How to do it... Integrating beds into design

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Beds are literally the biggest, and often most significant, item in a resident room. Consequently, integrating beds into room spaces requires a keen eye toward safety, utility and ambience — all in the context of very limited area. Experts advise here how to make the most of these undeniable room anchors.


Designers often begin with evaluating the right type and size of the bed because it often dictates the surroundings. Deanna Krause, senior manager, Marketing Communications and Events, HD Supply, advises facilities to purchase electric beds for their sheer utility, comfort and safety features. She also says to ensure that the bed allows enough clearance under the frame for equipment such as over-bed tables and portable lifts. 

Laurie Smith, an interior designer for Invacare Interior Design, advises carefully considering the width of the bed to ensure unobstructed pathways. 

An important yet easy-to-forget rule: Three feet minimum clearance is required on all open sides of the bed, says Karen Schiller, another Invacare Interior Design interior designer. 

Meanwhile, Kari Harbaugh, a product consultant for Direct Supply Equipment & Furnishings, warns against choosing too narrow a bed. She recommends beds that allow staff to electronically lock out certain features such as “high-low” settings that could put some confused residents at safety risk.


There are a number of ways to maximize limited space a bed normally dominates, including modular furniture that incorporates desks, wardrobes and nightstands — even mini-fridges, says Lissa Rolenc, senior interior designer for Direct Supply Aptura. Such combos can also serve as a natural divider in semi-private rooms, she adds. 

In private rooms, bed dominance can be mitigated by positioning the bed off-center, says Linda Nash, Invacare Interior Design interior designer. 

Colleague Harbaugh recommends features such as those that make beds double as chairs, allowing the resident to adjust settings for reading, watching TV or socializing.


Safety is the biggest priority with integrating beds into room design. Krause suggests built-in nightlights in headboards and frames, adding, “There must be enough room for the nurse to work efficiently and effectively, and possibly accommodate equipment.”

One overlooked safety point, says Krause: Ensuring the bed is narrow enough to fit through all doors in case of fire.

Jacki Zumsteg, the manager of Design Operations for Invacare Interior Design, advises considering furniture or obstacles that a resident might encounter on the way to the restroom, as well as keeping all resident rooms' design simple, consistent and controlled, to avoid anomalies such as large, bulky recliners that can create egress and flammability hazards. 

Krause cautions facilities to purchase beds “that do not travel away from the wall when putting the head of the bed up and down.” Rolenc advises getting “soft and washable” bedspreads instead of “silky” to avoid slippage, and also ensuring surrounding furniture has rounded edges and corners. Harbaugh also recommends adjustable low-height beds that minimize rolling if casters aren't set, and fall mats on either side.


Placing the bed in a position allowing outdoor viewing can have a healing and calming effect.

Incorporating design elements that will allow the resident to enjoy television, music, private conversation and comfortable guest seating also is desirable, says Nancy Semon, manager of Interior Design and Product Sales for Invacare Interior Design. 

Her colleague Schiller advises room dividers with openings versus curtains for a nicer ambience in semi-private rooms. 

Simple touches such as wall coverings or paint accents on headboard walls can make a huge difference, adds Rolenc.

“Artwork above the headboard and a lamp instead of an over-bed light” are also nice touches, she adds. 

Nash also suggests placing pleasing artwork and bulletin boards so they are visible from the bed.