Design decisions: No need to tip the valet

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Design decisions: No need to tip the valet
Design decisions: No need to tip the valet
During the all-too-brief summer months in upstate Webster, NY, the outdoor café at the Maplewood Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center has the feel of a bustling country club. Residents and their visitors can order from the outdoor bar, and dining services workers bring drinks and snacks right to café tables.

Maplewood's administrator, Greg Chambery, says it was great to see how much more comfortable visitors appeared when visiting with their loved ones in such a relaxed, pleasant environment.

“When the weather got cold at the end of the season, it felt like there was a void when we had to shut it down,” Chambery says.

It's this void that drove Chambery and his colleagues to overhaul the facilities' main dining area to create a more restaurant- or country club-like atmosphere. The budget for the project was $350,000.

Prior to the overhaul, Maplewood's dining area was not large enough for all of its 72 residents to eat meals at once, so dining times were divided to accommodate 36 residents at a time. Seating was assigned and there was nowhere for residents to wait for tables to open up.

“When there wasn't a meal actually going on, it seemed like an awful waste of space. We wanted space open all the time, almost like a coffee shop at a hospital,” Chambery says. “Those were the three dictates that drove us on our vision side.”

After nine months of planning the new area and three months of construction, the new dining area consists of a bar/waiting area called Danny's and a grill room called Happenings. Now, residents can come and go as they please at any time of the day and order off menus.

David Senise, president and owner of Spectrum Design Group, designed Danny's and Happenings.

“Greg challenged us to create a restaurant that made residents feel like they were going outside the building. It's an upscale dining room and restaurant,” Senise says. “We do a lot of healthcare, but I think Greg was much more open to being innovative and doing something that was just totally different and not typical of most facilities.”

To at once meet patient needs and score attractiveness points, Senise relied on a funky color scheme for Danny's and Happenings, yet made sure the dining area's surfaces—such as flooring— weren't slippery and that tables were adjustable.

One of the biggest challenges in designing the space was making it comfortable for residents who are capable of self-feeding and for those who are completely reliant on help from a caregiver. For example, Chambery didn't want much younger patients who are there for short-term rehab to be uncomfortable sitting next to a resident requiring assistance at meal times.

“You're torn between segregating those people, and having them be a part of what's going on,” Chambery explained of the decision.

Chambery and Senise decided to create separate areas using chain mail scrims, plants and other design elements that keep different residents separate but not completely isolated or walled off. The result is an area where everyone feels at home.

Lessons Learned

* Installing a wireless paging system can require a variance from the state Inspector General

* Administrators had to provide the state with lists of facilities that had open bathroom plans and silent call systems

* State long-term care regulators are still getting up to speed on homelike floor plans

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