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Making Amazing Space For Care

Jen Bernard managing director of Bernard Interiors shares her insights into the increasing importance of interior design in the care environment.

You’re experts at creating the visual brand identity for care homes, but why is identity so important?   
Designing the identity is not just about aesthetics, it’s the whole package for residents and staff, influencing how they live and work.   For residents it’s about the location and their life experiences, making the environment a happy, comfortable and fulfilling part of their life journey. For example, we’re considering how residents experience eating, socialising, resting, activities, moving around.   For staff it’s about providing an environment in which they can provide great care safely which is designed to streamline routine tasks.
 
What process do you take your clients through to achieve the right identity?  
The best projects are when we are included in the development team with the client and architect from the outset. This means together we can tune in to the client’s vision from the start, and the whole team has an opportunity to build strong relationships. This enables better ongoing communication and ultimately achieves exceptional end results.   We look at the target market and current care provision in the area to position the development to maximise results from a business perspective. We look at local history and industries to see what potential residents would be familiar with and how this could be reflected in the design. Then it’s space planning and optimising natural light and views right through to discussing the marketing of the completed development.   Ideas evolve through the process. We take account of how residents and staff will use the space, and all the time we keep in mind that the development will be home to many people at the end of their lives. That’s a very special motivation.    

How important has interior design become for care homes?  
It’s essential, standards are rising across the industry all the time.   Care provision is a growing market especially for dementia care and here the right, high-quality design can help people to continue to enjoy their lives in a homely and safe environment.    Dementia research is providing new insights into effective care and design which we include in all of our interiors.   We are now revisiting projects completed several years ago to redesign for needs, it’s a process of continual investment and improvement. For example, a residents’ lounge may now become a hub area which allows for more varied activities and has more of a ‘hotel’ feel.

Why has designing for care homes become a different proposition from what it used to be?  
People generally have higher expectations of care, their environment and service. So they’re looking for more comfort and luxury, more recognised care standards, better presentation overall. There’s more specialist dementia care too with its particular design demands.     People are more sociable in different ways. Elderly people use wi-fi, they are more active, they want to continue their interests as far as they can, including being part of their local communities.    So care homes are more open and welcoming, there are more activities and events, they are more vibrant and the residents have their own lifestyles.

People want to feel they’re in a home from home, how can design provide that comfort?  
It’s about light, finishes, texture, colour, familiarity and scale. As soon as someone walks into a care home they should feel at ease, warm and relaxed.   The external landscaping is important too, so views into the garden where you might see vegetable patches as well as more formal planting are reminiscent of home.      

How can good interior design support the function of a care home?  
We talk to operational staff about their needs and what would make their jobs easier.   It’s often to do with space planning which is where projects including the interior designer from the outset can be more successful than those which ‘bolt on’ interior design after the build.   Also investing in relevant, durable materials which will stand the test of time. For example, wide width vinyl wall coverings reduce the need for painting maintenance, are wipeable to help with infection control and often come with a 7 to 10-year guarantee.  

What design do’s and don’ts should care home owners consider when designing interiors for elderly care?    
Don’t compromise on quality, don’t follow fashion fads, don’t think of interior design as a superficial thing to be done at the last minute.   Do invest for long-term benefits, and do make a professional interior designer part of your development team from day one.     

Visit www.bernardinteriors.co.uk to find out more about interior design services.

Making Amazing Space For Care

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