How to do it... Design

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How to do it... Design
How to do it... Design

Increasingly, designers are becoming more creative in designing and furnishing living spaces in long-term care facilities. Fun touches now punctuate a facility, brightening living quarters beyond ways mentioned in textbook descriptions. Experts describe here how to add some life to the appearance of resident rooms and common areas.


Recreating reality, so to speak, is a popular option for otherwise plain, often windowless, spaces. Translucent panels printed with photographic images of the sky, the outdoors or a landscape can be placed in front of lighting in the ceiling or in the wall, suggests Monica Wierzba, OneSource Designer for Joerns Healthcare.

“Once powered, it appears as if you are truly viewing the outdoors.  These products are ideal for any areas of a facility that do not have the benefit of natural lighting and provide comfort and vitality.”


Enlivening living spaces with various aesthetic elements can improve a resident's physical and emotional well being, Wierzba adds.

 “Water features that may have once been limited to the lobby are now being designed to be more user-friendly and safe so that they can be used in other areas of the facility,” she says. Water features can be enclosed in glass to promote safety and cleanliness.

“The result is a unique art form with the soothing properties of water that is not affected by the residents' touch,” Wierzba says.


Providers also can create alternative settings with murals or custom paint schemes on room dividers and closet doors,” notes Justin Norman, manager at Woodfold Mfg. Accordion dividers, for example, can be created with a colorful world map design.

“This can give people the opportunity to look at places they have been and share stories,” Norman explains. “A multi-color panel scheme can also enliven a room, depending on the other interior choices.”


Lucite panels can help create nursing stations that look more like a concierge desk, cutting down the institutional feel of a facility, says Jacki Zumsteg, manager of Design Operations for Invacare. She also recommends “play areas,” such as grocery stores and offices, for dementia residents.

“Rather than having one massive activity room, create smaller areas that would allow individual activities such as dress up, and play shopping (boutique) for hats, purses, jewelry and scarves,” Zumsteg says.

Similarly, the proper artwork, tables, seating and lighting could simulate a nightclub, complete with musical instruments a resident could use.


Window treatments and even ceiling swatches can give a resident room a newer, fun expression, several experts pointed out.

“Dramatic window treatments” can “add interest and style to any space,” says Judith Sisler Johnston, president of Sisler Johnston Interior Design. “They add a fun, energetic look … (and) allow abundant natural light in and do not block the beautiful natural views outside.”

She also favors so-called “lifestyle” walls, on which collectibles, photographs and other meaningful accessories can be collected.


Special glass-front cabinets can hold memorabilia or other objects to display, adds Nancy Armstrong, president of Thermatics. Memorable items, such as photos or art, can be stored in them, creating a focal point and reducing clutter in a room.

Chart holders, magazine racks, directional signs, room numbers and more can all be personalized to positive effect.

“Humanizing utilitarian elements can enhance a patient's experience by adding color and theme through thoughtful, creative design,” Armstrong says.


Mix and match fabrics on staples as simple as chairs also can create a more fun appearance, points out Michael Zusman, CEO of Kwalu.

“Pairing a vinyl seat with a patterned chair back brings a unique look to any space. With a variety of back inserts to choose from, dining room chairs are transformed into conversation pieces,” he adds. “Fabrics and finish can make all the difference.”


Mistakes to avoid

-Limiting your imagination with what flourishes can be included where. Try more

-Taking for granted that residents (and family members) are always content with their surroundings

-Not varying colors, fabrics, window treatments and other “soft” touches enough