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How to effectively use color in treatment facilities

August 2, 2017
by Alicia Hoisington
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That’s why it’s important for the colors in the palette to all belong to the same family, Turner says. If a patient walks from a yellow room to a blue room but those colors are in the same family, the transition will appear seamless.

“We think holistically first,” he says. “We want to use colors but with a palette that evokes comfort and is pleasing.”

Beyond the walls

Wall color isn’t the only aspect to consider when designing spaces. Furniture, fixtures, equipment and artwork require the same attention to detail, experts say.

Photo courtesy of Mark Herboth Photography
Wood flooring prevents a space from appearing institutional

The biggest challenge with furniture is finding pieces that are suitable for the environment but don’t look like the typical institutional furnishings that are meant to be almost indestructible, Turner says.

“We want them to be indestructible, but we don’t want them to look like it,” he says. “We use color, fabric and other material. We want to select fabrics or materials that give furniture a look that’s comfortable and inviting but wrapped around a strong frame that is heavy and difficult to move.”

For example, he says wood over metal has a warm feel. Furniture should offer a variety of colors, shapes and configurations to create less of an institutional appearance.

“Nothing says institutional like using the same exact chair in every space,” Turner says. “Similar to architectural finishes, moderation is key in furniture coverings.”

Photo courtesy of Behavioral Healthcare Architecture Group
An accent wall offers added color

Varying colors within a space in a way that suggests a palette rather than a uniform color choice can make for an interesting space without overstimulating, he says. Patterning also can be used in furniture, but it should be simple geometric patterning without cultural connotations.

Artwork is another design aspect that can deinstitutionalize a space, however, it must be approached with care and consideration of color.

“Color is very important in artwork.  While I recommend moderation in color in the architectural finishes, artwork can be bolder and should be vibrant and colorful,” Turner says. “In general, I would avoid black and white images. While they are often beautiful, the lack of color may not be appropriate for patients dealing with severe depression or related symptoms.”

Turner cites studies that have shown a strong preference for landscape artwork due to its calming effect.

Photo courtesy of Mark Herboth Photography
Nature art can help bring in color variety

“Our brains are well-tuned to nature and landscape, so sometimes that works best,” he says.

What is advantageous about artwork, however, is that it can be easily changed to reflect a new color scheme in the design overall. Turner also encourages designers to consider the color of flooring materials in contrast to the colors that appear on the walls to help patients navigate their space visually.

“The color of the base where the wall meets the floor should always be a contrasting color,” he says. “For patients on the under-processing end of the spectrum, they can have difficulty knowing where the floor ends and begins if it’s the same color.”

Finally, Edelstein says psychiatrists and psychologists note that as people transition through different states of severity, their mental condition might become the primary variable that outweighs the impact of color or art.

Photo courtesy of Behavioral Healthcare Architecture Group
Color notes floor transitions

“We must first attend to health itself and then add how the brain perceives, and the mind prefers different design elements,” she says.












4 easy ways to update a space

It’s inevitable that spaces will need updates as trends change. Here are four cost-effective ways to update a space, according to experts.

1. Re-paint: Paint is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to update a space with color.

2. Add a chair rail: This allows a break in the space where a high and low color can be added to make the space feel more dynamic.