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Under the Influence

By Laura Schlereth
Illustration By John Randall Nelson

The restaurant, hotel and healthcare design industries are showing that they all influence each other — and the result is a more welcoming, uniquely designed service.

When it comes to design, boundaries aren’t so easily defined. According to Peter Hapstak III, IIDA, AIA, Principal/Partner at CORE architecture and design in Washington, D.C., the most inspired designs are results of shared knowledge and blurred boundaries. “There’s a natural flow between all fields of design,” he says. “All design relates to all design. When we separate ideas and trends by industry, we limit creativity.”

Hapstak thinks it’s critical to the interior design profession to cross-reference disciplines in order to stay on top of the latest trends. “Creativity and the best design comes from overlapping different disciplines,” he says. “Designers should be able to wear different hats.”

 Three industries that seem to influence each other are healthcare, restaurant and hotel design. All three are becoming boutique destinations that offer unique experiences to guests and visitors. One reason for the overlap, according to Michael Winegrad, owner of I. Michael Interior Design, LLC, in Washington, D.C., is that the public has developed more sophisticated tastes and expects more from service industries.

“The public has become more aware of high design,” he says. “Functionality alone won’t set one apart from competition. We require just that little edge.”

Here’s how these three industries are looking to each other to gain that edge:

healthcare and hotels: home away from home

The major evolution in healthcare facility design has been from pragmatic and institutionalized to more of a resort-like atmosphere where holistic healing is the main focus, says Linda Gabel, AAHID, IIDA, Senior Associate at NBBJ Design, in Columbus, Ohio. Much like hospitality venues seek to make people feel at home, Gabel says that hospitals attempt to create the same welcoming environment.

“A lot of it is about expectation of experience and creating that relaxing environment,” she says. “The design says you’re here for a place of expertise for medical care and well-being.”

In order to create that home away from home, Gabel says hospitals are using more organic tonalities and textures with palettes of wood, stone, hand-scraped plaster, cast glass, aged patina and hammered or hand-worked metals. There is also an increasing presence of natural elements such as fireplaces and water fountains, and hospitals are substituting the glaring lighting they’re notorious for with more natural daylight and warm
accent lighting.

Like hotels, healthcare design is also making an effort to reflect its region, Gabel says. It’s incorporating more indigenous patterns in textiles and tile designs to mirror the natural landscape and culture. For example, the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska, incorporates the indigenous form of storytelling by featuring iconography in railing details, edge-lit art glass, in textiles, as well as on the terrazzo patterns on the floor, Gabel says. In Charleston, S.C., where metal work is predominant, the Ashley River Tower Building in the Medical University of South Carolina includes hand-forged ironmongery in several forms, including light fixtures and benches.

Although the destination feel is sought after, Louise Nicholson Carter, IIDA, Principal and Director of healthcare interiors at Morris Architects in Houston, says she also sees retail being brought into healthcare facilities to provide a kind of branding. Like hotels, Nicholson Carter sees retail mostly coming in the form of food service, such as a Starbucks in the hospital lobby. She thinks the consistent design of a retail vendor inspires comfort in hospital visitors.

“I think there’s a huge amount of psychology that goes into a lot of this,” Nicholson Carter says.

“Familiar retail helps reduce anxiety in any facility.”

Jane Rohde, FIIDA, AAHID, AIA, LEED AP, Principal at JSR Associates, Inc., in Ellicot City, Md., agrees and says that the retail component also plays a role in the community-forming focus that healthcare design is taking on. In senior living facilities, she says there are more retail components in order to bring a common gathering place for residents. But the community-building initiative doesn’t end there, she says. Rather than isolating senior living facilities as gated-off residences, Rohde says they’re now being built as a part of new communities.

“It’s the idea of the intergenerational community,” she says. “It’s providing natural socialization rather than forced.”

Also, Rohde sees senior living facilities becoming more communities within themselves, especially among the upper class. Rather than having studio apartments, she says there’s an increase in communities with 2- to 3-bedroom units or even small houses for those who can live independently or with a caregiver. These facilities are also experiencing more resort-like, upscale design that includes dining area options and
more amenities, such as dishwashers, dryers and granite countertops.

hotels and restaurants: unique chic

Winegrad isn’t surprised that hotel cues from each other because he feels they serve a similar audience.

“They’re both trying to service the public in creating a mood, an ambiance and an identity,” he says. “There’s a very close relationship between hotels and restaurants.”

Winegrad points to the recent boutique hotel trend: Hospitality venues are trying to come up with “one-off designs” to appear unique. By creating a sense of individuality, hotels hope to capture business the way restaurants do by offering a destination, one-of-a-kind experience, he says.

To achieve that, Winegrad says hotels seek to incorporate design elements that look like they were handpicked out of a local vintage shop rather than a chain retailer or department store. Guests are seeing more wool handmade rugs and antiquelooking chairs and tables, he says.

To embellish the destination experience, Winegrad says that hotels are also attempting to add more international flavor with elements that seem to have a story.

“We can pick furniture from Germany, lighting fixtures from Italy, and wall coverings from China,” he says. “The more exotic, unique or unusual, the more interesting.”

Hotels are also hoping to increase socializing by putting more lively areas, such as the lounge or bar, in or near the lobby to give people the feel that they’re where the action is — much like a restaurant with an open kitchen.

“An open kitchen does something to the whole mood and acoustics of the room,” he says. “It adds to the experience and the charge of liveliness.”

restaurants and healthcare: raising the standards

Christine van Rooy, owner of VANROOY Design in Long Beach, Calif., thinks that restaurants have benefited from the resulting technology of healthcare’s high sanitary standards. One benefit is the use of Crypton fabric, which was created in 1993 for the healthcare industry to prevent liquid damage. Crypton is stain, moisture and bacteria resistant but still soft. Van Rooy says that Crypton allows for woven materials instead of Naugahyde, and the designs are less stagnant.

Sheila Semrou, AAHID, ASID, AIA, Business Development Manager at TRIAD Construction, Inc., in West Allis, Wis., also sees healthcare taking a note from restaurants in their own dining areas. Noisy cafeterias with bright glaring lights are things of the past, she says. Now they’re boasting more of a restaurant-like atmosphere with upholstered chairs, carpet (to absorb noise) and more layers of lighting with natural and indirect sources. She thinks healthcare facilities are making these design efforts in order to encourage people, such as staff, visitors or inand- out patients, to stay for meals rather than going out. Dining areas are also now being placed closer to the front of hospitals in order to catch more traffic, she says.

“With more attractive dining rooms,” Semrou says. “They, too, can become a destination.” Proving that as different design segments continue to take cues from each other, one-of-a-kind experiences can be found in the unlikeliest of places.


  1. I find it particularly exciting that the trend in community design involves inclusion of senior living facilities. We all have the opportunity to learn from our local environment and neighbors and by proactively planning spaces for the elderly, universal design will become the norm. Posted by: zahava jones on 05.07.10 at 02:49
  2. It is most refreshing, appealing to those with individual and independent tastes and thinking, that new trends in design are being applied to hotels, and senior housing
    establishments. This can only be positive for the quality of life--so deserving while traveling away from home, or as an elderly person changing in their senoir phase of life Posted by: Ann Marie Gregory on 06.24.11 at 07:57
  3. Yes I've also seen a lot of these trends taking place in the health club industry.
    Boutique branding and including wine bars and lounges to entice their customers to view them as not only a place to work out but also a social club. Posted by: Carol Gambale on 10.03.13 at 10:09

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Perspective Sponsored CEUs. Under the Influence.

Read this article, complete the following questions and receive .1 CEU.


  1. Name three design industries that are offering a boutique experience in order to cater to a sophisticated public.
  2. In what ways is healthcare design mimicking hospitality design?
  3. How does retail play a part in healthcare design?
  4. What overlaps do you see in hospitality and restaurant Interior Design?
  5. Restaurants have benefited from the technology of healthcare’s high sanitary standards. In what ways have restaurants taken advantage of healthcare’s advancements?

After reading this article you will be aware of:
• The ways in which different design industries overlap and inform each other.
• The ways in which the healthcare facility design has evolved and taken on more of a focus on hospitality.
• How hotels are building off of recent restaurant trends in providing a destination experience.
• How restaurants have benefited from the technology of healthcare’s high sanitary standards.

Return completed answers to:

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