Top Trends in Healthcare Design and Interiors
Trade shows may have looked different in 2021, but we were happy to see them happening again. At the Healthcare Design Expo + Conference in Cleveland this past October, companies in the exhibitor hall had a wide range of products focused on the current state of healthcare design. After a year off, it was interesting to see if trends had stalled, changed, or evolved to fit our changing world. So, what did we see?
Top Trends in Healthcare Design
- Adaptability: The COVID pandemic highlighted the need for healthcare facilities to adapt to an unexpected disruption quickly. This is especially true in spaces built for vulnerable populations who rely on caregivers to keep them safe. Products such as privacy screens, glass partitions, and moveable walls all serve this purpose.
- Cleanability: Cleanability is always essential in healthcare, but the pandemic demanded materials and surfaces to meet even more stringent and frequent cleaning regimens. Cleanability also relates to adaptability, as the COVID pandemic shows us that requirements and protocols can change overnight.
- Durability: Designers want to make healthcare spaces less intimidating and more comfortable, but they cannot sacrifice durability in the name of beauty. Every material and surface needs to handle a lot of traffic and the unique needs of a healthcare facility, such as gurneys and wheelchairs bumping into walls.
Beyond the exhibition hall at the HCD Expo + Conference, the conference rooms were full of industry experts presenting to designers. We saw five interesting themes emerge in these presentations about the future of healthcare design.
5 Themes in Healthcare Design
If a space is too visually complex, it can exhaust your senses.
This is especially true for people with dementia. From the start of their day, processing information is already challenging. They experience a sundown effect in the late morning or early afternoon because their brains are exhausted quickly. If the environment is too visually complex, they use a lot of mental energy to process that information. This creates a very stressful environment for the person with dementia and ultimately leads to an earlier sundown.
People naturally gravitate toward natural light.
Nature is fundamental to humans, and many studies have proven the healing properties of nature. Even when inside, if there are windows in a room, people will automatically go toward them upon entering a building. Finding new ways to bring nature inside has a positive impact on the health outcomes of people using a space.
Signage doesn’t necessarily need to be overhead.
In most environments where people move through an unfamiliar space, such as an airport, hospital, or college campus, signage is overhead. Yet, most humans look down as they walk to keep from tripping. This becomes even more true with age. Designers and wayfinding experts are starting to rethink signage placement and are adding it to the floor to help people navigate a space efficiently and safely.
Art is critical for any environment.
Visual and performing arts have myriad benefits in healthcare interiors. Art is no longer viewed as a luxury if there is extra room in the budget but as a critical element in the design process. For example, imagery and music are sometimes used as wayfinding to make moving around a space a relaxed experience. Art can also be part of an institution’s programming to involve all of a person’s senses and provide a respite for patients and caregivers in stressful situations.
Creating flexible design is crucial for the future.
In general, most buildings are designed to last for at least 50 years. Nobody can predict the needs of the future, but designers need to be aware of the possibilities that may arise in a space. Today, they are creating spaces with the need for future expansion or the ability to adapt to a sudden disruption from the beginning of the design process.
Healthcare design offers many opportunities to use print-on-demand technology to customize a space. From wallpaper and upholstery to privacy screens and murals, the ability to make a functional space more comfortable and relaxing is getting easier for interior designers.
Kristen Dettoni is the founder and CEO of Design Pool LLC, the only pattern library created exclusively for interior designers. Since 1996, Kristen has worked for mills throughout North America, designing fabrics for automobiles, furniture, and home furnishings. She developed the first sustainable upholstery fabric for office interiors, the first sustainable upholstery fabric for automotive interiors, and was awarded a patent for automotive suspension seating. Kristen believes strongly in the power of good design to transform our environments and experiences.