Sheridan students set to install hand-made furniture in new $7.5M hospice for children

Sheridan furniture students created a cloud-shaped table that would easily accommodate the arms of wheelchairs.
Karen Ho/

A group of third-year Sheridan College students are going to have furniture they custom designed installed at Emily’s House, the first children’s hospice in the Greater Toronto Area.

Established by the Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care (PAC), the $7.5 million facility for pediatric palliative care was initially a case study for the final-year practical furniture class at Sheridan College, led by professor Peter Fleming.

Charles Rosenberg, the principal of Hildich Architects, the firm building the centre, was so impressed by the final products he applied to the Daglish Family Foundation for support to facilitate and complete the project. “He said ‘This is a great project and we’d like to go ahead with this’,” Fleming told “He secured $25,000 in funding.”

Eight separate pieces were designed and developed by the 14 third-year students, including a dual purpose bench, and  a cabinet that doubles as a shallow baptismal pool. The class also consulted extensively with PAC’s executive director Rauni Salminen. “Seven weeks ago they got the go-ahead and they built all this in that time,” Fleming said.

Sheridan students Simon Ford and Lauren Reed designed and produced a cloud-shaped table that would easily accommodate the arms of wheelchairs, allowing patients in wheelchairs to sit closer and more comfortably during meals.

Students in the practical furniture program also learn job-relevant skills like how to work to deadline, develop complex proposals and budget.

But Fleming said there was a high possibility the success of projects like the one for Emily’s House would extend far beyond its installation in May. “The architecture firm will also now have a pool of individuals that they can talk to about future projects and help them as they develop their own careers as designers and makers,” he said.

In addition to setting up their own studios, Fleming said many students would also go work for places like Herman Miller Furniture, Global or Canadian houseware company Umbra. “There’s multiple levels of the design field they can enter once they leave the program,” he said.

The money from the Daglish Family Foundation allowed the students to fully cover the cost of materials and financially contribute to their year-end exhibition, drastically reducing the need for fundraising.

Fleming said it was important the project was featured as part of Sheridan’s applied research and innovation showcase at its Oakville campus on Wednesday.

“Research at Sheridan is not just about developing a new software thing,” he said. “It can be something that can touch people’s lives on a very concrete manner.”

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