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Economical solutions for a luxury look: how to achieve competitive design on a modest budget.

Beautiful surroundings contribute to a positive and healthy atmosphere in any setting. The perception of quality in long-term care communities is directly related to the appearance of its interior spaces, which is why architecture and interior design are assuming an increasingly significant role in the evolution of today's long-term care facilities. Visual aesthetics are the key to reinforcing a community's message.

While the design of a long-term care facility should be motivated by compassion and functional requirements, it must also meet financial goals and budgetary parameters. Never has this been more necessary than in today's market.

A professionally designed long-term care facility is one that utilizes specific design principles and elements such as finishes, color, lighting, furnishings, and fabrics to communicate the message of "quality care" and set the stage for success in a highly competitive market. It is possible to create professional design within budget limitations if cost-effective techniques are implemented and maintained.

BEGIN WITH A PLAN

The most cost-effective approach is to assemble a team of professionals and develop a master plan to showcase community strengths and distinguish it from the competition. The next step is to establish a budget outlining the items on your "wish list" to achieve the design goals. Planning is the best way to avoid unnecessary expenses, secure competitive pricing, and ensure that the project has lasting value.

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'SMART DESIGN'

By using the principles of "smart design," it is possible to achieve a million-dollar look without the cost. Materials and finishes help provide the foundation for luxurious surroundings. An example in resident rooms would be to select a product that combines the upscale look of wood flooring with the durability of vinyl. For assisted bathing areas, residential warmth can be achieved by working with suppliers who provide commercial-grade tile in residential colors and styles with floor, wall, and accent tile coordination packaged together at a competitive price. A favorite smart design tip: Instead of selecting plate glass mirrors clipped to the wall in resident room baths, the same budget can buy imported decorative framed mirrors.

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AFFORDABLE STYLE

Using paint in bold, expressive colors is an inexpensive method of bringing accents into a room or common area. The effective use of lighting can also add warmth and style to any space. There are many lighting sources to consider, including daylight, solar, tubular, skylight, recessed, pendant, sconce, decorative fluorescent, and "green" products designed with energy efficiency in mind.

DESIGN DETAILS

The proper use of fabrics and furnishings will provide the "icing on the cake." Many of today's residential design companies manufacture furniture and fabrics to meet commercial standards. These "crossover" styles and collections emulate those seen in luxury homes, fine hotels, and home fashion magazines, and can be purchased in volume at a cost savings.

RENOVATION IN STAGES

Although it is exciting to imagine a complete overhaul of a space or a community, it often isn't realistic to do it all. Planning can help establish an effective schedule for replacing elements over time while remaining within a budget. Look at the areas with the greatest need of enhancement or "makeover." New cabinetry, lighting, and flooring can create a fresh appeal and position the community to be more competitive. A merchandised model unit can also be a valuable marketing asset. It helps residents and family members to visualize the living space by personalizing it and can assist with community marketing efforts to reduce vacancies in assisted living floor plan offerings.

DESIGN INTEGRITY

It's critical for a community to establish a design team often consisting of an administrator, director of nursing or marketing director, and an interior design professional to be responsible for maintaining the design integrity of the community. Country club communities all have design review boards to ensure the standard of the community is not compromised. Long-term care communities would benefit from their example. Rather than several employees making independent decisions within their respective areas, the team should be charged with the decision making when it comes time to replacing elements such as carpeting, wallcoverings, lighting, and furnishings. Without a professional approach, the original design will deteriorate over time into a patchwork of replacements that attempts to reflect a "newer" version of an "old" design.

VALUABLE INVESTMENT

Engaging one licensed interior designer who is experienced in the field of long-term care communities, and maintaining an ongoing relationship with that firm, is the best way to achieve a successful design and keep it updated to remain competitive in the marketplace. A design professional with a big picture approach can assist in developing a master plan and offer the most lasting value for the design budget. Designers of long-term care communities will offer classic, updated designs and be sensitive to industry trends and innovations.

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Working with a designer can also open doors to top resources. Some designers are able to negotiate competitive pricing with their suppliers on the provider's behalf. Tapping into their resources can result in greater value, quality, and style for one's design dollars.

Invite your designer to become a member of your newly established community design team and consult with the designer on all design decisions to make sure every selection contributes to the integrity of the community's master plan and message. It is an effective way to keep a long-term care community updated and compete for your market share of new residents.

Judith Sisler Johnston, allied member, ASID, is president of Sisler Johnston Interior Design in Jacksonville, Florida. She has worked with clients throughout Florida for more than 25 years and has received more than 200 industry awards. Sisler Johnston Interior Design offers comprehensive interior design services for commercial and residential clients and specializes in marketable designs for active adult and continuing care senior lifestyle communities. For more information, call (904) 288-0908 or visit www.sislerjohnston.com.

JUDITH SISLER JOHNSTON, ALLIED MEMBER, ASID * PHOTOGRAPHY: TAYLOR ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY
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Title Annotation:DESIGNMATTERS
Author:Johnston, Judith Sisler
Publication:Long-Term Living
Date:Mar 1, 2011
Words:981
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