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Choosing Interior Finishes for Healthcare Facilities

Updated: Oct 16, 2023



When it comes to planning healthcare projects, the task of identifying appropriate finishes for a clinical setting that are both environmentally friendly, visually welcoming, and conducive to health can be especially complex. The selection of the right materials necessitates a delicate balance of various factors that often compete with one another, irrespective of the project's nature. However, healthcare projects impose heightened demands when it comes to the choice of finishes.


Designing for healing is an art and science. Hospitals and healthcare facilities stand as complex, multifaceted structures, requiring a nuanced approach to both programming and functionality. Within these spaces, myriad areas demand distinct finish solutions, all of which must seamlessly coalesce into a unified design expression while catering to diverse needs. This is where the mastery of Interior Design truly shines – it's about finding solutions to intricate problems, resulting in a functional, serviceable, enduring, and aesthetically pleasing environment.

Aesthetics can contribute to the healthcare system’s brand. In the realm of healthcare, interior design and finish selections play a pivotal role in defining the brand to the customer. The choices made regarding materials have a direct influence on customer satisfaction, and often, patients correlate the quality of the facility with the quality of care they receive. It's not just about making the space look good; it's about ensuring it feels good and stands the test of time.


There are challenges with evolving standards. Today's healthcare landscape is marked by constant change. What was considered a standard finish just a year ago might now be discontinued. This necessitates a sophisticated palette of "standards" with built-in flexibility, enabling the seamless incorporation of new and innovative materials. Each project becomes an opportunity to refine and elevate the standard for subsequent endeavors, creating a perpetual cycle of design enhancement over time.


Evidence-based design merges with aesthetics. The practice of evidence-based design has become an integral part of healthcare interior design. This approach leverages scientific research to inform design decisions, with the goal of optimizing outcomes for patients, staff, and visitors. New and emerging materials are playing a crucial role in enhancing medical outcomes, bolstering infection control measures, and elevating patient satisfaction scores.


There is a foundation in healthcare design for durability and cleanability. In these environments, resilience and the ability to clean surfaces easily are paramount considerations, particularly when it comes to flooring. These surfaces bear the brunt of constant foot traffic, as well as the rigors of cleaning and maintenance routines. Selecting materials that can withstand this demanding environment is not only practical but essential for ensuring a hygienic and safe space.


Wall protection and safeguarding is a critical element of healthcare design. High-traffic areas, such as corridors and waiting rooms, can be subject to scuffs, dings, and other forms of wear and tear. Incorporating protective finishes not only preserves the visual integrity of the space but also extends the lifespan of the walls.


Architects and interior designers are acutely aware that every product comes with its drawbacks. What holds utmost significance during the material selection process is the availability of comprehensive information, which helps in making well-informed choices. We have found that manufacturers are more informative now regarding the environmental impact of their products, and therefore it’s easier for designers to make informed decisions and work towards achieving carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative project outcomes.


While enhancing transparency remains an ongoing endeavor, there are existing methods that can assist interior designers in making more sustainable selections. At the project's inception, designers can opt for a material category and utilize criteria to determine the final list of products. Access to various resources and ongoing research & continuous education enables us to evaluate factors such as the presence of hazardous substances, the proportion of recycled content, the location of the material’s manufacturing, and the utilization of renewable energy during the material selection process.

On a current hospital project our team is finalizing, materials and finishes were carefully selected for the healthcare environment. Back-painted glass was used in various areas for a splash of color - some with appealing photographic images, and all are easy to clean for the hospital. Impressive walnut wood ceilings and feature walls give great impact and warmth, while maintaining durability and long-lasting appeal. Sandra Wasik, Senior Interior Designer, enjoyed creating spaces for the client that are engaging and yet meet current healthcare standards. She introduced the idea of using hexagon shapes in the lighting, signage, and divider panels. This is a known healing shape/structure found in nature, like in the honeycombs of bees and snowflakes. Artistic murals were added to various wall spaces instead of individual art pieces for a large, impressive look and to meet the healthcare system’s needs for cleanability. In the café, unique tiles were designed for the walls in an interesting sporadic pattern, and glass wall partitions beautifully close off the food service space when needed.

The aim for designers is to deliver facilities that serve the interests of the client, occupants, and the community over an extended period. To achieve this, the design team must specify building materials that exhibit durability and possess a timeless aesthetic, all while maintaining health and sustainability considerations at the forefront.


Healthcare interior design is a delicate balance of form and function, science and art. It encompasses a dynamic interplay of materials, finishes, and design principles aimed at creating healing environments that foster well-being. By embracing evidence-based practices, adapting to evolving standards, and prioritizing durability and cleanability, designers are at the forefront of shaping the future of healthcare spaces.


For assistance with your healthcare project, send us an email at info@mcfarchitects.com or call 412-281-6568 to request a consultation.

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