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The Importance of Colour in the Design of Healthcare Environments

In this article, we take a look at some of the trends in the use of colour and materials for hospital furniture and the implications on patient environments

The choice of colour and material finishes plays a hugely important role in the design of furniture for healthcare environments. This article takes a look at some of the current trends and implications.
 

Colours need to be light to promote good hygiene practice to make it easier to identify soiled areas for cleaning.
 

Colour is also important for patients with visual impairments and in patient areas to help create a welcoming and less clinical feel and an appearance that promotes wellbeing and healing.

 


What colours are typically used in healthcare environments?


The only elements of colour in a healthcare environment are generally the furniture and fittings, and the palette tends to be consistent throughout a healthcare building or hospital. These palettes are chosen to complement or contrast with walls and floors that are usually white or light grey.
 

Colour strategies are currently for lighter palettes which are conducive to health and wellbeing and mean that hygiene standards are easier to maintain.
 

Soft, natural tones work best for inpatient rooms and have a calming and welcoming feel. Studies have shown that palettes which use strong contrasting colours have a much less calming effect.


Surfaces are typically white and coloured accents add interest particularly for communal areas, waiting rooms, and circulation spaces.

 


What are the Best Materials for Hospital Furniture?


Durable materials are needed to assist in the cleaning regime of a hospital and to facilitate infection control. Finishes should be non-porous, smooth, seamless and easy to clean. Solid surface materials, for example for worktops, are increasingly being specified to avoid the need for joints that can harbour bacteria and are easily cleaned.
 

With materials, fitted furniture is generally manufactured using high pressure laminate finishes which are available in wood grain effects and a huge variety of colours.
 

Increasingly, we are seeing the specification of solid surface worktops which avoid the need for joints – an important benefit for infection control. This material is also repairable for long-term performance and tends to be specified in white or very light grey for ease of cleaning.

 


What evidence supports the choice of specific colours and materials for healthcare settings?

A considerable amount of documentation and evidence has been published outlining current thinking in the use of colour in healthcare environments and the benefits of a less clinical feel.


Lighter hues and soft, natural tones for inpatient rooms and waiting areas such as in emergency departments have been shown to have a calming effect on patients and their relatives when facing stressful situations.


Healthcare professionals providing care are known for working long and mentally demanding shifts. Staff therefore need spaces that are conducive to rest and recharging.


Brightly-lit rooms with stronger colour palettes can help staff needing to take a short break and stay fresh and energised. Darker rest rooms with softer lighting allow healthcare professionals to rest for longer periods.


The age of the patients is also a factor when considering colour. Children’s hospitals and paediatric wards are often colourful, bright and fun in their design to help young patients feel at ease during their stay or visits to hospital.


With elderly patients, their vision changes and deteriorates with age so more contrast is needed to help guide patients through their rooms, for example towards seating areas and grab rails. Here saturated colours are specified over pastel tones, which can blur together for patients with poorer eyesight.

 


How is colour used to create a more therapeutic environment within healthcare settings?

The use of colour psychology can enhance the function of a healthcare space or patient room. Architects have more involvement in the creation of hospitals so there is a clear shift to a design-led approach to creating patient environments.


Colours can be influenced by biophilic design, bringing the outside in especially in cancer care to provide a calming and welcoming environment for hospital treatment. Natural colours such as greens, blues and brown are seen as calming. For example, bedheads and wardrobes can be specified in warm maple or oak veneers.


Red, whilst being a stimulating colour which often signifies creativity, is generally avoided in facilities such as those treating neurological conditions and patients suffering from mental illness such as post-traumatic stress.


More hospital furniture is now built-in and is specifically designed to have a less clinical feel. This means inpatient bedheads, fitted wardrobes, bedside tables and patient-accessible furniture in place of freestanding furniture.

 


How will the choice of colour and materials continue to evolve in hospital furniture?


We will continue to work closely with architects to evolve the hospital furniture design as healthcare treatment strategies change and advance.


Our R&D focus ensures the products we develop and manufacture contribute positively to promoting effective infection control and cleaning regimes and enhance the patient environment.


We are continually updating our products and materials to align with a less clinical ethos and to reflect good design, complementing architects’ design intent and interior colour strategies – as well as functional needs such as storage, space planning, and the comfort of patients and staff.


The overall aim is for furniture to look less austere but to retain functionality for infection control. There is now a much more domestic feel to healthcare environments which will continue and following the lead of private hospitals – which can feel more like hotels.


Treatment areas tend to be white and that is much less likely to change. But there has been a clear shift in the design of assessment, waiting and inpatient spaces which are softer and more welcoming to promote patient comfort, relaxation and healing.


The overall aim is for furniture to look less austere but to retain functionality for infection control. There is now much more of a domestic feel to healthcare environments, which will continue and following the lead of private hospitals, which can feel more like hotels.


Treatment areas tend to be white and that is much less likely to change. But there has been a clear shift in the design of assessment, waiting and inpatient spaces which are softer and more welcoming to promote patient comfort, relaxation and healing.

 

You can read more about our services in the healthcare sector here - www.deanestor.co.uk/healthcare