With Liz O’Keeffe
National Account Manager for Vision’s Healthcare Division
Featuring healthcare establishments for the first time ever this year, our Style Awards searched high and low for the most stylish venues around the country. With an increasing demand for stylish respite, we spoke to National Account Manager for Vision’s Healthcare Division, Liz O’Keeffe, to find out exactly what clients are asking for when turning to healthcare interior design specialists.
What key themes or trends are you seeing emerge in healthcare design?
We work to soften some of the hard edges of design; to create an environment that feels like a luxury home rather than a 5-star hotel and to blend functionality with a homely appeal.
Working closely with care homes over the last few years, it’s clear to see how demand for stylish settings has increased. In communal areas, fireplaces have once again become a focal point of the room with people avoiding placing a large TV above and, instead, opted for arranging furniture around the area ensuring that the fireplace is centre stage.
Historically, healthcare establishments have felt clinical and uninspiring but now there seems to be a collective understanding that a care home has to offer a comfortable environment that does feel like home but provides something a resident will be proud of. Homelike comforts provide a sense of familiarity to a resident whilst nostalgic pieces ensure that they do not feel lost in a setting that doesn’t feel like their own. Through the use of decorative artwork – local landscapes, landmarks or comfortable chairs, in differing styles and of differing heights so as to aid interaction and encourage a community atmosphere.
Care home design is increasingly concerned with marrying up the outdoors with the available indoor space. We work to create inspiring interiors with plenty of natural light, low window heights and easily accessible outdoor space which work to promote health and wellbeing.
In fabrics and wallpapers, we’re seeing more metallic shades appearing including the use of gold, silver, and copper suggesting a move towards hotel-like qualities.
What have clients been asking for this year?
In healthcare, we’re seeing many of our customers request interiors that meet aesthetic requirements including dementia-friendly design which can help to reduce and ease the need for antipsychotic medications, prevent slips, trips, and falls, promote nutrition and health and encourage a greater level of independence.
With care providers on extremely tight budgets, it’s important to think about what they need in their venue to ensure all practical and functional aspects are met yet combine this with a visually pleasing and stimulating environment, conducive to the well-being of those that live there.
In terms of products, clients are increasingly looking for new and innovative products which reflect an understanding of resident needs. We’ve worked hard through 2016 to develop goods that play to the sensory stimulations of the residents including our most recent product; a memory cushion aimed at providing a nostalgic benefit to the resident whilst aiding them in reminiscence.
Has there been an increase in demands for luxurious healthcare establishments?
We’ve worked extensively to identify the most important factors to satisfy both the functionality aspects of a care home coupled with the design and the luxury feel.
As the purpose of a care home is different to that of a hotel or restaurant – we need to ensure we design spaces that draw someone into the communal areas which not only create a fun, social environment but also enable the staff to undertake careful and thorough resident management.
Creating spaces that have an element of luxury should not be done at the expense of practicality and that’s one of the biggest challenges I think we find. The practicality of a setting has to outweigh the need for it to look like a hotel lobby – but in many cases, both aspects are considered and adapted.
Rooms that are not coherent or are too busy in terms of decor can have a detrimental effect on a resident and this may stop them from using the space. This presents problems for the staff as it makes it harder to manage them in case of fire and such but also it defeats the point of having the space in the first place. We want to deliver a setting where residents feel comfortable at each and every point they come across within the home.
Budgets greatly influence the design and interior of a healthcare setting. Do you have any advice on how to make the money go further?
It’s all about how to combine colour and texture and use pieces that are suitable for a commercial environment. We always endeavour to choose pieces that are timeless and designed to last whilst also being appealing and not too faddy.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a designer fabric or a designer piece that’s utilised in the care home but the challenge for us is to create a high-quality environment with high-quality products at the right price.
Are you seeing an increase in facilities that you haven’t seen before?
Cinema and media rooms continue to be popular whilst we’re seeing a steady increase in the incorporation of spa facilities designed to increase the feeling of wellness in residents. It’s important to remember that although a care home needs to ‘feel like home’; residents should feel content and at ease. With a multitude of facilities to use and make the most of, a well thought-out care home should feel like a small community – where extra activities are encouraged to keep one’s mind stimulated.
Memorabilia rooms are also on the increase, particularly in social housing where we haven’t seen them previously.
What are the best trends you’ve personally seen in healthcare interiors?
Bringing the outdoors in through the use of colour and texture is definitely one of the most sought after interior design styles and one we feel works very well within a care home setting. This generates positive feelings for residents allowing them to continue to feel that they connect with nature and the outdoors. This is particularly useful for those residents that live with dementia.
Do you have any words of wisdom for establishments looking to hire an interior designer?
Choose someone who understands the impact of colour – on residents, on the environment and on the setting itself. The designer should understand the different colours and what emotions they can evoke.
Ensure that they understand how to design specifically for dementia and those that will work to create inclusive designs to suit everyone – whatever their needs. In healthcare design, it’s important to consider future proofing to ensure the longevity of the design and to ensure that it will not look ‘dated’ quickly.
To find out more about the movers and shakers in the hospitality, keep your eyes peeled for the Hilden Style Guide 2017. Coming soon.