Ask the architect: Hospital design trends for today and tomorrow

Ask the architect: Hospital design trends for today and tomorrow

How can I choose finish materials that won’t look dated in five or 10 years?
Apr 20, 2010
By staff

Don’t consider every finish to be permanent, says Wendy Wheeler Martinez, director of design at BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M. There will come a time when you’ll want to change something, so think through your initial finish selections before construction begins.

“Less permanent” finishes include upholsteries, wall coverings, laminate countertops, and paint, Wheeler Martinez says. So have some fun with these finishes—a bold paint color behind the reception desk can be a real attention-grabber. Or choose your favorite color and find ways to incorporate it throughout the practice, offsetting the more neutral-colored finishes. If in 10 years you decide a change is needed, you won’t need a lot of time or money to complete the update.

Use caution when using wood finish materials—they can date a building’s interior just as quickly as an old color scheme, Wheeler Martinez says. When making stain selections, consider traditional colors, like cherry, honey brown, or white. If you’d like to incorporate trendy, modern stain colors like dark walnut or ebony, use them sparingly—if you decide to change them in the future, it’s much easier to change a select group of cabinets rather than all of them. If all of your cabinets are built with wood, choose door panels with limited to no design detail to ensure your cabinets never go out of style.

Keep in mind that styles come and go, Wheeler Martinez says. Wood-paneled walls are making a comeback, but the designs are much different from what we saw in years past. Wall treatments like this, again, should be used sparingly—try incorporating a single wall as a focal point. Just don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to tear it down in 10 years.