Interior design

Artful care home design is just across the corridor

Interior designer Jacqui Smith, co-director of Sussex-based practice HomeSmiths, explains how enlightened use of corridor spaces can enhance the experience of care home residents without blowing the budget

Whether it is a care home or a retirement living scheme, engaging corridor spaces make an enormous difference to how residents feel in their living environment. While colour contrast, good lighting, acoustics and furniture layout are key to supportive design for older people, treating corridor areas as spaces in their own right - spaces which residents can connect and engage with, and spaces which encourage social interaction – is a really important consideration. Corridor features also play a vital role in wayfinding: residents will navigate using the visual clues of objects and images before colour.

Creating engaging corridor ends was very much part of the brief for Henley Manor care home in Oxfordshire. Sue Earrey, who was head of land and developments for Hallmark Care Homes at the time of our design appointment, was very keen to ensure that the corridors would be as interactive as possible for residents.

It is always great when you have a client who is keen to try new things and embrace innovative design, especially when it comes to dementia. So much

good comes from collaborative design, where construction, design and operations teams can all work together to the benefit of residents.

Attractive themes

While themes like studies and sewing features have of course been done before, we ensured that each area was as relatable as possible to residents. Considering the Henley-on-Thames demographic, the study corner was set up very much in the style we would expect a retired Oxfordshire gentleman to enjoy, with partner’s desk, rowing club memorabilia, antique letter rack and blotter as well as framed blue-prints of boats.

On the ground floor, we created a garden-themed seating area at the corridor end, leading into the outdoor spaces. A bespoke cabinet was designed to emulate a potting shed bench and features seed drawers and is dressed with a trug basket, tools and gardening books. Savista Design and Build assistant designer Hollie Allen, meanwhile, provided beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, which are framed within the scheme.

In one wing of the dementia

community, we created a ladies dressing area with hats and scarves, framed prints of vintage Vogue covers and a jewellery box overflowing with beads and trinkets. Residents are invited to try things on. Also within the dementia community, at the end of the craft themed corridor, we designed a fitted unit which combined display with the rummage drawer concept. Each drawer is filled with craft materials: satin ribbons, knitting wool, cotton reels, skeins of embroidery thread, dolly pegs, patchwork squares and bundles of felt. All are tactile and sensory and likely to prompt happy memories. Having scoured eBay for vintage Brownie and Girl Guide badges, and sourcing a soft wool blanket, we created a ‘camp blanket’ for this area. Thinking back to my own childhood and significant things which I remember, it occurred to me that my time as a Brownie and then a Girl Guide were packed with happy and varied memories: pack holiday, camp fire, singing and the excitement of being awarded an interest badge. While I am in my early 50s, I felt that the Girl Guide theme would transcend a broad age group of care home residents, stimulating memories of their own times as a Brownie or a Guide or perhaps that of their daughters’ times in the movement.

Clever use of space

Of course, not all care settings have the space at corridor ends to create themed areas but resting stations within corridors, at junctions or by lifts can offer opportunities. At Henley Manor we designed a florist stand, packed full of artificial stems, inviting residents to create their own bouquets. Situated at the junction of three corridors, the flower stand provides an engaging activity as well as serving as a navigational marker. If space is limited, the

May 2020 • 35

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