Healthcare Interiors Trends 2012

Posted on November 5, 2012


Trend mining is like panning for gold. Every once in a while a nugget is found, but it can take a large volume to find what you are looking for.

Medical Construction + Design’s Sept/Oct issue (pages 40-1) has a healthcare article that touched on four new interiors trends.  Unbeknownst to trend prognosticators, one designer’s trend is another designer’s best practice. Only two of the trends are worth covering here because the other two are not ‘on the horizon’ in my opinion; they have been around. One, idea boards (called “design drivers” in the article) have been used for 15+ years, and are quite commonplace. I used them in a visioning effort last month for a client. The other, full-scale mock-ups, I blogged about two years ago. Hmm, maybe I’m a trendsetter…? I simply write about something relevant; others can declare it a trend.

The two I want to discuss might be trends. The first:  identity and accessibility, or separate entrances for each department. At its heart, this concept is about efficiency:  reducing the “grand entrance or lobby that everyone enters.  These spaces—often two-story atriums with lavish finishes…can be overwhelming to patients”. Aside from being intimidating, large lobbies are only marginally functional. Hospitals work differently today than decades ago, and there is less need for a grand central station to receive people in order to redistribute throughout a facility. If large spaces are provided, they need to be more modest and useful. I see security as going a big concern in the future because hospital owners, and patients, prefer to park and enter close to their care center.

The second idea is more confidence in color use. My position on healthcare’s traditional interior colors is well-noted; this affirms an industry move toward a more comprehensive palette, and thankfully so. Warm, natural combinations are now more common. The author, Ms. Kelly Brainerd, smartly points out:  “The key to using color in healthcare interiors is not the color itself, but how it is used in the decor.”  As an interior designer, I feel no color should be off-limits. However, color should be used appropriately; this means in the right locations, at the right intensity, and in the right quantity. I think the acceptance of earth tones—browns, tans, deep oranges, deep reds—in hospitals, as mentioned in the article, is due in part to the penetration of sustainability on public facilities.

As a “bonus”, I want to mention something I am observing, which may turn out to be an interiors trend:  greater incorporation of living plants into hospital interiors. I think this will happen for a handful of reasons.

First, biowalls and other innovative uses of plant life in buildings is increasing; hospitals will catch on.  Second, plants are quite functional. Third, plants are being incorporated into interior workstation designs.  Fourth, plants dovetail with the integration of nutrition and food quality renaissance at hospitals.  Fifth, the 2014 AIA Guidelines for Design and Construction of Healthcare Facilities will include ‘access to the outdoors’ as a key tenet to healthcare design—in spite of the germophobes who see anything not synthetic in the hospital as an infection threat. Sorry to say, but that healing garden is not a radical new idea; healing is facilitated by occupying nature; we’ve known it instinctively for hundreds of years, and now we have research to back it up.

Let me know what you see in the future of healthcare interiors.

Posted in: Interior Design