Healthcare Interior Design Tips: Balancing clinical requirements & style

Healthcare interior design is a rapidly growing area across the care industry. We have worked with multiple UK care homes, hospices and hospitals to deliver interior design consultations. Working alongside care professionals, architects, and contractors from start to finish on these projects, we’ve uncovered plenty of design tips for combining aesthetics and functionality to meet end-user needs in any care environments.

Is interior design really important in healthcare settings?

2019 was a busy year for interior design projects at Innova.  As we move into 2020, that shows no signs of slowing down.

This comes as no surprise. More and more research is emerging that shows the look and feel of care environments impacts on patient/resident wellbeing.

Good design can reduce anxiety and stress using colour theory, or simply by creating a more welcoming space. It can also encourage socialisation – which then reduces loneliness – by creating communal spaces people want to spend time in.

Healthcare interior design tips: create bright and welcoming communal spaces
This cafe area at St Kentigern Hospice is bright and spacious for patients and their families

Designing for Dementia

Interestingly, healthcare interior design appears to be particularly beneficial for people with dementia. Colours, furniture and soft furnishings can serve as navigation/memory cues or provide comfort when someone becomes distressed.

Around 850,000 people in the UK currently have dementia, and someone develops a type of dementia every 3 minutes.

So, creating a dementia-friendly environment by making some simple interior design choices can enhance quality of life for dementia patients and residents.

Avoiding style over substance in healthcare interior design

A big question when you’re designing for a healthcare facility is how you balance attractive design with clinical requirements and regulations.

Our experienced interior designers have handled everything from creating mood boards and choosing colour schemes and flooring, to specifying medical equipment and furniture for refurbishments and new builds. So, we really have seen it all when it comes to designing for care environments!

Here are the top healthcare interior design tips we use to properly balance clinical requirements and style:

1)    Use bold or contrasting colours

In healthcare interior design, bold or contrasting colours can be both eye-catching and practical.

During our consultations, we help our clients to select a colour palette that will be used throughout the whole facility. This palette usually consists of 3 – 5 colours which help to pull different rooms together and create a cohesive look throughout the care home, hospice or hospital ward.

You may want to include a bold colour – think primary colours, like red and blue, or bright pinks and oranges – in your palette to emphasise important features in the room. Alternatively, you might prefer the idea of including some contrasting colours, like purple and green, which can be used to differentiate different features and segment space.

Healthcare interior design tips: contrast chairs against walls and floorings to guide people to find a seat
These bright chairs provide a good contrast against the pale flooring and curtains

Here are some examples of how you can use colours to assist people in care settings:

  • Paint doors and doorframes unique, bold colours to help people remember the locations of different rooms.
  • Choose chairs in a colour that contrasts against the walls/floor so people with visual impairments can see to sit down.
  • If you want to include a feature wall, place it opposite the entrance to help with navigation.
  • Avoid flooring colours/finishes that look glossy or shiny, they can be off-putting people with dementia who fear falling.

However, you do need to be careful with how you use colour and contrast. For example, people with dementia or impaired vision often interpret a dark rug on pale flooring as a hole. They will, therefore, go out of their way to avoid walking over the rug which can increase the risk of falls.

If you’re unsure whether an interior design choice is suitable for a care setting, it’s best to seek professional advice. Please feel free to give us a call on 0345 0341450 or email enquiries@innova.uk.com.

2)    Make clever use of storage

Space-saving and storage solutions are a firm favourite with interior designers. That’s no different in a healthcare setting. Having the ability to store medical equipment away when it’s not in use is a great way to create environments that feel homely without compromising care effectiveness.

Bedrooms are great examples of how smart storage can have a real impact on healthcare interior design. Many individuals in care environments spend most of their day in their bedroom and it’s also where they receive most of their medical care.

So, it’s a room that designers want to make feel especially cosy and relaxing but also a room that could easily end up stark and clinical due to lots of healthcare equipment.

Here are some of the most popular storage solutions we provide for bedrooms in healthcare settings.

Integralift

Many healthcare facilities look after people who require hoisted transfers to get in and out of bed.

For individuals that require frequent transfers, it is preferable to have a permanent hoist installed rather than relying on mobile hoists. That way, the hoist is always there when you need it. Care staff don’t end up searching the building for a free hoist whilst someone is left waiting in bed, unable to move.

Traditionally, permanent hoists are fitted to the ceiling or wall. Unfortunately, these traditional systems can be a bit of an eyesore. The hoist unit and any tracking are always visible. This can instantly make a room feel clinical and more like a hospital than a home – not what someone wants from their bedroom.

If you don’t require full room coverage, then the Integralift can be the perfect alternative to a traditional hoist system.

The Integralift is a unique hoist system that folds away completely when it’s not in use. We call it the hidden hoist!

It’s so subtle, that when the Integralift is folded into its storage cupboard, you wouldn’t even know there was a hoist in the room. Plus, you can completely customise the colour and finish of the cupboard doors, so they blend seamlessly into the rest of your design scheme.

Healthcare interior design tips: use storage solutions to conceal medical equipment
Here you get an idea of how the Integralift works at St Andrews Hospice. On the left, it is hidden away. On the right, it is ready for use!

The Integralift can safely lift up to 230 kg (36 stone) for bed to chair transfers, and vice versa. An added benefit of having a designated storage space is the Integralift can be connected to mains electricity, so the hoist never needs charging.

Bespoke Fitted Furniture

Rather than installing the Integralift into a cupboard, you can construct a bespoke bedhead unit to house the hoist. Even if you don’t require a hoist, a bespoke bedhead is still well worth considering when designing bedrooms in a healthcare setting.

Healthcare interior design tips: fitted funiture can really pull a room together and provide handy storage
This stylish wooden bedhead unit really pulls the room together at Accord Hospice!

At Innova, we custom design and build high-quality bedhead units that cleverly conceal all sorts of medical equipment, including:

  • Medical gases & services
  • Drugs cabinets
  • Nurse call systems
  • Fridges

If you’re looking to conceal other types of equipment when not in use, just send us a message! We’ll be happy to see how we can help.

As the saying goes – out of sight, out of mind! Using innovative storage solutions, you can keep medical equipment immediately on hand without detracting from the homely atmosphere you’ve created in the room.

Besides bedhead units, we also design and fit wardrobes, drawers, desks and more. Take a look at our full fitted furniture range.

3)    Always prioritise infection control

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) are a major concern in all care settings – especially hospitals and hospices. Infections from medical intervention and contact with a healthcare setting cost the NHS more than £1 billion a year. So, maximising infection control must be a top priority for healthcare interior design.

Infection contol-friendly Volker hospital bed
The Volker care bed is infection control-friendly as well as sleek!

It’s no good choosing a velvet upholstered bedframe for a hospice bedroom just because it’s soft and luxurious. That kind of material will trap any dirt or body fluids, harbouring bacteria. Then an attempt to clean it would ruin the fabric.

When selecting furniture for a healthcare setting, we always recommend finding something an infection control-friendly material/fabric first. Then start thinking about how to fit it in with the room design.

Fortunately, that’s easier than it sounds! We have been developing and sourcing aesthetic furniture that meets infection control standards for years. Here are some popular items:

  • The Volker bed is available in a fully washable version to comply with the highest infection control standards. It also comes in a wide range of colours and designs to suit different decors.
  • The infection control Arene rise & recline chair uses magnets to attach the seat cushions in place. This means the whole chair can be wiped down and there’s no extra stitching or gaps to harbour bacteria. Practical doesn’t mean boring though, you can choose from over 12 different vinyl colours.
Infection control-friendly fabrics come in a range of colours
This custom Arene rise and recline chair has been upholstered in fabrics that complement the room colours

Summary

Healthcare interior design is now a priority for many care homes, hospices and hospitals. Research shows how an environment looks and feels can impact patient wellbeing. However, balancing clinical requirements with style can be tricky with healthcare interior design. We recommend following these three simple tips to create healthcare environments that are functional and stylish. One, consider using bold and contrasting colours. Two, find clever storage solutions, and three, always think about infection control! To create a cohesive care environment that meets end-user and staff needs, we recommend working with an interior design that has experience in care settings.

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