Feature Article - May/June 2003
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Natural Wonders

Trends in interior design, whatever your budget

By Kelli Anderson


Assessing light quality in a facility at various intervals of the day will help best determine the changing lighting needs of a space. But once those needs have been identified, there are some basic rules of thumb.

Keeping the "color" of light consistent within a room is a must. For example, fluorescents tend to be cool and blue while incandescents tend to be warmer or yellow. To mix these light colors in one room is an absolute designer don't. The use of reflected light on high or multidimensional ceilings, thrown up against a textured wall, or to accent a special decorative feature adds a great deal of interest to an otherwise unnoticed area.

The use of natural materials, warm colors and defined spaces within the entry area all give the lobby a comfortable, residential feel at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Porcelain flooring tile, limited use of stone, indirect lighting, warm paint colors and public art are integrated into the design. The sandstone tiles over the arch and circling the lobby walls are carvings done by local children.

The aesthetic, relaxing power of reflected light makes it a very popular tool in the designer's efforts to enliven a space. Avoiding the downward hard-light effect of a single sodium bulb is a step in the right direction. Patrons of both public and private facilities no longer tolerate the warehouse-feel of yesteryear in their health facilities; they want welcoming, comforting and attractive decor that make them feel they are an appreciated, valued member.

Multiple light sources and lighting techniques in a room not only create a mood but define different spaces: task lighting such as small suspended pendant fixtures over a circulation desk, general lighting from recessed fixtures, firelight from a fireplace near the lounge, and reflective lighting over focal points like art that add a welcoming "wow" factor to important, high-use spaces like entries and locker rooms. Dimmer switches and lighting sensors are not only economical uses of energy but can adjust to the changing programming needs of a space as well.

Even more simple changes like investing in new light fixtures or adding sconces to locker room mirrors can quickly transform a room's look and feel. Avoid the temptation, whether in designing a new facility or jazzing up an existing one, to put lighting on the financial back burner.

"Probably the biggest mistake facilities make is not investing enough money on lighting," says John Burchard, director of interiors and interior specialist at DeStefano Keating Partners. "That's not what you should be cutting."

There's No Place Like Home

From an operational standpoint, getting people to want to spend more time in your facility will most likely result in higher revenues. Making your facility welcoming and attractive with lounging areas is one way to help ensure that they'll want to stick around even after the workout is over. A retail kind of super-mall doesn't fill the bill nearly as well as the comforts of home.

"Try to make a place where people want to come together, a gathering place, a living room," says Craig Bouck, principal of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver. "Promote the idea that it's warm, friendly—a place that appeals to all generations with no 'lowest common denominator' feeling."

Lobbies, lounges and locker rooms are taking on a more residential feel that makes people comfortable and enables them to use a facility for more than a workout. A residential-style facility becomes the place to meet for coffee, to take advantage of the other amenities offered, to spend hours instead minutes. A home away from home.

"We get comments all the time from our members that they wish their living rooms looked like our waiting areas," says Mike Brown, senior vice president of operations at Life Time Fitness of Chicago. "They wish that their bathrooms looked like our locker rooms. It's beautiful space that you see in the finer homes."