How to do it... Good impressions

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No matter where you are or what you do, you have only one chance to make a good first impression. How can providers put their best foot forward when it comes to courting visitors and potential residents? For starters, have an attractive, warm entrance and common areas. Appropriate furnishings and other design elements, along with outstanding personal attention will go a long way toward putting your facility at the top of somebody's wish list. Send out the right signals by observing some top tips from furnishing and design experts.

1 The lobby/foyer/entrance area should be inviting, like walking into someone's home. Some ways you can accomplish this are with fireplaces and intimate seating arrangements that are warm and inviting, says Jacki Zumsteg of Invacare Continuing Care Group. "The lobby is crucial to first impressions, and the more appealing it is, the better the visit will go," she noted.

2 Entrances should feel welcoming, not institutional, adds Paula L. Bradley, senior corporate designer for Graham-Field Health Products. "Use plants, floor or wall fountains, artwork. Try to use fabrics, color, art and accessories that are related to that particular region of the country," she explains.

3 Try to carry through points of your entrance design into the care unit, whether it be through color, flooring, artwork or other means. "The important point is your entrance should not appear to be extravagant while the unit appears on a tight budget," Bradley says. "Plan for your design to flow throughout the building."

4 Paying attention to detail is critical when it comes to creating a good impression.
Invacare's Zumsteg says having stylish window treatments, artwork, plants, decor and accessories are details that will not go unnoticed. "These types of things should not be limited to just the lobby," she added. "These details can do a lot to enhance the overall look of the entire facility."

5 While worrying about the inside, you should also think about what's outside your facility's doors. "Take into consideration the history of the surrounding area when selecting the décor," Zumsteg advises. "Often, items are donated reflecting the area and its history and those items can be organized, and displayed in a shadow box."

6 Of course, clutter should be removed from entryways, as well as hallways and other well-traveled areas. Cleanliness is paramount. This means no visible stains on floors and furniture. And you also must make sure your facility passes a true smell test upon entering. Every hour of every day. The fanciest or homiest decor in the world won't make up for signs of sloppy cleaning or maintenance.

7 Your chances of making a good first impression rise if you have a reception-type area, or at minimum an office with an open door, and a smiling staff member who can answer questions. "It's sometimes intimidating for family members to visit for the first time," Graham-Field's Bradley reminds. It is very important to remember that first-time visitors usually are at least a little bit leery, if not downright cynical. A little bit of extra effort for these guests is usually worth the effort involved.

8 Part of the entry design should include places for friendly, well-informed staff. Other living beings – such as pets — also can be a good fit. A dog, for example, can easily make a new place feel like home," Zumsteg notes. Other items, such as aquariums can have profound effects on the impression your facility gives.

9 Lighting should be taken into consideration as well. There should be plenty of natural light available to any common area near the entrance. Many providers make the mistake of covering too much or using too many artificial sources of light. You do not want this area to appear anything less than bright and cheerful. Vivid lighting will make your facility, and the people in it, seem more vibrant, which is exactly what you want for many reasons.

Mistakes to avoid
— Jazzing up your lobby so much that the rest of the facility pales in comparison.
— Not decorating or furnishing with local tastes and styles in mind.
— Neglecting basic considerations such as clearing up clutter, stains and other blemishes within sight of the entrance.
— Going light on plants and other "living" elements such as aquariums or pets.