Gone are the days when a visit to the hospital meant waiting in a stark, white room devoid of character. Today’s hospital interior spaces are being designed for comfort and function, creating an atmosphere where patients feel more at ease.
Reclining chairs and television sets have become a staple in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. Splashes of color have also invaded the previously sterile space, especially in facilities dedicated to pediatric care.
“Calming colors are always welcome and a few robust bursts in a children's hospital will definitely make it less foreboding,” according to Maybelline Te, who in 2009 earned a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design degree from The Art Institute of Charlotte.
But that does not mean the white walls have completely disappeared.
“Nowadays, white doesn't have to feel sterile, with the many forms and textures available. White on white can be exciting by mixing Corian, high pressure and engineered laminates, sustainable flooring, and bioplastics that are easy to clean and look very contemporary,” Te says.
REDUCING STRESS THROUGH HEALTHCARE DESIGN
When a patient enters a healthcare facility, he or she can be experiencing anxiety and stress. A calming environment that is functional for both the patient and the healthcare professionals is essential.
The National Institute of Building Sciences states that, “hospital patients are often fearful and confused and these feelings may impede recovery. Every effort should be made to make the hospital stay as unthreatening, comfortable, and stress-free as possible.”
The Institute recommends that interior designers address these issues by including familiar and culturally relevant materials into their hospital designs — as well as utilizing cheerful and varied textures, ample natural light, and incorporating views of the outdoors.
It also recommends integrating way-finding signage into all designs to eliminate the stress of becoming lost in a large medical facility.
CREATING AN EXPERIENCE
Te states that healthcare interior design is focused on the patient's overall experience as well as the staff’s efficiency, functionality, and ease of flow.
“Taking into account the five senses, a patient's comfort and safety can be easily enhanced and achieved with the use of contemporary materials, textures, and scents that balance its healing effect with its high function. A successfully designed space surpasses basic needs.”
Designers are also choosing to go natural, in an effort to create a relaxing and stress-reducing atmosphere.
Today’s designs include “bringing the outside in with expansive views of surrounding nature and landscaping, living walls, [and] natural and ambient LED lighting,” Te says.
She mentions that “cocooning curves instead of sharp corners add to the comfort factor and work well for infection control” areas. Utilizing different ceiling heights, textures, decorative partitions, water features, and vinyl films like 3M's Di-Noc also create interesting visuals to distract patients.
“Nowadays, hospitals are looking more like spas and resorts, and this is such a welcome change,” Te says.
She cites the Duke Integrative Medical Center as an example of this new design trend. Designed by Duda/Paine Architects, the center won the American Institute of Architects annual National Design Award for Health Care.
The Medical Center, which cost $11 million and is 27,000 square feet, is located next to the wooded areas of Duke Forest.
Duda/Paine Architects created a space that melded the natural outdoor surroundings, including the Gothic-style buildings of Duke University’s West Campus. The building is also LEED certified, demonstrating the industry’s trend toward creating environmentally friendly designs.
BECOMING A HEALTHCARE INTERIOR DESIGN SPECIALIST
Interior designers typically take courses to fine tune their design skills and get up to date with the latest trends and technology. Degrees from diplomas to master’s are awarded based on the level of education completed.
Te adds that real-world experience is instrumental when it comes to specializing in a particular interior design niche. She states that healthcare interior design is a specialization within commercial interior design.
“Like in any field, one must start with firms who specialize in the industry. There is much to learn, from the basics to the continuous advancements in medical technology and its evolving needs, and new materials that keep making it interesting,” she concludes.
Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite
Contributing writer for EDMC.