What Should You Look for in a Senior Living Interior Designer?

When you’re looking to hire a senior living interior designer, experience is key. A lot of the time, budgets come down to cost, and when you’re hiring someone who doesn’t know the landscape, say they’re a residential designer, and they’re not used to designing to codes, compliance, performance materials, or speccing wrong furniture that could cost the client money.

I think that’s the biggest thing to look for because when you’re hiring somebody that’s not experienced, you may have to pay in the long run. It may not show up right then. You may be replacing flooring or furnishings that start performing and failing over time. Whereas if you hire an expert, they can design to a performance spec and you can stay fresh and look good for 5 to 7 years. I think that’s first and foremost because everything comes down to money at the end.

The other thing when you’re hiring a senior living designer is understanding what their processes are ahead of time. Some designers love to design on-trend, and there’s a place for that. If it were me hiring a designer, I’d want to understand how they go through that process to capture the spirit of your community and set you apart from your competitors, and not just do on-trend things, but what’s going to enhance their culture and really echo the landscape in the region that they’re in and really elevate it to a point that feels comfortable. Change is hard for a lot of aging adults, and they don’t always want to look like they’re walking into a hotel or the newest on-trend building. We get that a lot when we work in our existing campuses. So that’s very important, to really style it out how it needs to be and understand how your designer would approach that process.

What Should I Consider When Discussing Budget With an Interior Designer?

When we approach high-level numbers and visioning and planning, a rough order of magnitude with clients, we really walk with a marketing lens. Sometimes we walk into the front door and we all know that first impression is first and foremost is what you need to spend your money and focus on. But sometimes the flooring was just replaced and it looks really good. Sometimes the flooring needs to be replaced, but the sofa hasn’t been sat in for years and it still looks great and it just needs new pillows and some complimentary lounge chairs. Sometimes the lighting stands out, so when we go in, we do an evaluation because we know sometimes we have the luxury of completely redoing everything.

But what we found in the last couple of years with our clients is that we want to stretch the dollars as far as we can go, because we know we can’t do everything. So whether we’re budgeting for cost-effective lighting replacement or what kind of existing finishes and or furniture we can be saving on, and then putting some new complements with it. Some campuses we walk in, I’m like, you don’t need to paint. This paint’s a great color. You’re going to save a ton of money. Let’s really put the money towards FFNE.

So, the other key component is having a contractor by your side to go through those preliminary estimates. We’ve got a good contractor with us that’s been working with us around the country. A lot of times, our clients don’t know what amount to throw at it, and that’s something that we do ahead of time. We really try to get the contractor involved. We don’t wait till the end and then have all these surprises. So I think it’s working with a trusted contractor to do preliminary takeoffs to get you in the ballpark to sign off on design.

We really try to push our clients to do that ahead of time so we don’t get ahead of ourselves, start designing, and then they bid it and then they’re completely off. We really try to get the rough order of magnitude together as a team moving forward. But we look at all options, right? We’re not below speccing Wayfair or Lamps Plus lighting fixtures because we really know we need to spend more money on a lounge chair that people are going to be sitting in and looking at when they walk through the front door.

So, it’s a myriad and a huge group effort. And I think the more work you put in ahead of time before design gets signed off on, and we really roll up our sleeves and commit to the numbers that we said, I think that’s the most important part of planning.

How Can a Professionally Designed Community Enhance Marketing and Social Interaction?

Any community refresh is a chance to either rebrand or relaunch your culture. And, early, early on before we even start remodels, we really get with the marketing team to be like, “You need to start marketing what’s coming.” You need to keep the occupancy up. You’re going to target another market. So it’s hugely important because a lot of times people are shopping online and they need to see your community before they even come in the front door. We saw that a lot during Covid – even in regular real estate. People are checking online. Before they even waste their time driving to a campus, they’re going to make sure that the fit is good online. So it can be digital marketing material we could support until we can get that final photoshoot, so they can kind of keep that information current. But, afterwards, I think most importantly, it’s getting the photoshoot done and getting the new spaces up on the website.

So people are first and foremost attracted to it, and they can envision their mom or dad or themselves wanting to live there. When we reimagine a lot of the public spaces, whether it be an activated lobby that’s adjacent to a bistro, a lot of times in traditional buildings that were completely separated or that bar or bistro component wasn’t there. In a lot of our redesigns, we add that active component to really enhance the culture and experience of the day-to-day life of the residents. So, capturing that spirit of, wow, when I see this new lobby, I can see there’s a coffee bar in the background. I could envision myself going and having coffee or having a glass of wine.

So, not only do we promote new programs in the remodel, and enhancements that we add to campuses, but marketing is always in the forefront. That’s the first thing we do is we put on our marketing lens from budget conception to final execution at staging and photoshoots. So, when clients give us money and trust us with their money to remodel their campus, the end goal is to get that building full. And it’s something that we don’t take lightly.

What Role Does the Interior Designer Play in the Renovation Process?

The roles we play in a renovation project are truly turnkey from early visualization and concepts to budget management. We are working as a team with a contractor to get the numbers in early, so we have the liberty to design, rolling up our sleeves to value engineer things, to keep the design intent where it needs to be. Whether we wanted the shiplap wall, but guess what? If we do an accent paint, it’s just fine. So we really manage that process from the initial phone call and the initial sidewalk, we’re there to be turnkey, so we have procurement in-house so we can manage and keep costs down for our clients.

When we’re installing and staging and putting the final touches on the campus, we do that from start to finish, and we’re there to truly be a partner, to hold our client’s hand and be a representative. A lot of times, we’re using creative ways and communication to get the job done because we all know everybody’s busy.

We all know construction and the sub-force and labor market isn’t what it used to be. So we’re constantly, I wouldn’t say reinventing ourselves, but pivoting to make sure that we can get from point A to point B in a timely manner at a cost-efficient manner, knowing that things may change.

And I think being a flexible design consultant is the most important part because we’re not going to get our hearts broken if we can’t install the countertop we wanted to because once we start unraveling the ceiling, there’s some not so fun stuff that the client had to throw money at. So I think being flexible and pivoting as a leader, consultant, and a true partner for the client is the most important thing. That’s what we sign up for, and we love doing it.

Why Should I Hire an Interior Designer Who Specializes in Senior Living?

It’s important to hire a senior living design consultant because you have to be a little bit seasoned. Not everybody is cut out for it, just as in any profession, there are different avenues, niches, and markets. Some teachers can’t be middle school teachers or special ed teachers or kindergarten teachers.

I think that kind of carries through in design, not everybody’s comfortable with working in a senior environment where residents come at you and ask you questions. Sometimes we’re in end of life wings and it’s not for everybody to thrive in it.

It’s our mission and our culture. A lot of our staff loves being in our environments, but it’s not for everybody. So I think there’s a comfort level. There’s also things in safety and liability when you’re getting onto site, whether you’re walking into a memory care unit and you need to make sure that you’re shutting the door, those types of things, because we’ve done it for so long, we prep our staff.

If I’m not there every time or the director of operations isn’t there every time, we make sure we’re not sending in such green people where they’re not knowing how to interact, answer questions, or how to redirect a resident. We pride ourselves on doing that because safety is first and foremost for the residents and then just responding to them. There’s a certain way you navigate. It kind of carries through it. Any consultant, even some contractors, some have way more grace and work better in those environments and then some don’t. It’s just a different kind of environment, and it’s important to know when you’re working with the consultant that they’re comfortable working in your space.

By prioritizing experience and expertise in senior living design, you can ensure that your community’s unique needs and preferences are met with precision and care. From initial concept to final execution, a skilled designer can transform your space into a vibrant and inviting environment that enhances the well-being and satisfaction of residents and visitors alike. Ready to elevate your senior living environment?

Contact us today to explore how our team can bring your vision to life and create a space that reflects the unique spirit and personality of your community.

“Knowing the direct impact I’ve experienced with seniors, just through the basics of design, fuels my passion for improving the lives of people who mean the most to us.”
— Keri Moore-Muñiz, President