Feature Article - May/June 2003
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Natural Wonders

Trends in interior design, whatever your budget

By Kelli Anderson


Another area of great impact is color. In keeping with the times, warmer tones that echo the colors of nature are popping up in facilities everywhere—but don't be fooled. Although warm colors rule the day, the term "natural" doesn't always mean brown and green. Mother Nature also has a wild side—vivid reds, blues and yellows.

Asking questions like, "Who are our patrons? Are we a high-energy facility? Are we a luxury destination? What is the history of our locale?" will help narrow the search for identity and the colors that best reflect it. Bold colors will energize and are great for clubs focused on the young urbanite—or for children's spaces for fun and high energy. Warmer tones soothe, relax and invite.

Holmes Place Health Club's cafe builds some of its style from accent colors and design used in the furniture.

For example, the Broomfield Recreation Center, currently under construction in Broomfield, Colo., will eventually cater to patrons of all ages and has looked to its local pioneering history and proximity to the plains and mountains to narrow down its theme to one word: discovery.

"This kind of broad theming is a way to organize our thoughts," says Craig Bouck, principal at Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver. "And it became a way for them to decide on color palettes too."

Ultimately, a color palette can be as complex or simple as you want, but for the sake of fashion longevity (and the sanity of the staff responsible for maintaining it), it's best to keep the majority of surface areas simple.

"We aren't afraid of color—color is our biggest tool," Bouck says. "When you've got institutional materials like concrete block, color sometimes is the most affordable way to affect those. We use paint as our biggest ally."

But, he cautions, pick standard base colors for the majority surface areas and position complex accent colors in places where they're least likely to be affected by vandalism, damage or wear.

Base colors, canvassed on the majority of surfaces, can be accented with bolder or richer colors splashed in easy-to-change-and-update elements like furniture, signage or art. It can be introduced through more durable materials, as well, like tile flooring or images and geometric designs cut into linoleum. Be careful, however, that such colors and patterns incorporated into these permanent fixtures aren't too trendy. Choosing timeless styles can allow these durable materials to serve effectively in more ways than one.

Everybody Feng Shui Tonight

Whether intentionally subscribing to the tenants of Feng Shui or just picking up on the latest craze for all things natural, many health and fitness facilities are paying attention to more than just the visual design element. Interior design has gone multisensory in a way with an attention to sound quality and control, good ventilation, aromas, tastes, and touch.

"We add sound—we're introducing small, little water fountains in our spa areas to create that Feng Shui pool atmosphere," says Bill Doer, director of architecture for Life Time Fitness in Chicago. "We add things to enhance the overall experience. In our climbing walls, we've got these beautiful, cavernous, very natural-looking spaces to climb, and we've created sound inside of those so we've got motivational music playing in the background that keeps people interested."

Not only is adding sound important, but controlling it is also key. Spaces used for programming like yoga need good acoustical design, which require quiet environments to minimize distraction. Installing acoustical paneling and dropped ceilings in areas that tend to sound like cavernous basketball arenas—pools and gyms—helps instructors to be heard more easily.

Some elements, like air quality, are only consciously noticed when they're bad. Changing out the total volume of air several times an hour makes the smelly gym experience a thing of the past.

In keeping with the trend to provide more than just a workout, facilities now cater to the sense of taste as well. Calming teas, juice bars, cafes and even restaurants are designed to provide food for the stomach and the soul.

Massage therapy, spas, rich-textured surfaces and attention to comfortable temperatures that include details like heated locker room floors, all cater to the body's experience with touch.

It's not just about programming, which has certainly become more wholistic, but designing to accentuate and enhance those experiences.