8 questions with a hospital interior designer


Behind every great interior is an interior designer… even at a hospital. Geraldine Drake is the Interior Design Program + Standards Manager with Jones Lang LaSalle at Beaumont Health System (Royal Oak and Grosse Pointe). Geraldine been with Beaumont for five years and currently lives in Northville, MI. Geraldine gives us a glimpse of what her job entails.

How did you come to work for Beaumont?
I was working at an architectural firm, where I was the director of the interior design group and lead designer for the health care sector. I wanted to pursue an opportunity that would allow me to continue in my management career path, yet also allow me to practice health care design at a hospital. A friend of mine (the interior design manager for Beaumont Hospital, Troy) introduced me to the team and I have been now been here for five years.

How is being an interior designer in a hospital different than other spaces?
The projects are extremely diverse. I can work on an office, a patient room and an operating room all in one day. Also, being in the hospital gives you the opportunity to observe everyone who uses the hospital, respond to the unique challenges of a large health care facility and consider how the design of the facility affects all of the users differently.

What are some challenges you face?
We are challenged to create a warm, welcoming, comfortable and safe space, while making recommendations that satisfy a large variety of requirements. Another challenge is supporting our Healthier Hospitals Initiative and researching the products that we recommend to ensure that we are creating healthy interiors. Our group takes satisfaction in creating solutions to these challenges and creating a beautiful aesthetic, too.

What factors do you have to consider when designing a hospital room?
The primary consideration of the design of any room is the function and flow of the space. The patient care staff needs to perform their tasks without having to worry whether or not the chair in the room is difficult to move. We are careful to select green furniture – often made in Michigan – and finishes, support green cleaning practices and avoid materials that may contain harmful chemicals.  After we meet all the needs of the room, we then make sure the design, color and pattern make the room feel calm and relaxing.

Do certain colors, fabrics, etc. give a healing vibe?
Yes. There is supporting research about color theory and the affect that color has on healing. We are consistently asked for colors that are calming and help our patients, guests and staff feel relaxed. We strongly believe that the colors we recommend help decrease some of the stress associated with being in the hospital. The same approach is considered in textiles, art and finish selection. We select materials that contribute to a sense of calm with patterns that are restful, yet interesting. Our goal is to support our patient care staff in creating a healing environment through interior design.

What are some of your favorite spaces in the hospital?
Every new project seems to be my favorite. A more recent project of mine is the Family Birth Center. The transformation of the unit was amazing as we eliminated the tired, old 1990s pink and introduced a warm, beautiful, spa-like environment. The Physician Lounge is another favorite. We were able to change the space from an uninviting mail room/ lab coat storage to a space for physicians to “touch down” at a computer, relax in the lounge or meet with other physicians and use the interactive TV to review cases or meet with the residents.

Click to enlarge some photos from the Family Birth Center at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelors of Science in Interior Design from Eastern Michigan University.

Is working for a hospital something you can prepare for or is it more learning as you go?
Health care design has come a long way. When I first started design, I learned to work closely with doctors and nurses to meet the clinical needs of the space. Now health care design is evidence-based and supported by published research to contribute to the patient outcomes needed in the health care market. My department continuously researches materials and furnishings specific to healthcare to find the best products to meet the needs of our patients, staff and guest in the hospital. I continue to learn along the way with the help of our hospital administration, the health care staff and other team members.

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