The Princess Máxima Centre for Paediatric Oncology treats children and adolescents up to the age of 18 who are suffering from various types of cancer. They are often vulnerable, sad, insecure and coping with an incredible amount of stress and uncertainty. And on top of all that, they often lose their hair as a result of their treatment. This is yet another unpleasant experience they have to deal with.
When we were commissioned to design the Salon Haarwensen, where these young patients receive attractive hair pieces made of real hair, we started brainstorming. What do these extremely sick children like? And above all, what don’t they like?
Many children hate seeing their last remaining hair shaved off and would prefer not to watch. Thus, the salon needed to be a safe, pleasant space. We also needed to make room for mum, dad, brothers and sisters, because it can help to have them nearby. But there wasn’t a lot of space available. The salon consisted of three small rooms, which seemed to limit the possibilities. So, we decided to do something drastic: we created a large wooden element to connect the rooms. This element also functions as a cupboard, storage space and stowed seating.
The salon has three zones. The hair salon itself, with a dressing table and a mirror, which can be easily moved to make room for a television to provide distraction. If desired, the salon can offer complete privacy thanks to a sliding door, which is also integrated into the furniture. Then, there is a lounge area where children can relax alone or with their family while their hairpiece is adjusted. Finally, to complete the whole, we included a corner with an inviting round table where the patient and family can sit down for a chat. On the walls, which are painted in soft, subdued colours, are proud photos of patients with their new hairpieces, drawings and thank-you notes. There is even a large whiteboard where people can leave a message or a drawing.
The Salon Haarwensen has, with a limited budget, become a high-quality, relaxing place that is sensitive to its young clients’ needs. A warm and welcoming environment, where children and teenagers battling cancer have space to be themselves.