Aged care and health care furniture design doesn’t need to be beige, bland and clinical. Warmer designs with a focus on colour and comforting aesthetics can help residents and patients have a greater sense of wellbeing, as long as these pieces still fit the bill on cleanability, durability and comfort.
Commercial furniture and joinery manufacturer Maxton Fox suggests selecting bolder furniture pieces for aged care and health care settings to help boost the morale of residents and patients. Maxton Fox works with designers, builders and clients to deliver furniture that has the right look and feel for such projects. Maxton Fox’s recently launched Fox Tub Chair, for example, is one such piece that Marketing Director Belinda Hall describes as “the perfect feature chair to lift the mood in aged care facilities and healthcare waiting rooms”.
The tub chair, which is designed and manufactured at their Western Sydney premises, comes in two sizes, and the two-tone fabric has multiple colour options.
It has a timber internal frame structure, with Dunlop Enduro foam for extra seat comfort. The chair is not only striking with the two-tone fabric detailing: with a base colour and contrasting piping, it’s extremely comfortable and a great feature chair to bring a space to life.
“Perfect and easy to move, a pop of colour and soft velvety textural finish makes this chair perfect for brightening up an aged care space,” Belinda says.
“It has a smooth luxurious textural feel with brass wheels, exposed contrasting piping and is comfortable to sit in".
Maxton Fox has manufactured custom furniture and joinery for many healthcare projects. Major NSW-based projects include the Auburn Hospital Redevelopment project with Multiplex and Nepean Hospital with Laing O’Rourke. Maxton Fox was the manufacturing partner across both projects working closely with the architects and builders, developing shop drawings across all joinery details in order to manufacture all items locally in their Western Sydney factory. This included all cabinetry, joinery units throughout the hospital, medical tables, workstations, toilet partitions, basins and more.
Furniture supply store Kezu also agrees that warmth is an important element of design in aged and healthcare settings.
“The Scandi look with blonde wood and clean lines continues to be used in modern aged and healthcare facilities,” Kezu Account Manager Carlos Letelier says.
“The look lifts the overall design and brightens what can sometimes be a place of sadness,” he says.
Letelier explained that some sectors prefer the warmth of dark, rich wood over the lighter Scandi look, but nonetheless they are still choosing contemporary designs and using the feel of wood to add a natural feeling of warmth.
Letelier says when it comes to picking furniture for aged care settings, Kezu’s recently introduced Kindred guest and lounge chairs designed by Chris Carter for Arcadia Contract fit the bill perfectly in terms of both style and ergonomics.
The chairs which blend classic elements with mid-century modern design come in both lounge and guest models. Both feature an elegant wood frame that draws lines around the seat and back cushions to form one continuous shape. Adjoining arms subtly taper downward while at the same time becoming narrower, adding visual interest.
“Although similar in appearance, the frame detail is emphasised to a greater degree on the lounge chair with its slightly more relaxed back angle and generous proportions, while guest models share all the same elements within a slightly smaller, more compact footprint,” he says.
The Kindred range also offers accompanying occasional tables in a variety of shapes, sizes and finishes. The table tops available in ash wood veneer, laminate or Corian, rest atop an inset wood apron that in turn is cradled by wood legs that angle outward and taper simultaneously.
The Kindred range is brand new to Australia, but in North America, Kindred has been selected for the new Amaran Assisted Living Facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Letelier says that the versatility of Kindred for aged care settings is “apparent in a subtle manner”.
“The seat height of the guest chair is 470mm and the arms extend to the front of the chair making access and egress easier for the elderly,” he explains.
“The seat size is generous and comfortable for larger bodies. Both in the moment and forever timeless, the Kindred collection invites people to linger, converse, or catch a moment of respite, all the while instilling a level of comfort and refinement”.
Australian supplier of custom healthcare furniture, Healthcare Furniture Australia (HFA) says while it’s great to have furniture with beautiful aesthetics in these settings, it’s still so important for designers to be sure the furniture meets functionality requirements and is ‘fit for purpose’.
Important considerations include making sure the furniture is safe, comfortable, easy to clean and durable. HFA specialises in creating good looking furniture that is also highly functional.
This can be seen in their recent project for a new state-of-the-art hospital wing at Cabrini Hospital in Melbourne. Healthcare Furniture Australia worked with architectural firm Bates Smart to create Cabrini Malvern’s new Gandel Wing. The seven-storey building accommodates a broad range of services including cancer, cardiac, maternity, geriatric care, emergency and infectious diseases. Their brief for the Gandel Wing was to transform the hospital into a welcoming and human centric environment. To achieve these natural materials like timber panelling were used to give patient rooms a warmer feel and hide equipment.
Healthcare Furniture Australia supplied a range of furniture including a custom bedside table incorporating swing away tablets for holding devices such as iPads. Stirling patient chairs were chosen for the rooms for their adjustable telescopic legs, adjustable back depth and fire-retardant foams.
The chair can be upholstered in the client’s choice of material, and it comes with padded arms for increased comfort. Custom coffee and meeting tables were also made to suit specific requirements. Sedus Turn Around stools and Quarterback task seating were used in the office spaces for ease of movement along with the Shift fixed height and sit to stand workstations. The Sedus Shift sit to stand is an Australian manufactured workstation that gives staff the freedom to sit or stand at the touch of a button. It can even be linked to an app which reminds you to sit and stand.
The Gandel Wing has now gone on to win an Award for Architecture in the category of Public Architecture at the 2020 Victorian Architecture Awards. The jury cited the public project as “an essay in excellence and an outstanding example of institutional architecture. The complex hospital brief and challenging site was thoughtfully navigated. The building was finely crafted by the architects to produce a consistent and high-quality outcome."
The team at HFA said another “hot topic of design in healthcare” is weighted furniture for mental health facilities. Mental health settings can be volatile at times, meaning the furniture needs to be strong, safe and secure.
HFA commented that the main challenge when furnishing these healthcare facilities is ensuring the furniture accommodates individuals with vastly different needs from one another due to the extensive range of mental illnesses presenting at the facilities.
“The most important consideration is the safety of both the patient and the staff giving care. Avoid providing any furniture that can be used to cause harm to the patient, staff, other patients or visitors,” HFA says.
“There should be no ligature points on the provided furniture. No furniture should have removable parts and open shelving in rooms, rather than cabinets with drawers and doors, would be a better option,” HFA says.
HFA also suggests using peaceful inviting colours in the furniture to add a feeling of warmth.
“Every room in the facility should feel inviting, creating an atmosphere wherein patients feel a sense of control”.
HFA has worked on several projects where furniture was modified to fit this brief, including the Bendigo Hospital project. HFA worked closely with Lendlease, Silver Thomas Hanley and Spotless to provide “fit for purpose” furniture to the space which includes an integrated cancer centre, 11 operating theatres and an 80-bed psychiatric inpatient unit including a parent and infant unit. Being Victoria’s largest regional hospital, it incorporates the latest design and technology solutions providing healthcare for Bendigo and the wider regional community.
The furniture provided by HFA was a combination of standard products from their core range and core products which were modified to suit specific requirements. These products included the Hills lounge chair being modified to meet the needs of Bendigo Hospital with the inclusion of a fixed seat cushion. These were manufactured in three different widths and heights as well as having weights added to the chairs for use in the mental health areas. Symmetry dining tables and elliptical coffee tables also had weights included when being utilised in these areas.
Guardian recliner chairs were manufactured to have wider arms than standard. Other products HFA provided included a new style couch; their Barnard sofa which has a gap along the back for ease of cleaning, tambour cupboards, Lunar and metal frame meeting tables with a nicely splayed leg detail and their Barkly beam seating.
Ultimately, the comfort and safety of those in aged and health care settings will always be the most important priority when selecting furniture for such environments, however this doesn’t have to be at the expense of aesthetics. Maxton Fox, Kezu and Healthcare Furniture Australia work with architects to provide warm and attractive furniture that helps residents and patients to feel more at ease, while also accommodating their complex range of needs.