Darren Saines has elevated this rehabilitation centre’s garden from odd shrubs and a table tennis table to a colourful oasis for tranquillity and pleasant conversation

In 2016, CatoSenteret got the garden it had been dreaming of, with beautiful plants, lighting and furniture from Vestre. It has become not only an outside space for great conversation, a place to withdraw to and find peace, but also a valuable addition to indoor treatment. One of Norway's best-known garden designers, Darren Saines, is the brains behind the project. In this article, you can read about the ideas and visions behind the inclusive and colourful outside space.

CatoSenteret is a non-profit foundation which helps people following their rehabilitation after cancer, fatigue, neurological problems, illness and other conditions. The professional and committed staff help the residents to rediscover their inner strength, so that they can overcome difficult situations and make their way back to everyday life.

Inside the centre in Son, which was opened in 1998, they have always had what they needed to perform this important task. However, the outside spaces, in beautiful surroundings with stunning views across the Oslo Fjord, have been an unutilised support mechanism for the residents’ rehabilitation, treatment, and recovery.

An empty space that could improve both patients’ stays and the workplace

Until 2016, the outside spaces consisted of a garden with some odd shrubs and a table tennis table. The management decided that the time had come to see how the areas around the buildings could be transformed to make patients’ stays better and more successful. At the same time, they wanted to make CatoSenteret an even better workplace and a great place for relations to visit.

To achieve this, Darren Saines, one of Norway’s best-known garden designers, knew that a lot of plants and colours were needed.

“At a rehabilitation centre, people can easily end up spending a lot of time in their own rooms, surrounded by four white walls. So, it's good to be able to come out and experience something a little different,” Darren points out.

The empty spaces between the buildings was transformed into an inclusive meeting space. Around the central reflection pool, which offers both peace and movement, there are flowers and greenery, atmospheric lighting, cosy zones with heat lamps and an outdoor kitchen for everyone to enjoy.

Social meeting places, green zones and furniture for long and short stays

Along with the barbecue, the tables and benches both come from the POP collection. With their delicate form, they are well-suited to gardens like this, and the furniture is often combined with planters from the same collection. With POP, Darren wanted to create a sociable dining area:

“We placed the dining area under a roof, considering that a lot of people like to eat in the shade.”

Darren also points out that he chose the sun loungers from the APRIL collection for the zones that require extra comfort and are intended for longer meetings or complete relaxation. He has scattered the circular benches from the STRIPES collection around the area, so that they can function as more flexible meeting points.

“People may not sit here for very long, but they make excellent meeting places. With STRIPES, people have a great seating area for shorter meetings”, explains Darren.

Colourful choices to promote mental health and wellbeing

In line with colour theory and the way in which colours can influence people’s mood and state of mind, furniture from Vestre has been used in vibrant colours to give the area a cheerful and vibrant feel.

“It’s great to be able to add a bit of colour, and I think it contributes to a nice harmony in the garden. The colours make the outside space more vibrant, and I think that can also contribute in a positive way to mental health and wellbeing. Both the furniture and the colours are an important part of the whole.”

Two simple but strict furniture requirements from Darren

Darren has two strict requirements regarding furniture when he is creating solutions for projects with outside spaces which are going to be used extensively, like the garden for CatoSenteret.

  1. The furniture must not require a lot of maintenance and should stay in good condition year after year without needing much attention.
  2. It has to be comfortable.

“That's why we like to use furniture from Vestre – because it looks good and doesn’t need a lot of attention to keep it looking attractive. Of course, people also want to sit on it, and that is surely the main point of furniture – that people think it’s comfortable and want to sit there”, he clarifies.

Furniture from Vestre is powder-coated in a range of colours at no extra cost, in the same way as steel on offshore platforms. This makes it easy to tailor the furniture to suit each individual project. It also ensures that it will last for years in all kinds of weather, virtually maintenance-free.

The result: A meaningful meeting place with an invaluable role during the pandemic

The garden is frequently used for a wide variety of activities – from relaxing gardening for patients to work meetings for the staff. During the coronavirus pandemic, the outside meeting place has also become invaluable after a ban on visitors was introduced at the centre:

“During the coronavirus pandemic, the garden has served as a gathering place for residents with visitors. Since we have had, and still have, a ban on visitors inside the centre, all visits have taken place outside. Many people have therefore used the garden as the setting for their visit, with barbecues and cosy gatherings,” says Ingvild Grimstad, a member of staff at CatoSenteret.

It's a pleasure for us at Vestre to be involved in projects where the furniture’s function so clearly comes into its own. Projects where sustainable, attractive and colourful design come together to create meeting places that encourage a sense of togetherness and care for each other in places where people meet.

Meeting places which are designed with care for the many people who use them, and which consider their varied needs. Meeting places which are designed with care for the environment, with the help of the greenest solutions and materials available.

We call them “caring meeting places”.