As the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia have been steadily increasing, the demand for specialized settings is likewise on the rise. There is also a growing movement to empower our towns and cities to better support those with dementia, so they can choose to remain in their personal homes and fully engage with others (not just others with dementia) for as long as possible. In either scenario, we believe careful and respectful design strategies can function as a silent “enabler” to support dignity, personal expression and independence to the greatest extent possible.
The word hospitality traces its origin back to the Latin words hostis, which means stranger or enemy, and the more positive hospitem, which means guest or host. The English terms hospital, host, hostel, hotel and hospitality all come from these same roots. Interestingly the first hospitality venues were hospitals, which in their initial inception provided lodging and entertainment for pilgrims traveling to religious shrines. This eventually led to our current concept of hospitality which encompasses friendly reception and generous treatment of guests or strangers.
We take many of our design cues for a wide range of senior living, healthcare, educational and other commercial spaces from today’s hospitality venues, the best of which set the standards for brand identity, style and guest comfort and enjoyment. The following hospitality trends are examples of contemporary interior design techniques and finishes that will add visual interest, subtle sophistication and personality to a wide range of settings.
Whether you love it or hate it—and you are likely to fall into one of those two categories—purple is a color option that makes a statement. Combining the calming qualities of blue and the energetic properties of red in varying proportions, purple rarely functions as a neutral tone. Whether a light lavender-gray or a deep plum tone, purple makes an impact.
Despite the fact that it’s fairly rare in the natural world in comparison to other colors, purple (or violet) is the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow, just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays. Purple is often associated with royalty and luxury, probably because the earliest dyes were primarily reserved for the garments of emperors. This was due to the cost and complexity of extracting dye from thousands of shellfish for a single garment. Purple can also be associated with decadence and excess, however in many cultures it is a color of mourning.
We have to admit, one of our pet peeves as commercial interior designers is working with a client to incorporate beautiful custom millwork or casework shelving into their project, only to visit the site months later to find that the shelves are empty. This is a missed opportunity to create a positive first impression, add visual interest, reinforce your brand, and ultimately define the personality of your space.
This type of accessorizing, to add the finishing touches and pull everything together, is a service RLPS Interiors offers, but sometimes clients opt to handle this in-house. We understand that it can be difficult to know where to start, so we’ve pulled together a few guidelines that apply to both commercial and residential spaces.
As with fashion, we often see interior design trends from the past come back into vogue. While wall coverings have had their critics over the years, this industry has been working hard to reinvent itself. Today, there are endless choices of innovative, sustainable and attractive wall coverings available to create bold, impactful spaces.
An important distinction is that today’s commercial interiors use “wall coverings,” typically from a 54 inch bolt, which have been tested for durability and fire resistance. “Wallpaper” is limited to residential use, typically comes in 27” wide rolls, and is not subject to the same physical requirements as wall coverings.
Most Seinfeld fans can remember George Costanza’s father randomly shouting “serenity now” in an effort to achieve calm in the chaotic world of the Costanza family. However, he may have been able to achieve the same effect by simply eliminating some of the clutter in his home.
Drawing from Japanese design principles, minimalism exemplifies the concept of “less is more.” Simplicity, openness, and often symmetry are some of this disciplined style’s guiding principles. And while the removal of non-essential elements is key, the end goal is not to create stark or sterile spaces. Instead, a minimalist approach to design helps draws attention to outside views, architectural features, key furnishings or striking artwork. The following are a few minimalist design tips to help create peaceful, appealing spaces by reducing visual distractions and interior clutter.
As we approach the time of year when baking and family dinners are a priority, let’s take a look at the epicenter of activity – the kitchen. Once relegated to function behind the scenes, the kitchen has benefited greatly from today’s open concept floor plans. Kitchens are now a gathering hub, used for both cooking and entertainment. Even if you won’t be hosting any family dinners or consider yourself more of an eater than a chef, don’t overlook the importance of melding form and function to create an appealing and accessible space you will likely use several times a day every day.
Color Trends: When it comes to color, today’s cabinet selections represent opposite ends of the spectrum. White cabinets are still popular and pair nicely with today’s dark wood flooring options. We have found some great ceramic tile and vinyl options that provide the look of wood but easier maintenance and durability, particularly for commercial applications. In recent years, darker wood cabinets in natural cherry, walnut or mahogany and dark stains like espresso and clove, have become increasingly popular. These are often paired with white countertops and lighter flooring selections.
Artwork is the “icing on the cake” for interior spaces. It can serve as the inspiration that defines your design style or the finishing touch that pulls everything together. Selecting the right artwork is particularly important for commercial applications to reinforce your brand, strengthen local connections and ultimately create a positive experience.
Nature Rules! Since we’ve been involved in a number of senior care and healthcare settings, we have a particular respect for the positive impacts nature artwork can provide. In the book, Putting Patients First, Roger Ulrich and Laura Gilpin recommend artwork for healthcare settings that depicts landscapes, tranquil water, calm weather and warmer seasons. A number of studies by Roger Ulrich, Ph.D., EDAC, and others have documented not only a preference for nature scenes among hospital patients, students and office workers, but also positive outcomes such as reduced stress, lessened anger/aggression and improved well-being. And the inverse is also true, abstract artwork is the least liked among people of all ages and has been shown to stimulate negative emotions.
As students head back to the classroom, tablets, laptops and even smartphones are increasingly among the learning tools at their disposal. And it’s not just students who expect technology to be available at their fingertips. In today’s world, technology accommodations—recharging stations integrated into the bedside lamp in our hotel room, table ordering systems at our local restaurant and WiFi hot spots just about anywhere we go—are commonplace. From space planning and programming to lighting and furniture selections, interior design solutions must include considerations for remaining connected comfortably, easily and without compromising style.
Do your reception area and lobby create a positive first impression that reinforces your organization’s brand? From the moment they arrive, people start making assumptions about your business and the products or services you offer. There is no one-size-fits all solution, since the best solutions are unique to your brand, location and profession. (Check out these unique office lobbies at The SquareFoot Blog that reflect the brands of the companies they represent.) However, there are basic rules that apply to every lobby space, regardless of your organization’s business focus.
MAKE IT A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE: You want to create a lasting impression, but make sure it’s a good one. This starts with the basics of making the front door easy to find and then providing a clear indication of where to go once inside. Have you ever gone into a restaurant and been forced to pause in the foyer unsure of where to go next? We’re all about creating a “wow”, but the first priority must be to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome as soon as they open your front door.
YOU ARE INVITED: Create an open, inviting and fully accessible experience. Seating areas should feel intimate, but avoid cluttered or segmented vignettes that compromise circulation and visual access to other spaces. Optimally the lobby should provide views to adjacent areas to help with wayfinding and reinforce a sense of positive energy and hospitality. In our office, a gallery featuring local artists provides a nice transition space between the lobby and work areas.
HOW MAY WE HELP YOU? The front desk should emulate hospitality venues with the visible functionality of a concierge desk rather than an office work station. Table height is preferred. Any equipment should be screened. Think respectful, welcoming gesture versus imposing barrier.
THE QUEST TO IMPRESS: Create a focal point (like our before/after example below) that reflects your organization’s brand and typically is not the front desk. This could be a fireplace, water feature, distinctive artwork or even a vase of fresh flowers. If you opt for flowers, just be sure someone has responsibility for keeping them looking fresh.
LIGHTING THE WAY: Light levels should adapt to avoid glare issues when entering or exiting the building. Maximize natural light and outdoor views whenever possible. Decorative lighting can be a simple, inexpensive solution to easily adjust light levels throughout the day and reinforce your design style.
BRAND LOYALTY: The lobby should define your organization’s brand; with updated furnishings, finishes and accessories. If the physical setting of your lobby conflicts with your brand or lacks impact, then the consumer experience is one of confusion and uncertainty. Recognizing that this is typically a high traffic area, finish selections should be not only esthetically pleasing, but also durable and easily maintainable to avoid looking dingy or “tired” over time.
This article from Homedit highlights the endless possibilities for reception desks including the Chic and Basic Hotel front desk pictured at left. We also like the recycled books used for a library front desk.
UNIVERSAL DESIGN: Stylish yet functional furniture should accommodate users of varying ages and abilities. This makes a positive impression by signaling your organization’s commitment to serve the needs of all individuals including those with limited mobility.
In today’s marketplace, attracting consumers and meeting their expectations starts with making a positive and lasting first impression. More examples of noteworthy entry spaces can be found at Office Snapshots.
Charlotte Stoudt, IIDA, LEED AP, has 16 years of experience as a commercial interior designer. Her appreciation for the value of a “wow” first impression goes all the way back to the 7th grade when she stepped into the foyer of the Philadelphia Academy of Music. She strives to create that kind of lasting impression for our clients today, for projects large and small.