Healthcare design is in a state of evolution. According toHealthcare Design Magazine, “evidence-based design supports a strong connection between patients’ comfort in the healthcare setting and how it positively affects (their recovery time) and therapeutic advances.” That’s a powerful statement—one that healthcare designers are taking very seriously. The challenge for designers is to strike a balance between function and aesthetics.

First and foremost, the new direction for healthcare settings is embracing residential warmth. The hospitality industry originated this “home away from home” idea and it has been a successful direction. Borrowing from that trend, healthcare is moving away from the traditional clinical designs in favor of more homey, familiar environments for patients. The balance that needs to be struck is making the patient as comfortable as possible while still providing an efficient (and as sterile as possible) care model. So how, exactly, is that to be accomplished? Several important micro-trends are moving to the forefront of healthcare design to attain that goal:

Personalizing Patients’ Rooms. Special touches added to a patient’s room (even before they arrive) can accomplish this trend of personalization. Cork boards with family pictures, inspirational quotes, and customized messages from the nursing staff are just a few examples. In addition to necessary overhead emergency lighting, tableside lamps add a cozy, home-like feeling. Natural light and nature views are becoming more important. Favorite magazines and flowers on the bedside table add a welcoming touch and help reduce the anxiety and stress patients are prone to experience.

Floor Covering Industry’s Contributions: Products approved for commercial use that have a residential aesthetic are hitting their stride. LVT in rich wood tones is a worthy look-alike to real hardwood floors, yet can take heavy traffic and frequent cleanings. Senior Care facilities have also discovered these solution products and are successfully creating attractive personal spaces for their patients.

Use of Healing Colors. Color is important. Soothing but cheerful colors are the right prescription for healthcare settings. Blues have to be used sparingly, as that color can surpress an already compromised immune system. Pastel greens, peachy tints, buttery yellows and soft pinks are all good choices, as they promote an aura of health, well-being and optimism.

Floor Covering Industry’s Contributions: Both hard and soft surface manufacturers are tuned into commercial color palettes that are conducive to healing. Tile, carpet, LVT, VCT and sheet vinyl all have refreshed color lines that offer the design community updated choices to harmonize with healing colors.

Sterile Environment Surface Design. The Center for Disease Control predicts that approximately one out of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a Hospital Acquired Infection (HAI). Highly trafficked and touched areas are implicated in harboring dangerous pathogens. Because of this, AIA and ASHE guidelines recommend nonporous and seamless surfaces to provide ideal infection prevention. Use of copper in drawer pulls, faucets and even sinks is highly recommended as copper retards bacterial growth. Antimicrobial copper surfaces are quickly becoming a designer’s new weapon in the fight against hospital-acquired infections.

Floor Covering Industry’s Contributions: Rubber floors are a solution product for healthcare, especially for use in physical therapy environments, walking surfaces, stairs and ramps. They provide a safe, slip-resistant surface and are offered in creative color options.

Public areas (corridors, cafeterias, office areas) can use a variety of floor coverings as long as they are durable and easily cleaned. Innovative LVT products and high-style commercial carpets have answered that call. Patterns for LVT include wood-like and natural stone-like aesthetics that can withstand heavy traffic and frequent cleanings. Regarding soft surface choices, carpets made with solution-dyed nylon are noted for colorfast properties and high durability. These types of nylon carpets retain color even if they come in contact with bleach.

Surgical rooms require seamless floor coverings, and homogeneous sheet vinyl is an important solution product. This flooring used to scream “clinical”, but if you haven’t looked lately, patterns and colors are updated and relevant. As an example, Mannington Mills has an interesting solution-driven product specifically for healthcare applications. BioSpec MD homogeneous sheet flooring features Quantum Guard HP, a patented urethane wear layer with a rating of 9 out of 10 on the MOH (measure of hardness scale).

Specialty “seamless” transitions are another huge benefit in a medical setting, for patient safety as well as promoting an antiseptic environment. BioSpec MD can be chemically welded to seal seams, but also can be chemically welded for a permanent bond with designated Mannington commercial carpets. Of course, eliminating the need for transition pieces is especially meaningful for areas with wheelchair or gurney traffic.

Finally, “beneath the surface” bacterial retardants are another important solution the floor covering industry has tackled. Specialized backings for broadloom and carpet tiles have built-in benefits that are designed to suit healthcare installations.

Among the important features inherent in backings:  impermeable moisture barriers; no wick-back staining; superior tuft bind, wet or dry; dimensional stability; certifications to meet state and federal standards; and guarantees against edge ravel, wear, and in someinstances, static charge.  Specialized carpet backings represent a huge investment in R & D on the part of commercial carpet manufacturers. Problem-solving design products are the hot commodity for today and into the future.

Lean Design. According to Jeffrey Stouffer, Principal at HKS Architects, (not to be confused with FT’sformer editor) “the goal of Lean Design is to eliminate waste. This isn’t a one-time effort, but a never-ending journey of continuous improvement. To determine how the built environment can foster this type of performance and process improvement, you need to identify what waste is and where it occurs.”

This concept is fascinating on many levels and brings a whole new mindset to how we approach healthcare design. While Lean Design may not accomplish the lowest first cost, initial outlays are recouped through ongoing operational savings. Certainly floor coverings will be a huge contributor to Lean Design both now and in the future. Quality flooring products that are multi-functional (offer comfort, good aesthetic, durability, stain resistance, anti-microbial, etc.) can save significant dollars when they do their job well. The lifecycle of floor coverings is also a prime consideration and can be a major cost saving line-item for health care facilities.

While manufacturers have reason to be proud of the products already serving the healthcare industry, the challenge continues. We have to develop multi-functional, futuristic ‘smart’ products that will astound healthcare designers from both a styling andfunctional point of view. The ultimate goal is to never sacrifice style and design while creating a healthy environment.


Annette Callari is a highly regarded interior design expert with over 20 years of residential and commercial design experience. She is district manager for Mannington/Amtico in Southern California. She is an Allied Member of the American Society of Interior Designers, a contributing member of Color Marketing Group International, and has authored numerous articles on color and design trends. She holds a degree in interior design from Fullerton College in Fullerton, California, and a professional writer’s Certificate from California State University at Fullerton.

You can reach her at