichol
Hi Jamie! Did you consult with the children at all when making plans for the redesign?
We did! We created a survey for the children in the home and gathered an understanding of what they wanted, how they would like to use the space and what they liked. It was amazing to see the boys favorite color was magenta and girls loving blues and greens. These children and are amazing and intelligent, we 100% learned so much from the little ones.
Have you received any feedback (yet) from the kids and families at RMH BC?
I had a chance to play with one family in the House and it was amazing. The children took over the space and removed all boundaries, stereotypes as for a moment an astronaut was cutting my hair and then a little bank robber had a purse full of hundreds! It was fun to see how imaginative the space turned out—it was reimagined just the way we dreamed it would! Upon completing the playroom redesign, the family thanked us as it felt like a breath of fresh air—something their daughters looked forward to and a moment of “kids being kids,” while taking all thoughts away from mum and dad!
What’s your favourite thing about the updated playroom?
Oh! It has to be the kitchen. Mum, honestly where was this kitchen when I was growing up? We have worked on kitchen projects of all sizes, but none quite like this! We created a ‘farmhouse’ kitchen sink look from a wall mount bathroom vanity, with quartz countertops, and induction cooktop, wood open shelving and shiplap backsplash – all very trendy in today’s kitchens. We wanted to incorporate the little details, including accessories made from wood with a little capuchin maker, toaster and metal pots and pans.
Why is being involved in a project like this important to you, as a design professional?
This project was so good for our team. It took our heads out of the norm of projects we work on and into such a loving and happy space when the world around us was not in such a position. From the first tour and dinner experience I had at the House (cooking dinner for families), I completely fell in love with everything RMH stands for and all the amazing work they do every day for families across the province.
Cathy, how did your work with RMH BC come about, and what made it most compelling for you to join in?
I have a good friend who works with RMH BC, and she reached out to me and another friend, Margot Jagger, who is also a designer, to come in for a friendly and informal chat about the teen lounge, and asked if we had any tips about next steps. After seeing the House and being in the space, we offered on the spot to donate our time to completely redesign this space.
What design updates did you do to the teen lounge? What was your inspiration?
My colleague Teigan Jorgensen, Margot and I took our lead from the beautiful and striking architecture and existing finishes of the House (West Coast Modern), its nature-based, Vancouver locale (nestled at the base of mountains, ocean and forest), with the most important consideration the teens who would be using this space. We stripped the room of its former vivid lime green, grey and orange palette and introduced a colourful but muted palette of soft blues, mossy greens, magenta and burnt orange. We were going for cozy and textured, very natural and organic, with an overall homey vibe. We retained the existing fir bookcase and painted it out a soft light grey, and added wallpaper around the perimeter to add depth and dimension, and again the feeling of a home, and layered art and media screens over the paper. The new drapes provide the feeling of privacy and cocooning, but are still sheer enough that views to the lovely landscaping are still accessible. Finally, we created several flexible zones so kids can sit quietly and comfortably on their own with a book (or their phone!) or easily spin around to be part of the action with others in the gaming space.
Did you consult with the teens at all when making plans for the redesign?
Absolutely! The wonderful people at RMH BC had previously surveyed the teens and gave us their wish list during our first meeting, which was key to generating the design concept, planning the zones and imagining how various teens of all ages would potentially use the room. We are happy to say were able to include everything on their list, including the neon sign! Our hope is that kids will enjoy this space as a respite from stress and feel the love that went into creating it.
Have you received any feedback (yet) from the youth and families at RMH BC?
Yes, and so far it has been very positive. Older teens have used the room to write papers and do homework, and RMH BC is considering offering the room to their families to book for movie nights. People seem to feel very at home, since the room is now filled with books, games, collected items from vintage stores, lots of low lighting, and very comfy and low-slung seating where kids can sprawl. We really wanted the kids to feel like they had a mature space that felt like being in a friend’s home—authentic, cozy, relaxed. The name of the teen lounge has now been changed to The Den, which we think is the perfect name to describe the feeling we were aiming for.
What’s your favourite thing about the updated teen lounge?
That’s a tough one! Probably the carpet, which is so rich in soft colours and tones and ties in all the colours of the House and its natural setting.
Why is being involved in a project like this important to you, as a design professional?
Teigan, Margot and I loved collaborating on this project and it was the bright spark, professionally, for us during the difficult Covid period. The design was pure fun and an exciting outlet for our creativity. Most important, just knowing that we were creating something that might replicate the feeling of home, and help the kids and their families during this incredibly stressful times in their lives, was tremendously rewarding. We were so honoured to help—even in the smallest way—and to give back to our community and to be involved with this amazing organization.
Elyse, you created a beautiful mural for the House. How did your work with RMH BC come about, and what made it most compelling for you to join in?
Working with children has always been a passion of mine since the early days when I was a 16-year-old Rhythmic Gymnastics helping coach young kids. Now as a mother to two young boys (a 7-month-old and a 3-year-old), I can only imagine the challenges that the families at the Ronald McDonald House are faced with every day. The opportunity to help bring some joy and colour to a dark chapter in many people’s lives was something that I simply could not turn down. Children are the light in our world so doing something special for them was something I was thrilled to be a part of.
What was the old court like, and what was your inspiration for your Panorama Ridge mural?
The old court was just lacking some colour and a focal point to help frame the play area. The space had all the ingredients for something special but just needed some artwork to help bring it all together. I like to incorporate the setting and location in my artwork while also considering how the mural will be experienced. The outdoor sport court is a space where the children and their imagination can run wild, so I wanted to make sure that the mural complemented that sense of playfulness. I chose Panorama Ridge as the landscape as it is one of the most inspiring panoramic views in BC and reminds me of the feeling of taking in a breath of fresh air. The colours in the artwork incorporate the primary blue and yellow of the court while adding in the angular shapes from the contemporary architecture surrounding it.
Did you consult with the kids at all when making plans for the mural? Have you received any feedback (yet) from the youth and families at RMH BC?
During the brainstorming phase of this mural, we were in the early days of the Covid pandemic and I was unfortunately unable to travel from LA back to Canada. This meant virtual meetings, online planning and getting creative around the execution of the mural itself. In order to create the mural in Vancouver, I had to design a giant paint by numbers and enlist the support of a talented local artist, James Knight, to help paint the mural onsite. Two years after the mural was painted, I was finally able to visit the work in person and hear about the positive impact the mural was having on families at RMH BC. Parents told me about how seeing the Panorama canvas prints within the House combined with the mural outside brought a moment of beauty to otherwise hectic days. Most of the families have to juggle working remotely while also dealing with the dark reality of having a loved one battling health issues and they expressed how my art became the view from their everyday space. It meant so much to me to hear that despite the chaos of their lives, that the staff, patients and families were able to stop and enjoy a moment of peace while looking at my artwork.
What’s your favourite thing about the updated court?
I love how the mural is so well integrated within the outdoor sports court—from the colour and shapes in the playroom and the court to the angles in the modern architecture and playhouse. This colourful court is their escape from the darkness of the rest of their days and watching those kids play outside with the artwork as their backdrop just filled me with hope. My favourite thing was seeing the joy on the kids’ faces as they played and watching as the parents enjoyed a moment of peace in that very special and sacred space.
Why is being involved in a project like this important to you, as an artist?
Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon is such an impressive, inspiring and beautiful space to be (in every way). The team are truly making a difference in the lives of the families and children who are facing some of the hardest seasons of their lives and it is an honour to be a part of the difference they are making. As an artist, my aim is to inspire people to use their imagination and see their world as something full of beauty and colour. There could not be a location more fitting or an audience more deserving of an inspiring work of art than Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon.