Interior design for wellbeing: unlocking the benefits

Two of our senior interior designers at Blueleaf, Joyce Clutton and Dana O’Donnell, have identified how expert interior design know-how can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing and contribute to the success of a care home.

Here, they share their considerable care industry design experience and understanding of what to consider when planning schemes, as well as their insight as to the latest trends.

“Interior design for wellbeing in  care homes is far more than making things look pretty by choosing curtains and table lamps to match paint colours and carpets,” says Dana.

“The best designers go beyond the look and feel of a space to incorporate an effective care model that meets the everyday needs of residents and staff and as well, address specific age-related impairments that impact on mobility, sight, hearing and memory.”

While first impressions count, especially when relatives are going through the process of finding the right home for a loved one, it’s all about creating a space in which continuity of good care can take place.

Tailored to care

“Not all care homes are the same as they vary greatly in size, location and facilities offered, with standards of fixtures and fittings often determined by budget as well as catchment area,” explains Dana.

“Whether a bedroom refresh or wholescale remodelling, while every brief is different, we make sure each aspect of a design has been selected to better support staff as well as helping residents to live well, every day.”

Creating a home from home

Whatever the budget and brief, it’s all about making space feel like a home from home. As moving into residential care can be unsettling, interiors can make a big difference in how someone transitions from their own home into their new environment.

“We make spaces as welcoming and homely as possible with furniture and layout designed and planned to enhance people’s independence by making it safe and easy to get around,” says Joyce.

“In our experience, this doesn’t just apply to bedrooms. It’s important to get communal areas right too by, for example, creating spaces that offer residents the chance to sit in a quiet setting, where the acoustics are controlled at a lower level.

“When it comes to interior design for wellbeing, we often add textures and contrasting patterns on fabrics and wallpapers as they work together to create depth and warmth. It’s an approach which helps bring an extra dimension to a scheme, making sure it doesn’t feel at all cold or clinical.”

A balance of comfort and safety

The best design-led homes combine form and function with comfort. Research, training and years of industry experience show that whilst safety is paramount and the bedrock of quality care home provision, there are ways of making a space safe without compromising on comfort and style; which is what interior design for health and wellbeing ensures.

“For example, when planning a layout, we make sure that a room allows for the free movement of staff, residents and those who use mobility aids, as well as wheelchair access,” explained Joyce. “We’re always mindful of how to prevent unnecessary falls and we use lighting and signage to help the sight-impaired navigate safely.”

Encouraging independence

All good care homes encourage residents to both retain and regain as much of their independence as possible, as Dana explains: “When approaching a design project, we always look at ways of incorporating features that help address impairments associated with old age. Doing so is enormously beneficial emotionally, as it helps alleviate people’s frustration, which in turn, lowers their stress levels.

“For example, we try to achieve 30 points difference LRV, that’s light reflective values, between surfaces, to help those living with eyesight deterioration. Creating such a distinct contrast improves the chance of someone being able to decipher the difference, giving them confidence and a sense of security and ultimately helping them to live independently.”

Designed for infection control

It’s crucial to strike the right balance between attractive interior design and effective infection control, explains Joyce.

“When selecting covers for seating, for example, it pays to opt for vinyl, duo split or smooth finish fabrics, as all are easy to wipe clean, so offer good anti-bacterial advantages.

“Where possible, freestanding furniture should be fitted with castors as it makes cleaning underneath easier. And when it comes to flooring, we specify capped or coved vinyl, which means it can be gently curved up the base of a wall, helping to stop the build-up of dirt. Capping strips create a neat, hygienic finish.

“For a rustic, traditional effect, we recommend using wood plain vinyl, and if carpet is to be laid, for a softer, more luxurious finish, we advise an impervious carpet fitted with the least number of seams, again so that dirt doesn’t gather so easily.”

Designing for dementia

With the demand for specialist dementia care on the increase, we work with the clinical insights gained from training at the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre and combine design creativity with practical measures to address common issues.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and promote comfort, helping to improve wellbeing amongst dementia residents in care homes.

  • Create a focal point in a room, for example, a fireplace so that it is clear it is a lounge.
  • Avoid mirrored doors as it can create a sense that there is another person in the room.
  • Choose scoop handles on bedroom cabinets, as it is easier to navigate with touch.
  • Make sure there are lots of options when it comes to chair heights as residents can choose which suits them best.
  • Noise can be stressful, and so noise dampening can be achieved by adding soft furnishings, carpets rather than vinyl flooring, curtains instead of slatted blinds.
  • Create a ‘reminiscence lounge’ – a safe space, styled and propped with items such as photographs, posters and ornaments to help prompt conversations and connect residents with their past memories. By creating ‘destination’ points’, an environment can be stimulating.

What’s trending?

Good design can have a big influence over how visitors, residents and staff feel about a care home. That’s why Blueleaf’s team of leading designers feel it’s important to keep up to date with the latest trends when utilising interior design for wellbeing purposes.

Beautiful botanicals

For over a century now, floral patterns have featured on fabrics and wallpapers, and in the context of care homes, garden-themed designs are known to help boost wellbeing.

“It’s a chance to bring the beauty of nature indoors which can be a great lift for anyone not able to go outdoors independently,” explains Joyce.

Cole & Son has launched its Botanical Botanica collection which this traditional British design house describes as ‘a seasonal exploration of the English landscape’.

“Dana and I have fallen for its Allium wallpaper design which is a contemporary take on a traditional floral motif and available in a number of striking colourways,” she adds.

The power of colour

Joyce’s ‘go-to’ designer is Kit Kemp who, she says, has wonderfully witty ideas that make a bold style statement as she’s brilliant at combining colours with patterns, and bringing a sense of depth to schemes.

“Eclectic, bright and adventurous, the Kit method makes people smile as she wants each space, every object, to tell a story and to evoke positive emotions,” comments Joyce, adding that muted, softer hues and colours like pastels, for example, also serve to create a calming atmosphere.

“Colour has a huge impact on how people feel and whilst bright colours can certainly help us feel energised there’s a danger they can look too corporate and so the way in which we select colours is a key element of our work where we take great care to get it absolutely spot on.”


Dana has an impressive commercial and contract interior design career spanning some 13 years. Before joining Blueleaf, her previous experience includes heading up design teams as well as running her own architectural interiors business. She combines her flare and passion for interior design with a thorough technical and functional understanding of what is needed when designing for care home environments, adding a Certificate in Dementia to her qualifications, which includes a Diploma in Interior Design and a BA in Interior Architecture.



Joyce brings 11 years’ interior design experience to the Blueleaf team, and six in the care sector, beginning her ‘career in creativity’ with a BA Honours in Fine Art, adding technical skills qualifications and attending the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services courses.

She thrives on generating fresh solutions to the renovation of commercial interior spaces, including structural alterations, applying a practical as well as an aesthetic approach to problem-solving.  Her extensive experience extends from £8k show homes to £2m developments, working for a variety of property development companies and some of the UK’s largest house builders.

Final thoughts

If you’d like to find out more about our interior design for wellbeing services, get in touch with us today. Alternatively, for the latest news in the care sector, head on over to our blog.

Thank you to The Care Home Environment for publishing this article in their latest edition. Subscribe today to read more of their publications and amazing insights into the care industry.


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