FacilityCare | Focus on Design: 2009 Trends Forecast

Focus on Design: 2009 Trends Forecast

Suzanne O’Connell, Jan/Feb 2009 Download PDF

2009 Interior Design Trends

Enhancing patient experience and sustainability are the broad trends that continue to shape healthcare interior design. I recently presented at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium in Chicago and aspects of these important trends were evident in many of the presentations and in the products and booths on the exhibit floor.


Flooring, ceiling tiles, wall protection, and paint that meet the criteria for green or sustainable materials are included in Francis Cauffman’s finish palettes for every project. Materials such as rubber and linoleum not only meet the standards for green materials, but require no waxing or finish, contributing to the environment and saving maintenance costs. New materials are brought to market daily, including fabrics for upholstery and cubicle curtains with recycled content that containing fibers such as hemp and bamboo are both renewable and appropriate for the healthcare setting.


For years, fluorescent lighting, both linear and compact fluorescent bulbs, has been the standard in healthcare design. Current design introduces LED (light-emitting diode) light sources, which use less energy and are longer lasting than fluorescent bulbs. LEDs also present exciting design opportunities: this small and flexible light source is perfect for coves, curved soffits, accent lighting, task lighting, recessed down lights, and can even introduce color to a lighting scheme.

Clean, Contemporary Design

Evidence-based design, Planetree design, and patient focus groups have all shown that warm, inviting environments that follow a hospitality model facilitate healing and enhance the patient experience. This feedback has inspired designers to develop warm color palettes and to create spaces with a transitional design feel, incorporating traditional details while maintaing a contemporary style. Current design philosophy has thus struck a new balance with spaces that retain a traditional warmth while being clean, contemporary, and at home in their 21st-century buildings. Rich materials and extensive use of wood balance clean lines and crisp details. The trend toward darker woods, as opposed to the maple and cherry that have long been prevalent, enhances the richness of modern design and provides high contrast with other colors and materials in the space, reinforcing the contemporary feel. There is less concern about hiding the technology. A high tech/high touch approach integrates the technology in the contemporary setting.


The cohesive selection and design of graphics, signage, and artwork establishes a consistent message or “brand” throughout a facility. Digital technology is providing exciting new opportunities for large-scale graphics that promote clients’ missions and values or recognize employees and donors, as well as artwork and murals that reinforce regional pride. As branded artwork and graphics are increasingly integral parts of design, their placement, lighting, and detailing become crucial elements of their success.

Healing Arts and Community Involvement

Studies have proved the importance of art in the healthcare environment as a vital part of the overall design. In recent projects, Francis Cauffman has worked closely with our healthcare clients and the community to establish a theme consistent with the hospital’s branding and to solicit artwork from local artists.

Constructing mock-ups of patient rooms representing actual colors, finishes, artwork, and furniture provides an excellent opportunity for staff and community involvement and feedback. Allowing these groups tour mock-ups and provide comments via a questionnaire fosters positive relationships and ultimately helps to ensure a successful project.


Suzanne A. O’Connell, NCIDQ, is a senior associate with Francis Cauffman, the largest architectural office in Philadelphia. Francis Cauffman has provided buildings for pharmaceutical companies, academic and scientific institutions, health systems, corporations, and government agencies since 1954. With a staff of more than 180 architects, planners and interior designers, the firm is widely known for buildings producing break-through research and creativity. Francis Cauffman has worked with major healthcare institutions in the Catholic Health East system, John Hopkins Hospital, Albert Einstein Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


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