Design Reveal

As we celebrate the first year anniversary of our local YMCA, I am reminded of the extraordinary importance of community. A place to come together, young and old, of many faiths and ethnic backgrounds, and stages in our lives and celebrate. The simple act of taking care and valuing ourselves and others. Cheers to belonging.


Most of the time, when you walk into an office building, store or fitness center, you don’t consider the thought process behind the design. Sometimes there perhaps wasn’t much thought given. However, other times there is much time, devotion and research put into a building design. This is certainly the case for the brand new, Exeter Area YMCA, set to open later this week, on September 11th, 2015.

There is a dizzying amount of information regarding the importance of linking planned space and the brain, especially in health care settings. I was so lucky to work with a staff that took interest in the importance of neuroscience and were willing to begin to implement some of what that research tells us into the design footprint for the new Exeter Area YMCA. I don’t know another YMCA in the country that has gone to the lengths that we have to embrace these concepts.

Entrance to the new Exeter Area YMCA!

Entrance to the new Exeter Area YMCA!

Because of their grounding effect and link to the earth, we have carefully weaved the five earth elements throughout the design.


From the moment you walk into the space you are greeted with warm and earthy tones that help members feel safe, secure and welcomed. The earthy browns and camel tones in the stained concrete invoke the earth element. Sure underfoot and grounding.



As you move to the reception desk you are welcomed by green reed-like veneer panels and one of the most intriguing and exciting products I have had the chance to work with in a long time! JM Lifestyles created the transaction desk for the front lobby. In it’s turmeric and stone colored hues, it is a composite of concrete and recycled material that has been painstakingly poured into wood form molds. The result is a smooth, textural invitation that belies the eye. In every way, it looks and feels like wood, yet it is a durable, sustainable material. It also holds body heat, so it stays warm to the touch providing a comfortable tactile experience. We think people will probably hang out a little bit longer than usual, just to absorb the essence and maybe linger in conversation a bit longer as well. 

Reception desk by JM Lifestyles

Reception desk by JM Lifestyles



As you turn around you are welcomed by the awesome and majestic waterfall recognition wall. This two story sculpture tells the story of many dedicated hands and connects water and wood in a way that could not be found more perfectly in nature. 

Two-story waterfall at the Exeter Area YMCA

Two-story waterfall at the Exeter Area YMCA


The recycled wave panels, designed by 3Form, spill into an imaginative wading pool of blue concrete and are anchored by the comforting and layered wood so generously donated by Northland Forest Products in Kingston, NH.

3 Form WaterfallWood:

Wood is known for it’s calming and centering properties. It helps to lower blood pressure and relax the pre-frontal cortex. You will notice that this and many other species of wood grace the entire facility from the teen center to the meeting rooms and even in the yoga studio. It’s beauty and resiliency is purposefully echoed throughout.

Fitness room at the Exeter Area YMCA

Fitness room at the Exeter Area YMCA

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A meandering tributary will take you past earthen color tones that are repeated throughout the building to bring a sense of unity and feeling of nature.


One can follow the river to the far end of the building to our fourth earth element, fire. Primitive and life sustaining, this fireplace is flanked by earthen stone, donated by G & N Flooring and is meant to invoke the feeling of warmth and safety. It requests a conversation, and old friendship continued or a new one just begun. Sit and stay a spell.

YMCA design

YMCA fireplace


Lastly, air. This one is always tricky as it is not easy to grasp on to. You can wiggle your toes in the earth, caress wood, splash through water and receive warmth from a fire, but ether well…that’s up for interpretation! However, I feel that it’s the air we breath collectively, through bettering our bodies with exercise and bettering our minds with friendship and conversation. It’s the energy we receive and give as we move through this space. This space accounts for all the elements, event the most important; the human element.

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For our team at Mandeville Canyon Designs, we were honored to work with such a talented and dedicated group of people who kept their minds and hearts open to the idea of something different. Something that celebrates both the art and science of good design, but most of all, celebrates the most perfect design…people!

For more information on how to become a member at the new Exeter Area YMCA, please click here!

 * Mandeville Canyon Designs is exclusive distributor of this product in the Seacoast area!