The preferences of patients, families, and medical staff for interiors that mirror life outside facilities’ walls is resulting in a healthcare design typology that’s colored by retail, hospitality, and other design sectors. One area that’s been transformed by this shift is healthcare seating, with designers looking to solutions used elsewhere to inspire offerings that facilitate desired human connections and support a variety of group sizes. To that end, manufacturers are stepping up with new seating options that are visually refined and flexible while meeting healthcare’s requirements for durability and infection control.
Much of the seating specified for healthcare is used in waiting areas, where designs accommodate varying physical needs and social preferences—from private to communal—as well as the expectations of different generations and cultures. For example, for Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Josie Robertson Surgery Center in New York, designers from Perkins Eastman (New York) and Icrave (New York) incorporated flexible options, including clusters of sofas and lounge chairs, that allow large groups and families to sit close together, says Maureen Carley-Vallejo, a principal and senior healthcare interiors leader at Perkins Eastman (New York).
Additional options may include high-backed lounge seats that offer some acoustical and visual privacy for those who desire a place to retreat. “Healthcare environments need to acknowledge that one family could be grieving near another family that is celebrating,” says Tanya Paz, a San Diego-based senior designer with Cama Inc., an interior design and experience consulting firm (New Haven, Conn.). “We lean on furniture to help us carve out areas that can support a variety of experiences.”
Seating also plays a part in making waiting less of a passive activity thanks to new products, such as lounge seats with integrated power outlets and USB ports that support mobile devices, designed to foster connectivity and productivity. Another approach borrowed from hospitality design is the use of counter-height tables and bar-height seats that allow visitors to perch briefly or sit for longer periods to work or eat; as a bonus, these pieces offer a comfortable seating alternative for those with hip ailments. “A shift in surface heights not only meets diverse patient needs but also alters the topography of a space and adds visual interest,” says Crystal Martinez, senior associate, creative director of interior design, at CO Architects (Los Angeles).